I am standing in Brighton Kemptown, a seat on the south coast that we lost by just 690 votes in 2015. We bucked the trend and halved the Tory majority but it was not enough to get us a Labour MP.
Although I was the PPC in Lewes, I was an active member of the Kemptown team supporting Nancy Platts to win. We had all worked so incredibly hard and we saw new activists join the team every day – they were people who had never been part of a political campaign before but could see where the Tory agenda was heading and were already feeling the impact of cuts.
Having lost by a small margin in Kemptown, which was pretty gutting for the whole team, people started to look at where those 690 votes could have come from. The Greens got the blame – but was that unfair?
There had been an expectation running throughout the Labour Party that Lib Dem votes were most likely to shift to Labour but we were not so sure of that in Brighton – and we were right.
Over 6,000 Lib Dem votes disappeared in different directions and with very few voters admitting to voting Lib Dem in 2010 plus a high number of “don’t knows” – it proved a hard vote to target during the campaign. The Green vote was more visible and we squeezed that as hard as we could.
UKIP gained another 3,000 votes, up by nearly seven per cent, on top of an increase for the Tories. We know that a shortage of jobs, housing and cuts to public services – including GP surgery closures and threats to local children’s centres – were disproportionately affecting a group of people who should have been natural Labour supporters. Migrants were being blamed, instead of the Tories.
To be fair to the Greens in this election their candidate has stood aside. They have made the first move in the interests of a “progressive alliance” that could unseat a Tory.
And given the extent to which the Tories have tried to stifle democracy and silence any opposition – through the lobbying act, trade union act, individual voter registration and the fixed-term parliaments act (for use as and when required) – it can be argued that a progressive alliance is justified in this election.
However, would it work over the longer term? Some say it is anti-democratic to remove choice from voters. It might fuel the growing cynicism about politics if the parties carve up the seats between them. If you take alliances to their natural conclusion, the result is surely two party politics in many seats.
Take a closer look at Brighton Kemptown and you will see not only the absence of a Green candidate, but also a UKIP one. This is not because UKIP are short of people to be candidates, as has been claimed.
Ian Buchanan, the UKIP candidate until May 8 this year, was an East Sussex county councillor so he would have had good name recognition in the part of the constituency where he lives and where the Tory/Brexit vote is strong. It is rather odd, then that he has instead chosen to stand in Brighton Pavilion – a constituency that voted Remain, in a different local authority area and not his home town. Casting an eye down the runners and riders for Hove and you will see no UKIP candidate there either. Is this the start of a regressive alliance?
It is a risk for the Tories in Kemptown. They need to win over Leave voters who turned from Labour to UKIP in 2015, at the same time as factoring in the possibility of Greens voting Labour.
Now it is to play for. Labour can win in Kemptown but there is no certain outcome with these new alliances. This leaves me thinking that the only way to stop a one-party state run by the Tories is to reform our voting system and introduce some form of proportional representation.
The Tories have silenced dissenting voices and they are countering a progressive alliance with a regressive alliance. Labour must lead with a permanent democratic solution.
If you want to help me turn Brighton Kemptown red, please support me on my Crowdpac page here.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle is Labour’s candidate for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven. He is a councillor in East Brighton and was the PPC for Lewes in 2015.