2013 has been a year of huge progress and achievement for Labour in Brighton and Hove, and our members, staff and activists can be rightly proud of what we have accomplished over the past twelve months.
Building on the great start made in 2012 by bringing together the three constituency parties, winning over 50% the vote in the East Brighton by-election, and topping the poll in the PCC elections, the past year saw a step change in campaigning, organisation, support and results as we passed the half way mark to the local and national elections in May 2015.
With the appointment of three members of staff plus a new assistant to the Labour Group, and a strong city party executive in place, we now have the support and organisational strength needed to mount effective campaigns across the city, the three constituencies and in the council chamber.
That support, and the team built in the previous twelve months helped deliver our biggest achievement of 2013, winning our first ever seat back from the Greens in Hanover and Elm Grove. Our excellent candidate Emma Daniel achieved an 11% swing to Labour from the Greens in one of their safest wards, a swing five times that needed to win the parliamentary seat if repeated in 2015.
The early summer saw the selection of our three parliamentary candidates: Peter Kyle in Hove and Portslade, Purna Sen in Pavilion and Nancy Platts in Kemptown. All will make excellent MPs, and whilst we should not for a moment be complacent about the campaigns ahead, every opinion poll in 2013 forecast wins in all three seats for Labour.
Our ten European election candidates led by Anneliese Dodds, John Howarth and Emily Westley were chosen by members to take on the Tories, Greens and UKIP next May, and the Brighton and Hove vote will be crucial in getting them elected.
Labour in Brighton and Hove has gone from strength to strength in attracting new and younger members. September saw the revival of Labour societies at both universities, recruiting over three hundred members between them, and November saw the launch of Brighton and Hove Young Labour who have boosted campaigning across the city and launched a young voter survey. Alongside Movement for Change they are making a huge and positive contribution to the way we campaign.
Labour’s online presence has improved tenfold during the year, with a new website, an active Twitter feed and a Facebook page which has drawn well over ten thousand views over the past few months. 2013 has been an unprecedented year for local fundraisers and social events, including Stand Up For Labour with Eddie Izzard, John Bishop and Jo Brand, as well as a great event in November.
A successful Labour Women’s Forum launch took place in the spring, and throughout the year Labour has supported LGBT events including Brighton Pride, World Aids Day, Trans Pride and Trans Remembrance.
As well as hosting the successful Labour Party Conference in Brighton in September, there were visits by Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna, Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint and fellow Shadow Cabinet member Mary Creagh. Ed Miliband has been a regular visitor to Brighton and Hove during the year.
The autumn saw the release of a poll by BBC South East and ComRes of local voting intention in Brighton and Hove. It showed that Green support has fallen by a third since 2011, and put Labour ahead on 38%, the Tories in second on 25%, and the Greens in third on 21%. This puts the Labour and Co-operative Group in a strong position to take control of the city council in less than 500 days. Candidate selection has begun and there are many strong potential new councillors putting themselves forward, though more will be needed to fill all 54 places.
Labour on the city council have campaigned on a wide range of issues during the year, from Bedroom Tax and the energy price freeze, to blacklisting and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. Focussing on cost of living issues, Labour councillors changed council policy on payday lenders, and voted through funds to employ a full-time welfare rights advice worker, though the post has yet to be filled some nine months on. It was Labour which championed Small Business Saturday and which has sought to take a sensible line on 20mph limits.
I was immensely proud to take over as Leader of the Labour and Co-operative Group in May, and it is a real pleasure to be working alongside so many committed and dedicated members, activists, staff, organisers, councillors and candidates as we head toward the local and General elections on May 7th 2015, not forgetting the European elections this coming May.
We are in a stronger position than at any time since 1997, but we cannot let up in our campaign to elect Labour councillors, Labour MPs and a Labour Government in 16 months time. We must deliver for Brighton and Hove residents who need a better council, who need help meeting the growing cost of living crisis, who need action on jobs, homes and schools.
In the coming months we will go out into our communities and talk to residents about the positive policies we will put forward as those elections approach. The challenges we will face are immense, and the choices difficult, but it is increasingly clear only Labour can meet those challenges in Brighton and Hove.
If you want to join us in our campaigns, sign up here: http://brightonhovelabour.com/support-us-2/