It’s one of those mysteries: why isn’t Brighton and Hove a Liberal Democrat stronghold? Next door Lewes has had the services of the extremely diligent Norman Baker since 1997 but any Seagulls fan will spit at the very mention of his name.
Brighton got its first MP in 1832* with the Great Reform Act (which wasn’t that great and didn’t reform much) and there was a mix of Liberal and Tory MPs in the 19th Century. The 20th century was overwhelmingly Conservative in Brighton bar some blips (including the very great Dennis Hobden). Labour took the council in the eighties and all the seats in parliament in 1997. At some point in the 1990s the Greens arrived.
But where are the LibDems? It should be natural territory. Progressive, wealthy folk who like a spliff, Nigel Slater and 3 weeks in Tuscany should love the LibDems. Maybe it’s that Brighton is actually very working class, remains very much so, that has meant they’ve made such little headway. Who can say? I still think it’s a bit odd they hold a mere two council seats.
The experience of raw canvassing is a pretty unscientific. You’re too close to the data and the people. But there is a tangible increase in the past few weeks in LibDem support here, I’d say. But what I don’t know is who that’s taking support from. It seems to me a lot of young people and Don’t Knows are being persuaded by the debates. If a lot of young people go LibDem, that will likely hurt the Greens most. But that’s pretty speculative.
What I’m sure we all agree on is that the LibDems aren’t running much of a campaign here. I’ve had one pretty shabby leaflet. But that’s just as well: we don’t need another party in the mix. We’ve got three already fighting hard. And it’s getting a bit ugly.
*I wrote my undergraduate history dissertation on Brighton’s electoral record to 1997. I take an amateur historic interest.