A personal tribute to Graham Cox, Nancy Platts and Christopher Hawtree

Winston Churchill once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” There will be a number of people today who might thing democracy is a cruel hoax. Those elected move on with renewed energy and enthusiasm into the next stage of their democratic adventure.

For others, those who have put their lives on hold and who have worked tirelessly in the hope that they get at least one more cross on a ballot than the others, today will be a day of absolute desolation.

When I lost my seat on the old Brighton Borough Council, I could identify with Gene Fowler, the American journalist, author and dramatist, who said: “The people have spoken … but they needn’t have been so loud”!

The first past the post system can mean that men and women with great ability who have a hunger to serve, and who might have so much to offer, are cast aside with little opportunity to serve.

Today I would like to pay tribute to three people who were not successful in the early hours of this morning. This is not an political endorsement, nor a comment of those who have been elected, but a recognition of three people I know who have great, often contrasting, qualities.

I first met Graham Cox when he was Divisional Commander for Sussex Police in Hove. His approach to policing was unique, and when he re-emerged as a candidate and then a councillor in Brighton and Hove, I found him to be incredibly thoughtful and courageous. He is far from being a crude, tribal politician. The fact that (for the immediate future at least) he will be neither a councillor nor a Member of Parliament is a great loss to public policy and the political process. I am sure that Peter Kyle will prove to be a worthy victor, but Graham has set high expectations for him to follow.

Nancy Platts has twice been in the wrong place and the wrong time. It was an unfortunate coincidence that she was selected to fight Brighton Pavilion in the election that saw her up against a once in a lifetime phenomenon, Caroline Lucas. In any other election in that constituency she would have won the seat comfortably. Nancy ran a dynamic and energetic campaign, as she has again this time in Brighton Kemptown. Few forecast the clear decision of the electorate that saw members of her party suffer much worse defeats in seats regarded as much safer.

Christopher Hawtree brought a special something that is often missing from politics. He was never a man in a grey suit. He brought colour. He brought humour. He brought originality. Some times he saw the obvious in an instance when the rest of us couldn’t see it, such as referring a speech by Andrew Wealls on school meals as “Wealls on Meals”. He also could enrich any debate by referencing the obscure.

I hope that Graham, Nancy and Christopher will again stand for election. Their current exclusion is a great loss to the political process and to politics itself. Thank you all three for what you have contributed. You have each enriched Brighton and Hove (and Portslade’s) political life.

And finally, a special word of congratulations to Maria Caulfield, currently a member of the BHT Board of Management, on her election to Parliament in Lewes. Maria understands housing and is deeply concerned about homelessness. She will bring this understanding and concern to her work as a parliamentarian.
Graham Cox, Caroline Lucas, Nancy Platts, Peter Kyle, Gene Fowler, Winston Churchill, democracy, election, general, Brighton, Hove, Portslade, Maria Caulfield, Lewes

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