Former council leader faces battle to be Labour candidate in Hove

Posted On 14 May 2013 at 12:34 pm

The Labour Party has shortlisted candidates as it prepares to choose someone to contest Hove at the next general election.

The favourite to become the party’s contender has been widely assumed to be former Brighton and Hove City Council leader Simon Burgess. But a strong rival is in the frame.

Peter Kyle has been described by one party activist as a quiet insider. It’s not because he doesn’t voice his opinions. It’s more down to having held some key positions where he has impressed those around him without becoming widely known to the general public.

Mr Kyle, 42, is the deputy chief executive of ACEVO (the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations). The organisation represents the men and women running 2,000 of Britain’s biggest charities. He has worked there for almost six years.

His previous jobs include serving as a special adviser in the Cabinet Office for a year. One of the ministerial team there was Ed Miliband who has since become the Labour leader.

Peter Kyle

Peter Kyle

At the start of his career Mr Kyle spent five years working as a project director for Children on the Edge, a charity set up by Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. His role took him to the Balkans during the Bosnian War.

Closer to home, he grew up in Bognor and went to Sussex University as a mature student. He later completed a PhD there with a doctorate in community economic development.

While his thesis was based on a poor community abroad, he has been keen to give back to the community in Brighton and Hove where he has lived since the 1990s.

Mr Kyle is the chairman of the board of governors at the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA). He is also a governor at the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA).

He keeps party politics firmly out of his work at the two academies which serve some of the poorer parts of Brighton and Hove.

Mr Kyle said: “I have sought to become the most effective advocate for vulnerable people and broader social justice that I can.”

He is proud of the huge improvement in exam results at BACA and said that he was opposed to the idea of settling for mediocre outcomes.

Locally he founded a video production company, Fat Sand Productions, and on the national stage he sits on the board of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Bank.

But one of his proudest moments came in the local political arena during the 2005 general election campaign.

Labour was expected to lose the seat to the Conservative hopeful Nick Boles, now the Planning Minister in the coalition government.

The sitting MP Ivor Caplin announced that he was standing down late in the day.

Mr Kyle had a key role in the campaign team that secured a narrow victory – by just 420 votes – against the odds for Celia Barlow.

In a statement sent to party members Mr Kyle said: “Often in parliamentary selections the choice is between a candidate who lives in the constituency so knows the local networks and someone who comes from elsewhere but has more experience in Westminster politics, national media and campaigning.

“I can offer you all of these attributes in one candidate.

“We can only win the next general election in Hove if we talk about the future, not the past.

Simon Burgess

Simon Burgess

“To do that we need a candidate that represents a fresh start for Labour and fights for local interests using nationwide experience and has plenty of experience of raising funds from a variety of sources to fight for a good cause.”

The line about a fresh start may be a reference to the trials and tribulations of his friend and rival Mr Burgess.

Few would regard Mr Burgess as a spent force despite the setbacks of losing his council seat – and with it the council leadership – in 2007. Also he was pipped at the post in Brighton Kemptown at the last election by Simon Kirby.

But he has shown a keen determination to put his experience to the test in another parliamentary battle.

Mr Kyle undoubtedly wishes him well despite wanting the Hove nomination for himself. Also on the shortlist is Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital boss Adrian Twyning.

Mr Kyle hopes to be the first openly gay MP for a seat in Brighton and Hove but is keen not to let being gay define him.

Those advancing his cause say that he has the experience, credibility and personality to challenge the Conservative incumbent Mike Weatherley.

Next month he should learn whether he will get the chance.


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