Following local politics in Brighton & Hove, where I lived as an undergraduate student, developed my interest in political sociology. IN graduate school, I had planned to write a dissertation on the community power structure in Brighton, along the lines of G. William Domhoff‘s radical elitist critique of Robert Dahl‘s famous study of Who Governs New Haven, Connecticut.

I abandoned that plan after learning about the limitations of the behavioralist model of political power that this sort of research is based on. Nevertheless, it’s amusing to see that the three of the major stories that I used to read as emblematic of political clashes between a small city’s urban boosters and groups not aligned to the project of localised economic growth have started gaining national media coverage:

  • The local soccer team, Brighton & Hove Albion FC, were relegated to the second division, and the politics surrounding the club are largely to blame. After coming back from the brink of bankruptcy and Conference football in 1997, the Seagulls had won two successive championships and found themselves in Division 1 this year. But the club’s failure to build a new stadium doomed the club, because their makeshift stadium, with a capacity of less than 7,000, could not generate the revenue necessary to sustain a first-division football club.
  • The derelict West Pier, a grade-I listed landmark, suffered its second fire in recent month. Arson is suspected. The future of the West Pier has long been the biggest political issue in Brighton. Now the talk is getting nasty.
  • In Hove, a competition to replace the hideous King Alfred centre won by Frank Gehry, the American architecht famous for his Guggenheim museum in Bilbao:

    … Gehry … is proposing … a cluster of four towers – the tallest of them is 38 floors – set next to a swimming pool, sports hall and a winter garden. The two tallest towers, with their 240 luxury flats, would pay for the developers to build the £30 million pool for the city, along with another 160 affordable homes in the lower towers.

    Brighton’s councillors were looking for a project that would make the world sit up and take notice when it came up with the idea of a competition to replace the old King Alfred pool. They wanted a new sports hall with three pools, affordable housing for the city’s key workers and, most importantly, an impressive piece of architecture.


    Remarkably, the stage army of conservationists and those who would leave everything exactly as it is, who can normally be relied on to rally round and quash projects like this, have, so far, managed to muster no more than 400 signatures for their petition against it. A year ago, long before Gehry got involved, a petition against the idea of putting any housing at all on the site was signed by 1,200 people, which would suggest that things are moving Gehry’s way.</blockquote> </li> </ul>

    Two more Brighton stories came up today. First, from the wonderful world of solid waste management comes news that wealthy southeastern English counties and cities – including East Sussex and Brighton & Hove – plan to dump their rubbish in less affluent areas like Stoke-on-Trent.