Voice of the Opposition: July

Once a month we will be offering the Leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition the opportunity to talk unedited about.. well, Medway politics. Today we hear from Vince Maple, leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition on Medway Council.


Although since my last Political Medway column some of the restrictions regarding COVID-19 have been relaxed we are still in the middle of a public health crisis.  Medway Council continues to deal with a civil contingency situation and we have new restrictions in place, such as the need to wear face masks.  As always my thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic.

It is worth recognising with everything else that has happened over the past few months, the vast majority of Medway residents have played their part in doing whatever it takes and for that I say a genuine heartfelt thank you – we must collectively all play our part as we move forward together.

Just over a week ago, we had a record breaking council meeting which lasted more than seven hours finishing at a couple of minutes past 2am.  As you would expect there was a wide variety of issues raised throughout the meeting.  If you missed it you can watch the whole thing here.

The Political Medway blog referred to the meeting as the “worst #MedwayCouncil meeting we’ve ever sat through.” – and you can understand why.

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Lynch mobs and slave traders, or the worst Medway Council meeting we’ve ever covered

The first fully virtual Medway Council meeting took place last night, with councillors all contributing remotely to proceedings. Somehow this managed to make the meeting even longer than usual, clocking in at over seven hours, but also saw some of the most unseemly debates ever held at a Medway Council meeting. If you weren’t able to watch the whole thing live, we’ve got your back with our Twitter coverage from last night. Strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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Will new boundaries change the electoral map of Medway?

In which Alan Collins from Medway Elects tries to figure out if new ward boundaries would result in a different political map in Medway..

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England have dropped their draft recommendations for new ward boundaries in Medway.

The organisation has proposed a scheme of 24 wards, increasing the number of councillors from 55 to 60, one more than they originally proposed when they opened the initial consultation.

Whilst there is much which may be debated in the proposals, as The Political Medway’s resident data nerd, I’m going to be looking at one key question: what would last year’s local election results have looked like if it had been fought under these proposed ward boundaries, with one caveat: this is an entirely unscientific analysis as there is insufficient local data to produce a firm set of predictions. Instead, this is based on local knowledge from the 13 years I have been politically active in Medway, personal observations made at last year’s count and some more general assumptions. And I am going ward-by-ward in the order they appear in the LGBCE’s report.

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Medway in a zombie apocalypse

In which Caitlin Webb ponders how things might go for the residents of Medway in an even more severe outbreak..

Day one. Most of us would shrug off the warnings and think “meh, this is just the flu.” “I survived foot and mouth, bird flu AND I grew up in Chatham, I can live through this”. We will keep calm and carry on and panic buy all the toilet rolls. 

The rest will completely panic. Raid the supermarkets and barricade ourselves in our homes and plan to ride it out with pasta, rice and chickpeas. 

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Voice of the Leader: July

Once a month we offer a platform to the leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition. Today, we have the latest column from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council.

Alan Jarrett

THANK YOU TO OUR WONDERFUL NHS STAFF, OUR SOCIAL WORKERS, AND ALL OTHER KEY WORKERS for keeping us safe during a time of an unprecedented world-wide pandemic. 

As I write this column on 1st July it is revealing to reflect on the last few weeks, and consider some of what has been happening. Crucially to consider how people have been reacting to the ongoing understandably cautionary tone coming from government as we all seek to contain the spread of infection. 

In the main it seems as though most people have behaved responsible, thinking of their own health, and mindful of the health of others by following government guidance on social distancing in particular and also personal hygiene. There have sadly been exceptions, which I will come on to later.

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How to protect your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

In which Lauren Heritage ponders the impact the current situation can have on our mental health and what we can do to help ourselves..

Silhouette Of Person Standing By The Door

Coronavirus, Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, The Rona..

It’s all we hear about at the moment. Anyone remember Brexit?

It is understandably a stressful time for all. With most of us having never experienced a situation like this in our lives, it can all feel very out of control and anxiety inducing. Whilst some may be enjoying being in lockdown and/or working from home, others are finding it a real struggle. Let’s also not forget our health and key workers out keeping the country going and fighting Covid-19 who are also reporting a significant impact on their mental health.

What are the biggest stressors at this time and what can I do to help?

Social 

We are, by nature, sociable creatures. Even if you don’t enjoy face to face interaction, most enjoy interacting with others in one way or another. It’s been weeks and months since many have physically been in the company of family and friends. You might have a closer relationship with the security guard at the supermarket than your own family at this point. Shout out to Tony at Walderslade Morrisons!

If family and friends are a source of happiness and support, this can feel like you’ve lost a lifeline.

For others, they may have difficult family relationships and being forced to be in lockdown can feel incredibly stressful. Unfortunately, lockdown has also seen a rise in domestic violence. Click here to see how you can seek help if you find yourself in this situation.

For those of you missing family and friends, video chatting has become the new ‘going down the pub’ or ‘popping round for a cup of tea’. OK, it’s not quite the same as being face to face, but at least helps you to see your loved ones and take part in things like virtual pub quizzes, games and general chit chat. Houseparty, Whatsapp and Zoom are popular (other apps are available). Some people are even getting into roleplay and conducting virtual afternoon teas and pub nights whereby each person has a drink* going or some nice sandwiches and cakes to make it feel more ‘real’.

*Disclaimer: please drink responsibly.

If familial difficulties are making relationships difficult, here are a few tips you might like to try:

  • If space allows, everyone has their own area of the house where they can have their own ‘me time’ and can be left alone or can escape to if tempers rise.
  • This website has some really excellent resources to help aid communication and conflict resolution. I use these all the time in my working and ‘real’ life and think they really make a difference.

Self-Care

Self care isn’t just about personal hygiene and getting dressed. Hands up if you’ve worn jeans at any point since lockdown begun? Anyone? No?

It’s also about attending to the holistic self and wellbeing. We all know we are allowed our government mandated daily exercise and it’s important we use it. Whether it’s a slow walk, attending to the garden, a bike ride with the kids or running many miles; exercise has huge benefits to mental and physical health. Research shows even just being out in fresh air or having a change of environment has a significant impact on mood and stress as well as physical stuff like blood pressure and heart health.

Keeping your brain busy is important. We have a tendency to go to darker places when we have little to do. There is a reason why long term solitary confinement can be considered torture. You don’t have to do anything extravagant or Nobel Prize worthy. It can be as simple as a jigsaw (if you can buy one anywhere at the moment), reading a book, doing a crossword, listening to music or binging that show you’ve been meaning to watch for ages but have never found the time. These easy things can also be used as redirection when you feel yourself getting worked up. The brain finds it very difficult to overthink and do an activity that requires logical thinking at the same time, so if you really throw yourself into whatever task it is, it should reduce your stress.

I think it’s important to have a bit of a reality check here. We all tend to be slaves to social media and it can be very easy to believe that everyone is mastering a new skill, getting in shape or making their house look like something out of a magazine. If you’re doing those things, fine. But it’s also absolutely fine if you aren’t. Getting through this is enough. And remember, social media shows only the best snippets of someone’s life. There is a phrase I really like which is ‘don’t judge your behind the scenes on someone else’s highlights reel’.

You do you, judgement free.

The News

Everyday we get the headlines of the amount of people who have sadly lost their lives, the number of new infections and heartbreaking stories of families having their lives ripped apart. If you’re not careful it can become an obsession as you try to seek out the latest information. It also can lead to extreme health anxiety where you think the slightest sniffle means it’s finally got you. We tend to fall victims to something called ‘confirmation bias’ which is when we look for evidence that supports our beliefs/fears and discard anything that doesn’t. This can really feed into anxiety.

It’s therefore important that we ‘change the record’. Make a conscious effort to seek out the positives or just take a break from the news altogether. If you read a negative story, make sure you then read a positive one after. If you feel overwhelmed with the number of deaths, make sure to read about the survivors, because the reality is there are many. Many more people who survive this than don’t make it. By doing this, you start to balance your anxious thoughts and helps gain perspective.

And Finally..

I am getting asked a lot what resources I can recommend to help people get through this time. Below are a list of just some of the ones I have either looked at and really rate or use on a regular basis and think are really helpful.

More general mental health:

I absolutely love these websites. It has many easy to understand tools for most things mental health and emotional wellbeing. I use these professionally and personally.

https://www.therapistaid.com/

https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself

Coronavirus specific:

I really liked this article by the BBC.

This is a brilliant piece of support from The Wellness Society

Stay safe out there, everyone.

Lauren Heritage is a mental health professional born and raised in Medway. She wants Medway to be the best it can be and is growing more exasperated by the day with politics. She likes to travel, enjoys good food, is a scuba diver, and a wannabe pilot.

Elections on lockdown

In which Alan Collins from Medway Elects ponders the consequences of all 2020 elections being postponed..

If you cast your minds back to November, when the biggest crisis the country was facing was the threat of a no-deal Brexit and politicians and activists were busily campaigning in the third general election in four years, I signed off my predictions for those elections with a flippant comment about 2020’s Police and Crime Commissioner election.

Whilst it was written tongue-in-cheek to appear as though I was hoping for a break from elections, as someone who geeks out on electoral data, any vote is a source of unashamed joy. But of course, back in November, no one could have predicted that our lives would change so much in so little time, as they have by COVID-19.

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Voice of the Opposition: June

Once a month we will be offering the Leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition the opportunity to talk unedited about.. well, Medway politics. Today we hear from Vince Maple, leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition on Medway Council.


This is the third Political Medway column since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK – we continue to see hundreds of individuals pass away every day.  We must never forget that behind those huge numbers are personal stories, families and friends mourning in challenging circumstances with social distancing.

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Lockdown diaries

In which Vicki Sigston shares her experiences of trying to maintain family order in this strange new world..

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As I write this my family are on Day 51 of lockdown.
Day 51 of not being able to spend time, in person, with friends and family.
Day 51 of work looking very different as I learn to use Zoom, WhatsApp groups and juggle family life with working from home.
Day 51 of clubs, sports and hobbies usually done away from home being cancelled.

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