Is Rainham Central to Rehman Chishti?

How many jobs can a councillor do and still fully serve their local residents?

That’s one question Rainham Central councillor Rehman Chishti is pushing to it’s limits. Since adding being the MP for Gillingham and Rainham to his list of jobs in 2010, Rehman has continued to do more and more on a national and international level, and less and less on a local level.

Indeed, when it comes to local council meetings, Rehman has only managed to turn up to 40% of council meetings in the last 18 months, but has managed to find time for everything listed below. We’re by no means suggesting councillors can’t have other roles, but this all seems like rather a lot for one person. How much time can Rehman Chishti truly to be dedicating to the people of Rainham Central?

1 Obviously he’s the MP for Gillingham and Rainham

In his role as MP for Gillingham and Rainham, Rehman has spent many hours in parliament finding creative ways to assist his residents. In his sparkling eight years, he has voted consistently against raising benefits in line with prices, voted to reduce spending on welfare, voted against equal same sex marriage, and against laws that promote human rights. His full record can be read here.

2. Appointed to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Since 2017, Rehman has sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee, which has recently led inquiries into police funding, extremism, migration, drugs, hate crime, and many other equally important topics.

3. He’s now a Vice Chair of the Conservative Party

In January, Rehman was appointed Vice Chair of the Conservative Party for Communities. If we’re honest, we’re not entirely sure what this involves but it comes with a £10,000 a year bonus, so that’s nice.

4. That sweet, sweet Saudi cash

Between 2016 and 2018, Rehman took £46,000 for advisory work with the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. In this time, Rehman has taken part in parliamentary trips to the country, and unsurprisingly, has asked very few searching questions about Saudi Arabia. Indeed, in 2016, after international condemnation of the country executing political prisoners, he suggested in parliament that they might have been terrorists. Which makes it all okay then. In light of recent events, Rehman’s involvement with Saudi Arabia is once again making the news. Channel 4 News asked him a few questions about that today, and you can judge how well you think that went for him.

5. Theresa May made him envoy to Pakistan

You wouldn’t think Rehman would have time for much else, in 2017 Rehman was also appointed the Government Trade Envoy to Pakistan. This has since led to him making several trips to the country to attempt to boost trading relations between the UK and Pakistan.

6. He appears on high quality tv shows

Over the years, Rehman has built up a good little side earner by popping up on various TV programmes. Most notably, he received £1,400 last year for appearing on five episodes of Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff. No, us either.

7. Not really a job, but..

Rehman Chishti spends much of his time at Gillingham Football Club, whether it’s attending matches or writing his banal column in the club programme. So eager is he to focus on the matches themselves that he forgot to declare all of the free tickets he’d been given to parliamentary authorities.

8. Friends in Arkansas

In a slightly odd turn, Rehman seems to spend a fair bit of time building a relationship with the US state of Arkansas. During this year’s Conservative Party Conference, Rehman decided to spend several days in the US, campaigning for Republican representative French Hill, a man so competent that he managed to get himself dragged into the Russia collusion investigation and was recently endorsed by a horrifically offensive advert.

Resident of Rainham Central? What experiences have you had with Rehman Chishti as your local councillor? Are you one of Rehman’s ward colleagues picking up his slack? Are you Rehman Chishti and have time to respond to this? Our inbox is always open or slide into our DMs on Twitter.

Stay classy, Medway

In light of recent political events with a local election incoming, and a potential general on the horizon, we thought it would be useful, with the help of Google, to go over some key terms so they can be used appropriately.

Well, the greater hope would be to not need to use them at all.

Bigotry. noun.

Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.

Prejudice. noun.

Dislike, hostility or unjust behaviour deriving from preconceived and unfounded opinions.

Discrimination. noun

The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age or sex.

Antagonism. noun.

Active hostility.

Phobia. noun.

A strong dislike or disinclination.

Aversion. noun.

A strong dislike or disinclination..

Sexism. noun.

Prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

Chauvinism. noun.

Excessive or prejudiced support for one’s own cause, group or sex.

Racism. noun.

Prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Anti-semitism. noun

Hostility to or a prejudice against Jews.

Xenophobia. noun.

Dislike of or a prejudice against people from other countries

Transphobia. noun.

Dislike of or a prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.

Islamophobia. noun.

Dislike or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.

Theophobia. noun.

The fear of gods or religion.

Atheophobia. noun.

Discrimination against atheists.

An overly annotated, abridged, potted internet history of the Medway Unitary Authority

The Kent (Borough of Gillingham and City of Rochester-upon- Medway) (Structural Change) Order 1996

18th July 1996

Constitution of a new District of the Medway Towns

-A new district of the Medway Towns shall be constituted and shall comprise the areas of the existing Kent districts of Gillingham and Rochester.

-There shall be a new non-metropolitan district council for the district of the Medway Towns.

Structural Change

-The functions of the county council in relation to the districts of Gillingham and Rochester shall, be transferred to the Medway Towns Council.

Constitution of New County of the Medway Towns

-The District of the Medway Towns shall cease to form part of Kent.

Existing Local Government Areas

-The existing districts of Gillingham and Rochester shall be abolished.

Electoral Areas in the Medway Towns

-The District of the Medway Towns shall be divided into 34 wards, which shall comprise the areas and bear the names of the wards described in the Borough of Gillingham order 1976 and the Borough of Medway Order 1976. Each ward shall be represented by two councillors.

Signed by authority; David Curry. Minister of State, Department of Environment.

Medway is a conurbation* and unitary authority**, constituted under the Local Government Act 1992***. Following the structural review the commission then reviewed electoral arrangements in English local authorities, rewarding**** based on population changes. The Boundary Committee for England was a statutory committee, abolished in 2010, with functions assumed by a new Local Government Boundary Commission*****, The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.******

The Cooksey Commission published proposals including that Rochester-Upon-Medway and Gillingham should form a Medway Towns Unitary Authority, independent of Kent County Council, on 1st April 1998. Though under the earlier Lieutenancies Act 1991, Medway was placed within Kent*******, and is still listed within Kent purely as a ceremonial County, and referred to as Lieutenancy area of England********. The current position is held by Major the Rt Hon. 2nd Viscount DeLisle. MBE Phillip Sidney**********.

It was the local government district of Rochester-Upon-Medway that officially held city status, when it was abolished, it also ceased to be a city. Rochester-upon-Medway had decided not to appoint charter trustees to maintain the existence of the city***********.

The District of the Medway Towns (parishes and Electoral Changes) Order 1997.

21st Feb 1997

Transfers between Parishes

⁃ Area from Cliffe to Frindsbury Extra

⁃ Area from Frindsbury Extra to Cliffe

⁃ Cliffe renamed Cliffe & Cliffe Woods.

⁃ Area from Stoke to St Mary Hoo.

Wards of the Medway Towns

⁃ Existing wards abolished.

⁃ District shall be divided into thirty-five wards.

⁃ Where a boundary is shown on the map as running along a road, footway etc. It shall be treated as running along the centre line.

Elections of the Council of the Medway Towns

⁃ Elections of all councillors for Wards of the district shall be held simultaneously on the ordinary day of election of councillors in 1997, 2000 and 2003 and every fourth year after 2003.

Signed by Authority; David Curry. Minister of State, Department of Environment.

Parts of the Unitary Authority are parished************. There are currently 11 parishes; Allhallows, Cliffe and Cliffe Woods, Cooling, Cuxton, Frindsbury Extra, Halling, High Halstow, Hoo St Werburgh, Chattenden, St James Isle of Grain, Stoke. A large part of which is on the Hoo Penninsula*************. Over half of the Unitary Authority is rural in nature. The main towns in the conurbation are traditionally known as ‘The Medway Towns’; Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham. There are also smaller towns and villages; Frindsbury, Brompton, Walderslade, Luton and Wigmore. As well as the Medway Gap************** region; Cuxton, Halling and Wouldham.

Medway is one of the Boroughs included in the Thames Gateway*************** Development Scheme. Medway council currently comprises 55 Councillors representing different wards**************** and Medway is Twinned with; Valenciennes (France), Cadiz (Spain), Yokosuka and Ito (Japan) and Fushan (China).

Borough of Medway (Electoral Changes) Order 2002.

29th August 2002

Wards of the Borough of Medway

⁃ The existing wards of the borough shall be abolished.

⁃ The borough shall be divided into twenty-two wards.

Wards of the Parish of Frindsbury Extra

⁃ The Existing wards shall be abolished.

⁃ The parish shall be divided into four.

⁃ Number of Councillors per ward three.

Wards of the Parish of Hoo St Werburgh

⁃ The existing wards of the parish of Hoo St Werburgh shall be abolished.

⁃ The parish shall be divided into three.

⁃ The number of councillors shall be 15(!)

Maps

⁃ Medway Council shall make a print of the map marked ‘Map of the Borough of Medway (Electoral Changes) order 2002’ available for inspection at its offices by any member of the public at any reasonable time.

Revocation

-The Medway Towns (parishes and Electoral Changes) order 1997 is revoked.

Signed by Members of the Electoral Commission.Pamela Gordon, Commissioner. Guy Mathias, Commissioner

*region comprising a number of large towns and other areas that through population growth and physical expansion, have merged to form one continuous labour market or travel to work area.

**that are responsible for the provision of all local government services within a district.

***the local Government Commission for England was the body responsible for reviewing the structure of local government from 1992 to 2002.

****rewarding is the process of drawing electoral boundaries.

*****Independent of Government and Political parties, directly accountable to the Speakers committee of the House of Commons.

******Placed a duty on Local Authorities to promote understanding of functions and democratic arrangements of the authority among local people.

*******and this has not been abolished.

********The Lord-Lieutenant is the British Monarch’s personal representative********* in each county.

*********an Honouree unpaid titular position.

**********Accurate of Oct 2018.

***********Medway only became aware when they discovered Rochester was not on the Lord Chancellor’s offices’ list of cities.

************a Civil parish is a territorial designation which is the lowest tier of local government, below districts and counties, or their combined form, the Unitary Authority.

*************a piece of land surrounded by water on the majority of its border while being connected to a mainland.

**************a topographical feature, near Rochester, that has the effect of creating local weather patterns, opposite to the surrounding countryside.

***************the area was designated during the early years of the Blair Government as a priority for Urban Regeneration.

****************a local authority area for electoral purposes. Names after neighbourhoods, thoroughfares, parishes, landmarks, geographical features and in some cases historical figures.

Know your boundaries

Finally, after what feels like eight hundred years of consultation, the Boundary Commission have published their final proposals for new parliamentary constituencies across the UK. The intention of this is two-fold: reduce the number of MPs in parliament from 650 to 600, while also equalising the size of constituencies.

Obviously, being The Political Medway, we are only interested in what difference this will make to the electoral map in Medway. To which the answer is not very much really. Sorry if you were hoping for something more dramatic.

Rochester and Strood

Rochester and Strood will retain the exact same boundaries as it does now, after an initial proposal to move Higham into the constituency was rejected. The Boundary Commission accepted that Higham had historically closer ties to Gravesend than Medway, and thus left it where it was.

The same cannot be said for the kerfuffle over what to do with Lordswood and Capstone though. Initial proposals put forward the case for moving it from the existing Chatham and Aylesford constituency and into Gillingham and Rainham. This led to a widely supported campaign for Lordswood to retain it’s historical links with Walderslade, Princes Park, and the wider Chatham constituency. Indeed, one would struggle to find anyone that would associate Lordswood with Gillingham and Rainham, as transport and infrastructure lead to very little interaction between the two areas.

Gillingham and Rainham

Following the campaign, the Boundary Commission listened closely, and has decided to proceed with moving Lordswood and Capstone into Gillingham and Rainham. While this decision may seem questionable, when thousands are homes are built between Hempstead and Lordswood, the area will be considerably more joined up, so maybe the Boundary Commission are just ahead of the curve here.

Chatham and Aylesford

The loss of Lordswood and Capstone is one of many changes to befall the Chatham and Aylesford constituency, starting with it’s name. After an attempt to rename the area Chatham and The Mallings, the final proposal sees the area named Chatham and Malling after a realisation that no one anywhere has ever referred to West Malling and East Malling as The Mallings. As well as, er, the Mallings, the constituency also gains Kings Hill and the surrounding area, leading to a somewhat bizarre layout where the residents of that new town, Snodland, a collection of villages outside Maidstone, Chatham, and Luton all share the same MP.

All of this assumes that the new proposals are accepted in the first place, something that is far from certain in the current political climate. Previous proposals in 2013 failed to make it through parliament, and it’s only going to take another sudden general election or any kind of serious opposition to these plans forming to see the whole thing come crashing down, leaving us with our existing boundaries for years to come. Given how insignificant the changes are to Medway though, would anyone even notice if they did?

None of these changes make any difference to the layout of Medway Council, though the local boundaries for the council are also overdue a review too. On a local level, these changes only raise somewhat trivial party political issues. The always fractious relationship between local Conservative Party associations will see their current leader, Cllr Alan Jarrett, he of Lordswood and Capstone, suddenly becoming part of the Gillingham and Rainham association. Does any of this this matter? Who knows. But it’ll be interesting to see the reaction from the local party regardless. We’ll be keeping an eye on this as it develops.

Election night in Medway

For the fourth time in a little over two years, Medway has again gone to the polls, this time for a surprise General Election.

Polling stations will close at 10pm, and after that we’ll be live tweeting from the count on @MedwayPolitics. We’ll post the results on this post as quickly as we can, but it’ll probably be very late before the Medway results come in, so we won’t hold it against you if you check back in the morning.

Chatham and Aylesford result – Con HOLD
Nicole Bushill (UKIP) – 2,225
Tracey Crouch (Con) – 25,587
John Gibson (CPA) – 260
Bernard Hyde (Green) – 573
Vince Maple (Lab) – 15,129
Thomas Quinton (Lib Dem) – 1,116

Gillingham and Rainham result – Con HOLD
Paul Chaplin (Lib Dem) – 1,372
Rehman Chishti (Con) – 27,091
Martin Cook (UKIP) – 2,097
Clive Gregory (Green) – 520
Roger Peacock (CPA) – 127
Andy Stamp (Lab) – 17,661

Rochester and Strood result – Con HOLD
David Allen (UKIP) – 2,893
Steve Benson (CPA) – 169
Primerose Chiguri (Ind) – 129
Sonia Hyner (Green) – 781
Teresa Murray (Lab) – 19,382
Bart Ricketts (Lib Dem) – 1189
Kelly Tolhurst (Con) – 29,232

Once more unto the breach

We started this site in the run to the 2015 General and Local Elections as a way to help us and others understand a bit more about how politics works at a local level. It was originally intended to be a short run project through those elections, but we enjoyed the process enough that we stuck with it and thus The Political Medway was born.

We assumed at that point that things would be fairly quiet after that, with no more elections that anyone cared about scheduled in Medway until the next round of locals in 2019.

Dear reader, things have not been quiet.

In 2016, we had to deal with the EU membership referendum and it’s fallout, as well as two local council by-elections.

Surely 2017 would give the Medway electorate a break?

Of course it wouldn’t, and we’ll all be voting in a General Election on June 8.

Unfortunately, both of us that man this site have been a tad busy of late, so we’re a little late in getting our coverage underway, but such is life. We’re publishing the full candidate lists for all three seats tomorrow, and in the coming weeks will have some hustings coverage, some questions for our esteemed candidates, and all being well (translation: Medway Council letting us in) our election night count live coverage.

Additionally, and probably more importantly, a lot of the day to day coverage that doesn’t warrant an entire post lives entirely on Twitter @MedwayPolitics.

So dear reader, join us as we once again head unto the Medway electoral breach.

EU referendum results in Medway by ward

After the results of the EU referendum last year, two things were immediately clear: The UK had voted to leave the EU, and Medway had done so by a considerably larger margin than the 52-48 result nationally. In Medway, the figure was 64-36, but we lacked any more precise detail than that. How did each area vote? Could patterns be found across Medway, or was it broadly the same across the board?

Following an investigation by the BBC, we now have far more local data than before, with results from all 22 wards across Medway. But what does it show us?

First off, leave won in all 22 Medway wards, though there is considerable variation in this, from a dominating 72-28 victory in Peninsula down to a modest 54-46 win in Rochester West.

The results show the areas of Medway with the highest income and the highest levels of education had a higher remain vote, which is in line with the national trends.

Less clear are any political patterns, other than the two wards that have elected UKIP councillors having the highest leave votes. Beyond those, the remaining mix of Conservative and Labour wards are fairly mixed across the board.

The full table of how each Medway ward voted is below:

New social media code of conduct for Medway councillors

At this week’s full Medway Council meeting, Medway councillors will agree to add a new section to their Code of Conduct, specifically around councillor’s use of social media.

The process of introducing this code began a year ago, when we published a story on the controversial tweeting of Conservative councillor for Luton and Wayfield, Michael Franklin. The Medway Labour group lodged a formal complaint over the matter, and while no direct action against Franklin was taken, the council have drawn up a new section to the Code of Conduct (above) to emphasise how seriously such matters are taken.

While many councillors maintain rather boring accounts, and others avoid it altogether, there are some who are ‘colourful’ in their use of social media, and we look forward to seeing how they react to the new rules.

An indication might come from the aforementioned Councillor Franklin, who has spent recent days calling celebrities ‘silly cows’ and demanding black people thank him for ending slavery. With the change in policy, it’s probably best he gets it all out of his system now.

Why did the councillor hide in the toilet?

Sadly, not the setup to a hilarious joke, but one of the most depressing questions in Medway politics for years now.

The whole sorry saga begins in January 2013, at a full Medway Council meeting where the Labour group put forward a motion in favour of equal marriage, as was topical at the time. When it came time for the vote, Labour Strood South councillor Isaac Igwe got up from his seat, and proceeded to go to the toilet, only returning once the vote was completed.

Inevitably, a number of questions were asked about the behaviour of then councillor Igwe at the time. It’s not entirely unheard of for someone to hold personal views that would make it difficult to support such a motion, yet when challenged on his position, Igwe flatly refused to answer any questions on the subject. This led to an absurd scenario where he was asked, again and again, for months while continuing to refuse, which could have been wholly avoided had he just explained his position at the time.

Igwe lost his seat on Medway Council in May 2015, when he managed to fall from 2nd to 8th place in his Strood South seat. In theory, this should have been the end of the matter. Once out of public office, the questions would stop, leaving us to never truly know where he stood.

At least, it was until a vacancy became available in Strood South, following the resignation of UKIP councillor Catriona Brown-Reckless. A slightly bizarre selection process for Labour began, involving six candidates, some odd infighting, and very few actual members, and the last minute result was Igwe fighting the seat for Labour once again.

Inevitably, this has again thrust his position on equal marriage into the public eye. Questions again began, which were again refused. Questions were put to other Labour councillors, usually champions of equal rights, who again refused to comment. The whole issue has dominated a bizarre campaign, one not helped by the frankly bizarre tweets appearing from Igwe’s Twitter account, clearly not written by the man himself. Much of the wider campaign from Medway Labour has also left itself open to ridicule.

Despite the wall of silence being put up by the Labour councillors, we’ve been hearing more and more discontent from local activists and members within the party over his selection. One member told us that Igwe had told a friend that he considered being gay ‘an affliction’, some complained that he refused to tell them whether he supports equal rights, and others flatly refused to take part in his campaign. The most damning came from one activist who wished to remain anonymous, and we have published their complete comments below:

As a Labour Party member and activist of many years and, more significantly, a member from Strood, I am deeply concerned to see my party put forward Isaac Igwe as it’s candidate in the Strood South by-election.
As a Councillor, Mr Igwe hid in the toilet at the time of a vote – which Labour called – urging the Council to support Equal Marriage. Since then, despite many attempts to ask him to do so, Mr Igwe has never clarified his position publicly.
The Labour Party is the champion of equality and I am ashamed to see my party stand by a man who appears to be both a bigot and a coward. If Mr Igwe opposes equal marriage then he should say so and the party should not accept him as it’s candidate. If he support equal marriage then he should say so. What I find most alarming is his – and the party’s – public silence on the matter.
For some time now, I, amongst others, have sought to confront Mr Igwe about his views. He has publicly failed to do so. However, I was enlightened in a recent private discussion with him to find that he ‘was happy to spend time with gay people through work and in his personal life’ but that he ‘was not entirely comfortable’ with equal marriage. My suspicions of Mr Igwe being a bigot were confirmed and his failure to declare his position publicly confirms him to be a coward as well. That the Labour Party would chose to endorse a candidate with such views is abhorrent. I am in no doubt that other figures within the party as aware of Mr Igwe’s views but I am appalled by the failure of figures to respond to questions about Mr Igwe’s views. The wall of silence is appalling but should not be surprising. Cllr Vince Maple, Cllr Teresa Murray and Cllr Tristan Osborne appear comfortable in ‘ignoring’ the matter and I am aware that they have encouraged activists to do so. I am disgusted in the behaviour of my party and it’s local leaders. What are we if we are not the party of equality? I will not be supporting Mr Igwe in this by-election because I refuse to support a bigoted coward. I would urge all other members, activists and voters to examine their consciences before they do.

It seems baffling that Labour would select a candidate that would be so controversial even within it’s own party, and it’s even more baffling because it’s so unnecessary. Igwe should have come clear long before now to set the record straight on where he stands on this issue, so both his party and the electorate can make an informed decision about him and his views.

Many councillors voted against the Labour motion in favour of equal marriage in 2013, and several abstained. The difference with Igwe is the manner in which he did so. If you don’t want to vote on something, then don’t vote on something. Just don’t run off and hide in the toilet in the hope that no one will notice.

Whether or not we’ll ever get an answer on where Igwe stands is questionable. If he loses the by-election on Thursday, this won’t come up again, unless he seeks public office again in the future. If by some miracle he wins though, we fear this sorry saga will drag on and on and on.