Dude Where’s My Democracy

Democracy pt 2

As we discussed as part of #iFAQS the Medway Towns and the Hoo Penisula are now a Unitary Authority and not part of Kent County Council. The Council is made up of 22 Wards creating 55 seats. At the time of writing the council is made up of 4 parties, and will likely still be 4 parties after the election, and these 4 parties have an equal say..
I mean unequal say in the running of the Medway Towns.

There are also parish councils but nobody knows what goes on there.

The Council is currently under Conservative Control and has been since 2003, though Keevil and Jennings are both predicting No Overall Control in the 2015 Local Elections.
The council elected Leader of the Council is Cllr Rodney Chambers OBE
The (publically unelected) Mayor is Cllr Barry Kemp
The Leader then appointed a Deputy leader and then upto 9 further members to make up the cabinet.
The Cabinet is responsible for implementing the council’s budget and policies as well as forming partnerships with other key organisations.

The Leader and Cabinet are held to account by Overview and Scrutiny Committees which are made up of Councillors from all the political groups represented on the council.

STATS ALERT

Current Council Councillors

Conservatives 31 = 56%
Labour 17 = 31%
UKIP 4 = 7%
Liberal Democrats 3 = 6%

So the will of the Medway electorate, and the will of the councillors defecting, means that the Conservatives have over 50% of the council, which mean they, with their party whip, can be confident of winning a vote.

Current Council Cabinet

Conservatives 10 = 100%
Labour 0 = 0%
UKIP 0 = 0%
Liberal Democrats 0 = 0%

The cabinet, where significant decisions are made, mirrors this council make up with..
oh wait, no it doesn’t.
The Council is overviewed by 5 scrutiny committees and these largely follow along Council lines.

Business Support Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Conservatives 8 = 62%
Labour 4 = 31%
UKIP 0 = 0%
Liberal Democrats 1 = 8%

Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Conservatives 8 = 47%
Labour 4 = 24%
UKIP 1 = 6%
Liberal Democrats 1 = 6%
Non-elected, voting 3 = 18%
Non-elected, non-voting 9 = 0% of vote
Vacancy 2 = 0% of vote

Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Conservatives 7 = 54%
Labour 4  = 31%
UKIP 1 = 8%
Liberal Democrats 1 = 8%
Non-elected, non-voting 3 = 0% of the vote

Regeneration, Community and Culture Committee

Conservatives 6 = 55%
Labour 4=33%
UKIP 1 = 8%
Liberal Democrats 1 = 8%

Joint NHS Scrutiny Committee with Kent County Council

Conservatives 3 = 75%
Labour 1 = 25%
UKIP 0 = 0%
Liberal Democrats 0 = 0%

Each committee has a chair and a vice chair. Which also don’t follow along council lines.

Charing and vice chairing of Scrutiny Committees

Conservative 8 = 100%
Labour 0 = 0%
UKIP 0 = 0%
Liberal Democrats 0 = 0%

This isn’t about being anti-Conservative. This is about being anti-democratic.

This is about a one-party having the ability to dictate policy via a cabinet they fully control, where all oversight is carried out by committees they chair.

Maybe No Overall Control won’t be a bad thing for a while.

Keevil

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman?

Part 1 of a 2 posts looking at gender equality in Medway politics. This part looks at the council and it’s candidate, the second will look at those standing for Parliament.

It’s not necessarily helpful to get too bogged down in demographics or representation, so we’re going to spend an entire post doing just that. Specifically, we’re going to look at the gender divide for councillors and council candidates.

To begin, here is an infographic showing the current composition of the council by gender:

Council ratio

This chart shows that 16 of the 55 current councillors are women. While this is by no means equal, such is the will of the electorate and all that. So long as a roughly equal number of candidates are put forward, we shouldn’t quibble too much about the outcome, should we?

So, how’s that equality in candidates going? About this well:
Candidates

Oh.

In pure numbers, there are a nice round 200 candidates for council seats in Medway. Of those, only 57 are being contested by women.

Now, this article isn’t being written to assign blame to anyone in particular. All parties struggle to find enough candidates to fight council seats (indeed, only Labour and the Conservatives found 55 in Medway), and if women aren’t putting themselves forward, there isn’t a great deal an individual local party can do about it. That said, with our love of graphics, let’s take a look at how well each party has done:

The Conservatives have 13 female candidates out of a full slate of 55, or 24%.

Labour have done slightly better, managing 16 candidates out of 55, a stunning 29%.

The UKIP “vote for change” bus rolls on, with 6 of their 32 candidates not being men, or 19%.

TUSC are the only party to achieve equality in their candidates selections, with 55%, or 12 of their 22 candidates being women.

The Lib Dems are doing okay in this regard, but they only have 18 candidates overall. Of those though, 7, or 39%, are female.

The Green Party have the least gender equal slate of candidates in Medway, with only 2 of their 13 candidates, or 15%, being women.

So where does all this leave you as a voter on the ground in Medway? Well, unless you’re in Twydall or Watling, the only two wards where half the candidates are women, you’re left with a lot of men. This is especially true if you live in Cuxton & Halling or Lordswood & Capstone, where there are precisely no women on the ballot paper. There’s a number of wards where there is only one or two as well, so there’s still a long way to go in the battle for council equality.

Of course, equality in candidates is pretty redundant unless more female selections take place in winnable wards. Using the predictions this blog made for council seats, we calculated how many women are likely to be sitting on Medway council in two weeks time. In the “best case scenario”, we estimate 16 women will be on the council, which is how many are currently there. At the lowest end, we estimate only 9 could take seats. In reality, it’s likely be somewhere in the middle, meaning the next council will be even less equal than the current one, which is quite an achievement.

Jennings

Once Upon a Time in a Medway Constituency

Democracy pt 1

As part of the Vote for Policies test, Jennings held to type the Liberal Democrat, whilst Keevil showed support for Labour’s policies on democracy.

So what Democracy do the residents of the Medway Towns have?

 

Parliamentary Constituencies

As you should be aware, there are 3 Members of Parliament representing Chatham & Aylesford, Gillingham & Rainham, and Rochester & Strood. But it wasn’t always this way!
We have mostly stuck with 1997 as the line in the sand date for this blog, but not anymore..

Chatham & Aylesford
An electorate in 2010 of over 68,000. Half of the constituency is based in Medway and the other half in Kent.
Stay with me..
The Chatham & Aylesford constituency was created in 1997 from parts of the Mid-Kent and Tonbridge & Malling seats. The first incumbent of the newly formed seat was Labour’s Jonathan Shaw who was returned to the seat in the subsequent 2001 and 2005 elections, before the aforementioned boundary changes and Conservative’s Tracey Crouch win in 2010.
Tonbridge & Malling, like Aylesford, is outside of Medway, and therefore outside of our understanding.
The Mid-Kent seat was created in 1983 from parts of the Rochester & Chatham and Maidstone seats. The only winner of the seat was the Conservative’s Andrew Rowe from 1983 to 1992. Rowe won the newly formed Mid-Kent and Faversham seat in 1997, showing that Conservative’s could win seats in 1997. However the seat doesn’t represent Medway, and so like Maidstone, we don’t care. Rochester & Chatham was a parliamentary seat created in the 1950’s from the Chatham Constituency.
The 1950’s and 60’s saw several elections, except for 1959, return the Labour candidate, before 1970 when the constituency was won for the Conservatives by Peggy Fenner, the first polititian, outside of the Prime Minister, that Keevil remembers, which is impressive considering he wasn’t born until 1979. Anyways..
Fenner held the seat, with the exception of the snap election in Oct 84, winning it back in 1979, until the seat was abolished in 1983. Fenner won the newly formed Medway seat in 1983, and we’ll come back to that. Because as the name suggests, it represented Medway.
The Chatham Constituency was created in for the 1832 general election. I think we’ve gone back far enough there! But a clear record of Chatham going back and forth between Labour and the Conservatives doesn’t look like changing, though there’s a good chance that the constituency will.

Tangent Alert

The Government’s plans for boundary review in 2013, which would have reduced the number of seats failed to pass through Parliament. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act would have cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, but was opposed as gerrymandering, which we will come back to at a later date.


Rehman Chishti voted very strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
Tracey Crouch voted very strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
Mark Reckless voted strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
So should boundary changes come back up, theres a good chance, should they get re-elected, they would be in favour.

Where were we?

Gillingham & Rainham
Formed in 2010 with an electorate of over 71,000.
The Gillingham & Rainham constituency was formed in 2010 from the Gillingham constituency.
As far as I can tell there were little actual boundary changes. It’s just nice that Rainham got added to the title. It has only had one MP, the Labour Conservative councillor Rehman Chishti, who beat the Labour incumbent Paul Clark.
The Gillingham constituency goes back to the turn of the 20th century. It was mainly Conservative held until, with the exception of the 1945 election, Paul Clark won and held the seat in 1997. Well, that was simple.

Dagenham & Rainham is a constituency that is somewhere else and so shouldn’t be confused.

Rochester & Strood
Created in 2010, with an electorate of over 75,000.
The Rochester & Strood constituency was created from the Medway Constituency in 2010. The seat has been won by Mark Reckless twice, first for the Conservatives in 2010 and again for UKIP in 2014. As if you didn’t know that..
As Naushabah Khan rightly said on the Sunday Politics South East, there have been boundary changes from when Labour held the Medway seat, with Bob Marshall Andrews since 1997. Andrews won the seat from incumbent and previously mentioned, but now Dame, Peggy Fenner, see how this all comes full circle! Here at least there was at least a reason for the name change as it was found to be confusing with the recently formed Medway Unitary Authority, when the constituency covered only part of the authority.
For History bores, the Medway seat previously existed 1885-1918 when it was held by the Conservatives and Rochester has been sending a member to parliament since the 14th Century and the Medway Lib Dems should take heart they held the seat in 1910 so they are due a comeback.

Which seems a slightly mean joke to finish on, but there you go.

Crime and nothingness

As part of the Vote for Policies test, Keevil and Jennings held to type with Keevil supporting the Green Party and Jennings the Liberal Democrat policies on crime.

What does crime mean in Medway and how do those looking to be our elected representatives seek to deal with it?

Medway Council Website

“Medway Council knows that fear of crime prevents many people from doing some of the things which they might do.
This is despite the fact that crime in Medway is actually lower than the England and Wales average
it is clear that for the people of Medway to feel safer crimes such as violence, criminal damage and anti-social behaviour must be dealt with.”

The Councils community safety plan 2013-2016 lists its priorities as
– Tackle drug and alcohol abuse
– Tackle anti-social behaviour and envirocrime
– Reduce reoffending
– Tackle domestic abuse
– Reduce the number of people killed of seriously injured in road traffic collisions.

According the the Kent PPC website, crime in Medway has increased between 2014-2015, as part of an overall increase in Kent.
Anti-Social behaviour has decreased in the same time period, just as there has been an overall reduction in Kent.

According to a study in the Daily Mirror in 2013
Over a six month average of all crimes
the UK average was 6.57 per 100 residents
The Medway average was 5.12  per 100 residents

Supporting the Medway Council statement.

However when violence was considered
the UK average was 1.06 per 100 residents
the Medway average was 1.58 per 100 residents

So whilst overall crime might be lower in Medway, violence, a crime which would would, or the fear of which, would stop people ‘from doing the things which they might do’, a higher then average violent crime rate is part of that.

Violent Crime according to the police is defined as:

Includes offences against the person such as common assaults, Grievous Bodily Harm and sexual offences

According to the Kent Police:
1802 crimes were reported in Medway in Feb 2015
389 were violent
21.58%
River Ward had the highest crime rate with 271 crimes
Gillingham South had the highest violent crime rate with 45 violent crimes
Luton and Wayfield had the highest percentage of violent crimes as percentage of overall crime at 29%

Also, when you looked at crime over a year
River ward had 52.22% of crimes, 1395 in total, where no further action was taken
Gillingham South had 75.57% of crimes, 1367 on total, where no further action was taken
Luton and Wayfield had 75.50% of crimes, 1014 in total, where no further action was taken

No further action includes:

Unable to prosecute suspect
A suspect has been identified but could not be prosecuted for one of a number of reasons, such as: insufficient evidence; the prosecution time limit having expired; the named suspect being below the age of criminal responsibility; the victim or witness is dead or too ill to give evidence; the victim declining or being unable to support the police investigation further; or the person involved has died.

 Medway Averages

No Further Action = 75.58% 
Local Resolution = 1.44%
Caution = 2.81%
Dealt with in Court = 7.54%

Why does such a large proportion of crime result in no action being taken against offenders? Can it be improved and, if so, how?

“The police and the Crown Prosecution Service have to make an assessment of the evidence available, whether it is witness, forensic or even hearsay. In circumstances where there is insufficient evidence, the decision may be taken to focus resources on those offences which are capable of being charged and prosecuted. There might be a number of reasons why no further action was possible. Some cases are just undetectable. However, cases can be reopened if more evidence becomes available.”

So what do our elected or electable representatives have to say on crime or the causes of  crime?

Medway Conservatives – link
There is no mention of crime.

Medway Labour link
There is no mention of crime.

Medway Liberal Democrats link
There is no mention of policies at all.

Medway UKIP
Doesn’t have a website.

Medway Greens – link
No mention of policies

Medway TUSC – link
No mention of crime

Chatham and Aylesford

Tracey Crouch – link
No mention of crime. Which seems churlish considering the wide variety of campaigns mentioned. But still.

Tristan Osborne – link
No mention of crime

Thomas Quinton, John Gobson, Luke Balnave, Ivor Riddle, Ian Wallace 
No dedicated websites

 Gillingham and Rainham

Rehman Chishti – link
There are campaigns relating to driving related offences

Paul Clark – link
Includes a link to Labour national policy on policing

Jacqui Berry – link
No mention of crime

Neil Williams, Roger Peacock, Mike Walters, Paul Chaplin, Mark Hanson
No dedicated websites.

  Rochester and Strood

Mark Reckless – link
No mention of crime
“A cursory search shows five pages of blog posts related to crime on Mark Reckless’s website:
http://markreckless.com/?s=crime

Kelly Tolhurst – link
There is at least a section. Even if it is restricted to alcohol related anti-social behaviour and a lack of police presence.
Because I’m never satisfied.

Naushabah Khan – link
No mention of crime

Clive Cregory – link
No mention of crime

Prue Bray, Dan Burn
No dedicated site

Crime may be lower in Medway then the national average, but it isn’t low. And other then that fact, I got nothing.

Keevil

Nothing to report: A UKIP Report

Farage RochesterPhoto by Alan Collins

Turning up at a UKIP event leaves one with a strange feeling. The vitriol directed toward the party is so strong that you’re left with a nagging feeling of “what if someone sees me here and gets the wrong idea?”

This blog was invited in an independent capacity to a UKIP event with Nigel Farage and Mark Reckless at Rochester’s Corn Exchange last night to see how these things work on the inside. Not that there was much time to worry about perception. As I arrived at the venue, Nigel Farage was making his way in following a visit from a tea shop across the road, being pursued closely by camera crews and a young protestor repeatedly yelling “BOO!” as loud as he could. So there’s probably a clip of me awkwardly getting out of the way during all this doing the rounds on Sky News or something.

It’s worth noting that while UKIP never proclaimed this as being a public event, it was stressed that the audience was made up primarily of undecided voters. I don’t know how these people were invited to the event, as your name had to be on a list to get in, as one local with an interest in politics soon discovered:

Surveying the crowd, I was somewhat surprised to find a wider demographic than the standard old angry white men one might expect at these events. There were some women and even some younger people too! Some of the younger people, particularly the ones sitting behind me, even seemed weirdly enthusiastic about the whole thing.

The leader of the Medway UKIP group, Chris Irvine, opened the proceedings with a pitch for UKIP taking more seats on Medway Council on May 7, before introducing “the man who beat both Labour and the Tories”, Mark Reckless. Reckless strode in to polite applause, and immediately got off to a bold start with the audience by opening with a bit about how nice the weather has been.

Reckless has never been the strongest performer when it comes to public events, but he moved deftly from policy to policy. Some of this was fairly agreeable, like reform of hospital car parking charges, or only building on brownfield land, and some of it was less so, like slicing a mere £11bn out of the aid budget. Not that it mattered much to this audience: for a group of undecided voters, they applauded just about everything.

I suspect much of the crowd was there just to see Farage. Indeed, toward the end of Reckless’ speech, some of the people at the back of the room were beginning to murmur. This led to a feeling of being at a gig where a support band has been told they have 20 minutes, but decide to play their whole album anyway. Still, Reckless brought things to a close with a robust defence of the personal attacks launched on him by the Tories, which was always a silly tactic, before introducing Farage, who entered to the loudest applause of the evening.

Farage in the room is exactly the same as the one you see on TV. He was typically rabble-rousing, describing the UKIP surge as a “purple rash”, swiftly jumping from issue to issue, with well practiced lines on each of the big issues. He even managed to throw some red meat to the locals too, promising to restore Rochester’s city status. He never explained how he’d do this, but it obviously went over well.

He proceeded to spend a reasonable amount of time attacking the SNP, suggesting the way the other parties deal with them as approaching “appeasement”. Fiery stuff, and comments that will definitely put the Scottish National Party in Rochester & Strood on the back foot. After that, it was a quick dash through a potential EU referendum (one held by the Tories would be a “stitch up”), and suggesting poll numbers are underestimating UKIP. I find that to be fairly unlikely, but it’s the way of keeping the dream alive.

The final section of the evening was dedicated to “public questions” that were already prepared and none were taken from the floor. Some interesting topic came up, from cutting the BBC “to the bone”, and the electoral reform policies that UKIP are actually pretty strong on, before it was all over and Farage left to a standing ovation from most of the crowd.

You may have noticed that a lot of this is off of the beaten UKIP track. The EU only came up periodically with the usual spiel, and immigration was barely mentioned, outside of one or two smaller references. This represents a change in tack for UKIP, an attempt to be a fully formed political party, with a range of party policies beyond the usual fare. How successful this will be is another matter, but Farage seems confident, predicting that Reckless will not only hold onto Rochester & Strood, but will increase his majority. Does anyone really fancy taking that bet?

We got through the entire night without it happening, but on the way out I finally heard my first “I’m not racist, but..” from one of the supporters. I guess it had to happen at some point.

Outside the venue, the lone protestor who had been shouting at Nigel Farage before the event was still waiting. Farage himself snuck out of another door, leaving it to security to break the news to the stubborn young man:

Security: He’s already gone mate.
Protestor: I don’t care.

He’s possibly still standing there today.

Jennings

Control

Back in 2010, just before the last general election, Medway Council demolished the Aveling and Porter building, a heritage site. Many felt that the building should be preserved, perhaps as a heritage museum. The council thought a car park would be much nicer, at least until there’s money to be made from development.

AP2

Click to see BBC News coverage

 

AP3

Click to see evidence of the campaign to save the building

It’s likely that the forthcoming election will result in no single party holding overall control of the council.

Photos © Phil Dillon – All Rights Reserved.

The artist is Jim Hill

 

The One Man Rainbow Coalition

We regularly hear about voters that don’t want to vote for any of the parties. If you live in Gillingham & Rainham and have the opposite problem, and want to vote for all of them, you have a solution: The Incredible Shifting Mike Walters!

In 2002, he resigned from the Liberal Democrats in an apparent argument about whether he could use the word Christian on his leaflets. He joined the English Democrats, where he stood for election in such various locales as Dover, Strood, and Eastleigh, never really troubling the electorate. In 2013, he was removed from the party, who accused him of doing a number of “odd” things. This was no problem for Mike! He immediately jumped to the Conservatives, where he didn’t seem to last very long. Now, he’s standing in this election as a candidate for the SDP.

Yes, the same SDP that ceased to exist in 1988.

Mike Walters Mike Walters

Click through to read the full text of each leaflet. Trust me, you’ll want to.

Before we continue, we should probably examine the photo he is using to promote his campaign again as it’s really quite something:

Mike Walters

The leaflet also includes some other ‘interesting’ points. He wants to ban sex education in schools with no detail at all, is remarkably candid about his history and personal life, and also manages to accuse current MP Rehman Chishti of being a secret Muslim.

Now if that lot combined with picture of a candidate surrounded by a bunch of anonymous, heavily armed officers doesn’t win you over, we’re not sure what will.

Jennings

Game of Wards

2015 what lies ahead

Note:

This isn’t about preferences which would have shown Medway sending a rainbow coalition of Green, Lib Dems and TUSC to Gun Wharf (again, no it wouldn’t – Ed), but rather based on our misunderstanding of numbers and how vote swings work. Also we understand that every party is working to win every seat, and every seat is(nt) a target. Also, anything is possible. But..

Medway Council

Current Administration: Conservative

Keevil Prediction: No Overall Control
Jennings Prediction: No Overall Control

Council Groups

Conservative: 31 Members
Labour: 17 Members
UKIP: 4 Members
Liberal Democrats: 3 Members

Keevil Prediction

Conservative: 24 Members
Labour: 23 Members
UKIP: 6 Members
Liberal Democrats: 2 Members

Jennings Prediction

Conservative: 23 Members
Labour: 20 Members
UKIP: 9 Members
Liberal Democrats: 3 Members

5 6 Wards to Watch

Gillingham South
Peninsula
Princes Park
Rochester East
Rochester West
Strood Rural

Keevil Analysis

The first thing you discover when you look at the numbers is how many of the wards are held with relatively large majorities, large enough so as to make you question wether the wards are even in contest. Some contests there are though, and between a potential drop in Conservative and Lib Dem vote as well as an increase in Labour and UKIP vote means there are predicted changes. This will lead to the council being under No Overall Control, which I think will be a good thing for Medway after years of single party cabinet control and a lack of scrutiny. The two main groups will have an almost similar number of wards meaning co-operation is essential.

Wards
Cuxton and Halling: Whilst I am predicting a Conservative hold, Monck, who is a parish councillor for UKIP is a big question mark. One to watch for 2019!
Gillingham North: Whilst I think this will be an easy hold for Labour, the interest is an alternate universe where in 2011 Stamp and Cooper stood and won as Labour, rather then Independents before changing. In this universe Khan stood in Gillingham South in 2011 and won, leading to a different Labour candidate in the Rochester By-Election and a different 2015 campaign.
Gillingham South: Back in this Universe 2 of the 3 current councillors are not standing for reelection. A busy polling card, will see Lib Dems reduced to one councillor, and I wouldn’t put money on that being Goeff Juby! 2 Labour Councillors, 1 of which you would expect to be Khan. A telling ward for the development of the smaller parties.
Luton and Wayfield: This could have been a Labour seat loss but I think Osborne will gain a #GE2015 recognition bounce which will see him through to 2019.
Peninsula: I was preparing to predict 2 UKIP councillors returned by the Penisula word, but with Irvine not standing in the ward, I think it is a big ask for two new UKIP candidates.
Princes Park: Seems a site for an actual contest. Current Councillor Pat Gulvin not standing for the seat currently held, adds to the interest in this ward and a seat changing to Labour.
Rainham North: Hewett’s choice to join UKIP is an interesting one, especially as it’s not with support of the seemingly better organised Rochester & Strood UKIP. Will it lead to UKIP taking the ward? Or Labour taking the seat? No.
River: With Mackinley standing in South Thanet and Mackness, who had the smaller majority in 2011, busy deselecting Conservative councillors in Rochester & Strood, Labour must feel River is for the taking. With better candidates it might have been. UKIP to do well, but not well enough.
Rochester East: To turn half purple! This is based on no rational look at the numbers. Only that the UKIP group leader has given up the Penisula seat he won with a healthy majority for a strong Labour ward. There MUST be something we don’t know otherwise the UKIP group are in serious trouble.
Rochester West: I am going to predict a labour seat gain here, but I think Tolhurst will win a #GE2015 bounce which will keep her safe until 2019.
Strood North: The two councillors contesting their seats, leaving a battle for the third seat. I’m going to say the UKIP surge won’t get them a seat, and Labour will win it.
Strood Rural: UKIP are working well in Rochester & Strood and this will lead to seats being held here, and if Mason does hold his seat that will be embarrassing for the Conservatives who deselected him.
Strood South: Had a low turnout in 2011, an increased turnout from the General Election, and a UKIP surge mixed with a Reckless bounce, means I am predicting a three way split of seats.
Walderslade: Had a large poll card in 2011, and this isn’t the case in 2015 which will change the outcome to a Labour seat gain.
Watling: This will be a very close battle, Smith will see her majority reduced by the collapse of the Medway Liberal Democrat vote, but will hold on. Chaplin will have a #GE2015 bounce but not enough to min a council seat. The battle for the second seat will see a Labour win.

Jennings Analysis

I think it’s generally accepted now that Medway Council will be under No Overall Control following this election, it’s just the exact make-up that is up for debate. My numbers are perhaps more pessimistic for the establishment parties, with the Conservatives losing 8 seats, but Labour only being able to pick up 3. This does lead to UKIP being the main beneficiaries. While their poll numbers have slipped in recent days, they have built a good infrastructure in Medway, and relatively easily topped the Euro elections in May and the Rochester by-election in November. The problem is exactly where these predictions leave us. It’s difficult to imagine either the Conservatives or Labour working with UKIP in Medway, meaning the only viable route to a council that can get anything done is a ‘grand coalition’ of the Conservatives and Labour. If the parties do decide to go down this route, there will certainly be interesting times ahead.

Wards
Cuxton and Halling: This is a tough one to call, but a combination of the incumbent Conservative councillor standing down, along with the local popularity of UKIP candidate Paul Monck means that I think he can just about pull it off.
Gillingham South: Labour are throwing the kitchen sink at Gillingham South, as it’s a ward they need to even come close to taking control of the council. They almost managed it in 2011, but if the Lib Dems are ruthless enough in their campaigning, Juby’s name recognition should be enough to help him hang on, but I definitely wouldn’t put any money on it.
Peninsula: Peninsula appears to be very fertile ground for UKIP, with them handily winning the by-election there in November. That said, their most recognisable candidate, Chris Irvine, is attempting to move wards, so they face a slightly tougher battle here, but they should at least be able to defeat the two new Conservative faces.
Princes Park: A curious ward where both sitting councillors are standing down, with both Conservatives and Labour putting forward serious candidates. I’d be inclined to say Labour can take both seats, but the Conservatives are putting forward respected former councillor Tashi Bhutia, a split ward appears to be looming.
Rainham North: The wildcard here is Vaughan Hewett’s defection to UKIP. Traditionally a safe Conservative ward, the question is whether his name alone will be able to see him through. I think it will, but it’s not entirely out of the question that the ward will turn completely blue again.
Rochester East: The most baffling thing about this ward is the decision for Medway UKIP group leader Chris Irvine to stand here. This ward has been safely held by Labour for some time, so to give up a reasonably safe position in Peninsula to stand here is one hell of a gamble. Still, these things aren’t done lightly, so UKIP must be confident that they can win here. If not, the Medway UKIP group could well be thrown into chaos post-election.
Rochester West: The Conservatives, Labour, and the Greens are all putting forward strong candidates here. Under normal conditions, this ward may well have been a strong contender to go red, but Kelly Tolhurst’s status as PPC, along with the Green’s Clive Gregory taking votes away from Labour, should be enough to see her home here.
Strood Rural: The only ward that I’m predicting to go completely UKIP, almost wholly on the name recognition of sitting councillors Mason and Rodberg. They’ll face a tough fight, but they should be able to pull off the clean seat sweep.
Strood South: An interesting one that the Conservatives, Labour, and UKIP are all fighting. The national winds should see Labour pick up a second seat here, and there’s a chance UKIP will come through and snag the third. The question though is which candidate will be able to pull it off?
Walderslade: If Labour hadn’t spectacularly screwed up their candidate selection here, they might have been able to pull it off. But as they selected two candidates, both of which pulled out, leaving two late selections, they face an uphill battle here.
Watling: I was originally going to predict the Lib Dems winning both seats here as a result of UKIP taking from the Conservative vote. UKIP have decided not to run here though, making the battle tougher for the Lib Dems. Sitting councillor Diana Smith is incredibly popular though, and combined with the name recognition of Gillingham PPC Paul Chaplin, if they are ruthless enough in their campaigning, they should just be able to pull it off.

Ward Breakdowns

  1. Chatham Central (current: 3Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Labour
  2. Cuxton and Halling (current: 1 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 1 UKIP
  3. Gillingham North (current:3 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Labour
  4. Gillingham South (current: 2 Liberal Democrat1 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat
  5. Hempstead and Wigmore (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  6. Lordswood and Capstone (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  7. Luton and Wayfield (current: 3 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Labour
  8. Peninsula (current: 2 Conservative1 UKIP)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative, 1 UKIP
    Jennings Prediction: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative
  9. Princes Park (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
  10. Rainham Central (current: 3 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Conservative
  11. Rainham North (current: 1 Conservative1 UKIP)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP
    Jennings Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP
  12. Rainham South (current: 3 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Conservative
  13. River (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  14. Rochester East (current: 2 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Labour, 1 UKIP
    Jennings Prediction: 1 Labour, 1 UKIP
  15. Rochester South and Horsted (current: 3 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Conservative
  16. Rochester West (current:2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  17. Strood North (current: 2 Conservative, 1 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Labour, 1 Conservative
  18. Strood Rural (current: 1 Conservative2 UKIP)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 3 UKIP
  19. Strood South (current: 2 Conservative1 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Labour, 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Labour, 1 UKIP
  20. Twydall (current: 3 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Labour
  21. Walderslade (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  22. Watling (current: 1 Liberal Democrat1 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Labour, Liberal Democrat
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Liberal Democrat

To read our General Election Predictions

Introducing Medway Elects

MedElects3

A little over four years ago, I introduced the world to my latest project, Democracy in Practice, with far more fanfare than it probably deserved. It was, essentially, a collection of Medway Council election results and basic councillor details (i.e. their allowances) presented on a primitive site that looked like it belonged in 1997. After the local elections in 2011, I moved away from Medway and started to migrate the format to my new-found home in Birmingham, although I didn’t live there long enough to complete the project and launch. I know that Democracy in Practice had its fans, but I was never happy with the look and feel of the site. I have always been a programmer, never a designer. So when the code started to show flaws, and I got involved in other projects which took up my time, I switched the site off and let the domain name expire. I thought that would be the end of the story. Today, I am launching Medway Elects. We are 25 days away from the most important, and most unpredictable, general election in my lifetime – and, on the very same day, voters in Medway have a chance to change the makeup of Medway Council. I felt Democracy in Practice could live again, but it needed a major facelift – and a lot of changes under the hood to make it function in exactly the way it should. I got to work building the basic site layout first of all. I modelled it on another website I had built for an Air Cadet project. It’s not flash – just easier to navigate and more pleasing to the eye. I am also working on building a mobile-friendly version. Next, I rewrote the code from scratch – using Democracy in Practice as a strong foundation – and began adding new elements to the website. Medway Elects still contains election results (plus newly-added turnout figures, where available), including the ability to see each candidate’s electoral (and, where they have served on the council, allowances) history. But I am pleased to have been able to add electoral history for Medway’s three parliamentary constituencies (running from 1997). I am also excited to have been able to programme in various graphs to better illustrate party support and how it has changed over time. MedElects2 Clearly, as a party activist, I have never been able to lay claim to being an independent observer (although I have, in the past, had quiet words spoken in my ear for making independent observations on my blog or Twitter), but that is even more true now that I am standing in my first election as a candidate. However, Medway Elects is independent – it contains simply facts and figures, without any spin. Nothing on the site is designed to persuade anyone to vote for any particular candidate, with the only exception being the “Social Media” page, where anybody using the Twitter hashtag #medwayelects can join in the conversation. MedElects1 Perhaps the most exciting part of the Medway Elects which I am launching today is that it is not the finished article. I am continuing to explore additional improvements to the site – although most of these will come after the election, for obvious reasons. Until then, you can explore Medway Elects in all its glorious local political geekiness at www.medwayelects.co.uk. P.S. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors of this blog for their valuable advice over the past couple of weeks. Their contribution spurred me on to adding new features and tweaking what I had already created. You too can help make Medway Elects even better by letting me know what you’d like to see added.

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