The first in a series of photo blogs looking at places, people and events in the Medway Towns
“About 30 members of the far right party Britain First came to Rochester to try to do a bit of hate speech fluffing for UKIP. They were outnumbered, outwitted and outclassed by the good people of Rochester who weren’t going to let them desecrate the war memorial with their presence, and sent home. A proud day for Rochester and a ringing endorsement of people power and the strength of a united community. The police were great too”
This isn’t about preferences which would have shown Medway sending a rainbow coalition of Green, Lib Dems and TUSC (no it wouldn’t – Ed) to parliament, 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….
Small Majority: Under 1,000
Medium Majority: 1,000-3,000
Large Majority: Over 3,000
At least 5% of the vote is needed to keep the deposit.
Conservative win. Medium majority.
Greens, Lib Dems, TUSC and Christian People’s Alliance to lose their deposits.
It will be close, but not as close as it could have been. A mixture of Crouch being a hard-working and likeable MP and Labour understandably focusing on winning Gun Wharf. Also anything could and maybe does happen in Aylesford.
Conservative win. Medium majority.
Greens, Lib Dems, TUSC, and Christian People’s Alliance to lose their deposits.
It’s a bit of a boring start, but I’m with Keevil on this one. Crouch has proven herself to be an outstanding constituency MP, and her only competitor is Tristan Osborne, who perhaps not put across the best image for his party. He’ll increase the Labour vote compared to 2010 thanks to the electoral winds, but Crouch should be retaining here.
Conservative win. Large Majority.
Greens, TUSC and independent candidates to lose their deposits.
Naushabah Khan, Councillor, to stand and do better in 2020.
A backward step for Labour re-standing Clark, who was soundly beaten by Chisthi in 2010, and nothing since then, not Chisthi’s questionable voting record on equal rights or Clark’s support of a primary school in Twydall has changed that. If Clark has stepped aside for new blood he could have continued to support as an elder statesmen of the local party.
Conservative win. Large majority.
Greens, TUSC, and independent candidates to lose their deposits.
Well this is all a bit boring, isn’t it? Chishti hasn’t been the strongest local MP, but he’s built up a reasonable level of support in the community. Paul Clark, who vanished from the area for a while following his loss, is locally popular, but also too tainted by the sins of Labour past. Again, he’ll improve on his vote from 2010, but it won’t be enough to allow any other than a strong result for Chishti. This is the one seat in Medway where the Lib Dems can possibly retain their deposit, but reaching that 5% of the vote will be a struggle here, but their levels of support in Gillingham should be able to see them through.
Conservative Win. Small Majority
Lib Dems and TUSC to lose their deposits
This depends on whether you think there will be a UKIP surge and whether the Conservative machine turns up to vote.
Whilst UKIP will do well in the peninsula, where other parties except TUSC seem to avoid. The Conservative machine will turn out, in spite of, not necessarily because of Tolhurst.
Having bloodied the Government nose in the by-election, a late result will show UKIP should have favoured Proportional Representation, not First Past The Post.
UKIP win. Small majority.
Lib Dems and TUSC to lose their deposits.
Finally, an area of disagreement! UKIP have developed a strong local infrastructure in Rochester and Strood (emphasis on the latter part there). While the national party may not be able to throw the same resources at the seat as in the by-election, the recent publicity from that and the local groundwork will be enough to see them home here, albeit on a wafer thin majority. Which means to say the Conservatives could still squeak it. A lot of that potential depends on convincing tactical voters to come to them purely to keep UKIP out, but if they couldn’t manage that in a by-election, they likely can’t here either. The Greens are the party to watch here, to see if they can capitalise on their strong by-election performance and just about manage to hang onto their deposit.
Jack Hope has not been ignored by the Council, which has responded to multiple letters and emails, raised directly by Jack Hope or numerous other people, seeking answers on his behalf. The Council, to enable all residents in Grain village to raise concerns on off-site planning and the safety of the Grain LNG site, held a public meeting where residents posed questions to the site operator, senior officers from the Council, Health & Safety Executive, Kent Police and Kent Fire & Rescue Services. Mr Hope has also approached these organisations in a similar way to the Council.
The Council’s off-site Emergency Plan for the National Grid, Grain LNG Importation Terminal contains specific information on site operations, including the emergency responses of the operator and the emergency services.
The Grain LNG operator distributes information to residents and businesses in an area determined by the Health & Safety Executive on the hazards on the LNG site and the actions that the public should take in the event of an off-site emergency. Based on the hazards associated with the Grain LNG site the advice is. Go In, Stay In, Tune In.
St James’ Church of England Primary Academy and St James’ Children’s Centre is outside of this determined area.
Using the term “Fallout” is unhelpful as it refers to radioactive particles and the Grain LNG site is not a nuclear facility.
The emergency services are satisfied with the location of the barriers
There is no evacuation plan for Grain village as the main hazard from the LNG site is either a dispersing gas cloud or heat from fire if the vapour ignited. The advice is ‘Go In, Stay In, Tune In’.
None of the LNG safety leaflets have stated casualty figures.
In addition to the Grain village siren, which is tested annually, the Council provide, free of charge, an emergency notification service which will, if residents subscribe, send an email, text or phone call to landline or mobile alerting them to an off-site incident at the Grain LNG site. This is tested annually.
To register for the emergency notification service:
In the studio is Mark Reckless (former Conservative councillor and then MP, then UKIP MP, now UKIP PPC), Craig Mackinley (former UKIP Leader, then Conservative councillor, now Conservative PPC) and Naushabah Khan (former Labour PPC, now Labour PPC). The presence of Mackinley is fine – he is after all a councillor in Rochester’s River ward, but he is a PPC for South Thanet, not Rochester like the other two PPCs, which is what the main segment is about. It does raise the unasked question of where is Kelly Tolhurst (Conservative councillor and former Conservative PPC, now Conservative councillor and PPC).
Another unasked question is if Farage – rhymes with garage – loses South Thanet and thus the UKIP leadership, are Reckless and Mackinley potential future UKIP leaders? (No. No, they aren’t. – Jennings)
Following the discussion of the UKIP conference piece, I would make a joke about Khan feeling the need to make a point about being from an immigrant background, and feeling uncomfortable about watching a UKIP documentary, despite continuing to watch it, but as the show points out she is an amateur boxer, I just want to say: well said Naushabah, well said.
Head to 11 mins and 43 secs for the ‘Return to Rochester and Strood’ and for what it’s worth, I hate that opening and the rubbish random horror gag.
Is a majority of over 2,500 really an only just victory? How many thousand would tip it into comfortable win? Is there a scale?
We are taken into a long drawn out could it be UKIP or Tory, only to get a ‘we just don’t know’. I really dislike the music and voice over.
There follows a series of mini interviews:
Kelly Tolhurst: At the time there was the Conservative website leak that the constituency was a non-target. It was promptly visited by Mr and Mrs Cameron, on separate occasions. So is it a target? Or is it a target in the Labour sense of everywhere is a target?
Strong words from Tolhurst ‘I know the people, I know the place.’ Tolhurst disappoints however: She has yet to be seen, despite her words, with her sleeves rolled up.
Clive Gregory: Strong opening, ‘I’m not here because I want to become an MP..’ that’ll get you a vote for MP every time. There is a valid idea that the best way to actually put pressure on the government is to become an MP.
Goeff Juby: SPSE starts off by spelling it Geoff which is awkward, though not nearly as awkward as interviewing him after the disastrous by-election result, or that he is no longer the candidate.
And then it gets awkward(er) when he sets the Lib Dems the target of returning to over 7,000 votes, but I suppose that’s fine when its up to somebody else to do.
They cut to a wide shot, but cut back before Juby has a chance to point out some potholes.
Rochester & Strood is described as part of the new battleground. I can see that in the by-election, but the general election?
Back in the studio, where we discover that Tolhurst was invited but is too busy, and thus why Mackinley is stepping in.
Khan is asked ‘Ed is your biggest handicap’ that actually isn’t a question, but I think that’s my poor note taking. This was all before ‘hell yes, I’m tough enough’.
Khan’s then asked what she is going to do differently, and the answer she gives is to do everything the same. Which presumably includes coming third.
Khan does however hold her own, talking of pounding doors, amidst disbelief of any effect.
Mackinley is asked if he would have won the by-election.
‘Who knows’ comes the response, which isn’t a ringing endorsement of himself or Tolhurst. It could be argued he was being honest, but in the run up to an election you perhaps want a ‘Kelly did the best all considered and will do better in May’.
Not ‘I wasn’t in the pool’.
Reckless then takes everybody by surprise by ignoring this is an election and trying to talk positively about issues. Khan is particularly aghast when he says Labour were right on the NHS.
Which as he pointed out was in his blood.
When reproached on his voting record by Mackinley, he states he believed Ministers, but they were wrong and he is free of that now.
So did Chisthi and Crouch also vote based on wrong information from ministers?
Reckless is then cut off from speaking further, which is surely a sign of the media’s obligatory anti-UKIP bias.
‘Labour is part of the problem, not the solution’ Ken Loach
The Labour left has all but disappeared, being left of the Conservatives or UKIP isn’t the same as being on the Left, and sadly Tony Benn has passed away.
‘Viewing the Greens many admirable policies, but lack analysis for fundamental change.
Calling for a new party, democratic, principled and properly organised.’ Ken Loach
Medway Left Unity was formed soon after. Keevil did not go to the launch, but Jennings did and reached the conclusion that it probably wasn’t for him when someone declared that they wanted to “kill the fucking Tories” to the approval of many in the room.
Medway Left Unity is listed on Left Unity’s website of local branches, yet when Left Unity launched there 2015 manifesto, from a squat in Soho, Medway’s Left Unity were silent.
Since we launched this blog we have repeatedly requested comment from Medway Left Unity, in the beginning were informed of MLU’s GE2015 intentions, and then asked not to publish and we would receive official word.
And we never did.
Left Unity, the new voice of the left, democratic, principled and properly organised is not standing parliamentary candidates in Medway in 2015.
To no fanfare and little notice they decided and much later announced that they would instead be supporting TUSC candidates.
We contacted MLU for confirmation and received no reply.
So all things considered, what’s left for what’s left?
– Is this the Labour left? (The guy in the background)
– Joining MLU and support TUSC who have taken aim at Medway Greens, their former anti-cuts comrades, over Brighton Greens implementing council cuts, showing that TUSC are the only anti-austerity party to seemingly no response from the Greens?
Grain village is on the Isle of Grain, part of the Rochester & Strood constituency, and on the edge of the Thames estuary.
On the island is a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant owned by National Grid, which was expanded upon with giant gas storage tanks, moving it closer to the village.
One Grain resident, Jack Hope, has since 2011 been questioning the validity of any emergency plan and been vitriolic on social media on the issues. Calling many local politicians out on the situation, this has left many of them, some of whom feel they are not being given a fair deal having previously engaged with Jack, to ignore and in some cases, block him. As a result, many were reluctant to engage with us for this piece, if at all, due to not wanting re-engage with the issue or Jack Hope, who has been viewed as ‘obsessive’ and ‘abusive’. We want to make it clear that whilst we have used information provided by Jack, this is not a piece by him, and not a piece written with the intention of unreservedly supporting him.
Jack posted the following comment on Facebook before the publication of this post.
“A big thankyou to Steven Keevil & Ed Jennings for taking the time to at least ask questions about my concerns.
I could be about to be torn apart here or I could be shown to be right that my questions deserve answers and that the safety here in Grain should not be hidden in redacted documents. Whatever this blog shows, Steven & Ed have taken the time to write this up and to put across my views and the views of certain Politicians.
If the Politicians in Medway had not been so devious in their attitude to being questioned publicly then maybe the off site plan would today be fit for purpose and not hidden away. ( For the record I have no Idea what the centre and whats left have written. ) All I ask for is the airtime to be heard and to show how politicians here in Medway have placed people in danger zones so that National Grid can profit. Kids are at risk and politicians are trying to hide that fact!!
Thanks Ed & Steve looking forward to reading your blog.”
There are two main concerns to consider;
1) There have been allegations that the Emergency Plan for the island, in case there was a serious incident, has been hidden and redacted.
2) That children have been placed in a danger zone.
A map dated 2010, the most up to date we have seen, shows the outer zone in the event of an incident would affect the whole village, and we are given to understand the current plan requires a manual barrier to be placed on Grain road, to stop people driving into the incident, Jack maintains the planned site for the barrier, is in the wrong place.
Medway Council and National Grid have in the past maintained that there is little likelihood of an incident, and that is why no public evacuation test has been done. Jack Hope believes this to be one of many unsatisfactory conditions, including the fact that;
– the village fire station is not manned 24/7,
– there is no clear plan to deal with panic should an incident occur,
– or any plan to evacuate the village.
‘Stay home, tune in’ is the best advice given by the council.
The worst case scenario that is acknowledged, maintains that the incident would be contained to the LNG site, and that any attempt to evacuate would result in residents or first responders being placed in danger. If residents go home and stay there they can be contacted and found. The river and beach front then used to bring services to the island. First responders only responding when a risk assessment had been carried out.
Robin Cooper, Medway Council’s Director of Regeneration, Community and Culture, said at the time that a new escape road would be unworkable.
What didn’t help the situation, if not caused the situation, is the reported dropping of an LNG safety leaflet which incorrectly stated significantly high casualty figures as a possibility. More people in fact then lived in the village, which Cooper stated was a blunder. This led to several meetings to be called, meetings which did not alleviate the fears of all residents.
There is a belief that telecommunications would not be vulnerable, despite them traveling past the LNG site, and that the residents homes would provide suitable shelter, offering a safer option then any attempt to evacuate, with Grain having approximately 2,000 residents. Jack Hope’s concerns being for those not in their homes, and for those at school. Would children be safe in those buildings during an incident?
Have children been placed in danger? It is an incredibly emotive question. The 2012 plans are confidential, as they contain sensitive information and intended for emergency responders. There has been no public consultation, and it was suggested that it was actions by Jack Hope that led to previous plans being removed from public view, though we do not know what those actions were.
Jack Hope has requested that a compensation package be made available to those residents of the village who wish to relocate due to the LNG site.
The councils Health & Safety Executive are satisfied the current plan is well tested with an emergency notification system and a warning siren, which Jack insists is not sufficient. And the council insists that the school is beyond any danger zone, though again Jack points out the consideration of wind carrying any fallout.
“Should something happen to the LNG facility it would affect the whole of the Medway towns in a worse case scenario.”
Chris Sams, council candidate for the Liberal Democrats
TUSC candidate for the Peninsula Chas Berry does believe that children have been placed in danger for this very reason.
We spoke with Vince Maple, Labour Group Leader, and a significant target for Jack’s anger.
“We met with Jack because in the large amount of emails there was legitimate concerns… one being the siren system, which is now louder.
Glyn Griffiths and I visited the National Grid LNG plant – I am not “on the payroll” when I say it seemed to be well run and as safe as possible.
With regards redacted files, the plant is a site of National Interest, there will be redacted information, which the public, which I as leader of the council opposition do not have a right to see. I think that for national security that is acceptable.”
Have children been placed into a danger zone?
“I don’t believe this is a simple yes or no.
When a child crosses the road they are at risk, but using the green cross code and safe driving dramatically reduces that risk.
So is there is a risk, but the risks are being managed.”
Mark Reckless, the UKIP MP for Rochester & Strood, of which the Village of Grain is part of told us
“Jack’s approach hasn’t necessarily encouraged bodies to co-operate, but when he started he drew attention to important issues;
1) the evacuation plan involved the parish council, something they weren’t aware of and hadn’t agreed to.
2) The siren which had been installed wasn’t sufficient and hadn’t been fully tested.
3) I ensured that a senior HSE representative came to a meeting of Grain residents, and I feel this meeting was constructive and showed safety was being taken seriously.
I have visited the site three times, and before I visited the LNG I met with other MPs researching LNG sites and I was satisfied the plant was well run and they take safety extremely seriously, for what is in a worst case scenario a horrific outcome.
It is a concern about the information that is available, but there is a trade of between local concerns and National Grid/ Police concerns about making information available to those that would do us harm.”
Have children been placed into a danger zone?
“I think there is a small, a tiny, possibility, as there would be when you store that much gas in one place, although the temperature it stores at mitigates against the risk. I believe HSE believe the most stringent measures in place.”
It is our measured and non-scientific or expert opinion that whilst there is a real risk with LNG, just as there is with any gas storage, it is unlikely to cause the destruction of Grain village, however the lack of clear continual communication on the issue has given the appearance of a conspiracy to hide the fact that people, including children, have been placed in danger without care or consideration.
A clear frustration for Jack Hope is that he is the only person talking about this. A clear frustration for others is that Jack Hope is talking about this.
Following the issue becomes difficult for some on social media, with Jack’s passion being a barrier to some from using Facebook groups where Jack can frequently be found accusing many of Medway’s local politicians for being silent and complicit in the danger. We contacted members of each party regarding this post and there was reluctance to speak with us and answer questions on this issue because of the connection with Jack, and he needs to take some responsibility for poisoning the well of available information, and muddying the water of available information, on this issue.
Medway Council refused to answer any of our questions seeking clarity on the points above, citing the fact that we had been in contact with Jack Hope as the reason.
Parish councillor Chris Fribbins said on his blog:
“with hindsight the worst thing I did was trying to help you (Jack) in the first place”
We hope that isn’t true for us at this blog also. If so, then this was written by Jennings.
or Jennings attempts to counterpoint Keevil’s old posts, but instead has a breakdown about his political positions and gets a few things off his chest.
It’s a bit of an odd situation to be tasked with responding to a set of blog posts that were written four years ago. It’s an even odder one when they begin with a central conceit that I can’t even get my head around: that Conservatives are evil. (The actual conceit is dealing with the fact they aren’t, but nevermind. – Keevil)
I’ve never been a Conservative by any stretch of the imagination. (sometime’s it’s not that much of a stretch – Keevil) But equally, I’ve never had the hatred for them that many a few years older than me seem to. Indeed, many of the politicians I admire tend to come from the Conservative benches. There is no one stronger in the Commons on civil liberties than David Davis. Until he buggered off to UKIP, Douglas Carswell was one of the most forward thinking voices on electoral reform. I even have a grudging respect for Michael Gove. Wait, come back. I have a lot of problems with what Gove has done, but there are few politicians of such conviction amongst the newer intake. (I’d rather a lack of conviction then a repeat of the Gove effect on education – Keevil)
I suspect part of this is my age. At 32, I never really experienced the periods that others seem to be most angry about. By the time I was politically aware, most of the damage was already done. More importantly, starting to engage around the turn of the century, there was a new enemy to fight: the (New) Labour party. The double whammy of the Iraq war and their dismantling of civil liberties entrenched a distrust of them so deep that I still find Labour to be the most off-putting of the major parties.
Of course though, politicians are individuals are the idea of an entire group of them being inherently evil, or all inherently good, is completely absurd. I’ve met remarkably friendly people in all parties. I’ve met people I disagree with but who truly believe they are doing the right thing in all parties. I’ve met arseholes in all parties. I don’t believe it’s helpful to characterise an entire party, positively or negatively, but doing so makes our politics far easier to justify.
I have a dirty little secret: I hate the political compass. (Its really not a secret – Keevil) Sure, it’s fun to answer a bunch of questions and be told where you sit on a scale. Sure, it’s more helpful than a straight left or right scale. But something being twice as useful as something completely useless isn’t necessarily that helpful either. (So we should change the name of the blog? – Keevil)
I had a lengthy Twitter exchange with a friend the other day over what I define myself as politically. I’ve struggled with this a lot over the years. When I first engaged with politics, I was a liberal. Then it turns out that label doesn’t apply to you if you are in favour of a free market. So I became a libertarian. Then it turns out a lot of them are lunatics in favour of no government at all. So I became a classical liberal. Limited government, free markets, individual liberty and all that. The problem is that no one has a clue what a classical liberal is, and it still doesn’t fit perfectly.
Pigeonholing aside, this has a detrimental impact on your political thinking. When taking a position on an issue of the day, everything becomes too knee-jerk. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. In recent months, I took up positions against plain packaging on cigarettes, against a ‘mansion tax’, and against an increase in the higher rate of income tax. Have I spent a lot of time thinking about these positions and looking arguments on either side? Not really. These just feel like the right stands to take. Which means somewhere along the line, without even realising it, truthiness became a real thing.
It is said that elections are won on the doorstep, and that may well be true. Being an armchair activist, it’s difficult to check up on that. Labour, TUSC and the Greens recently launched their Medway election campaigns on the High Street, and again this was difficult to check from the armchair. Twitter and blogs however are part of our social media present and future, and if the election was decided there, how would the Medway parties do. (The following is accurate at the time of writing) (Images were the first offered for each under a google search!) (Image size was not manipulated)
@Medwaytories haven’t tweeted since sept 2014, the home page has the same content and the latest news is dated 2012! Either the webmaster has defected to UKIP or they have no news. Both MPs Crouch and Chisthi have Twitter accounts, and Crouch genuinely appears to connect on a human level, with a mixture of MP news and personal responses. Chisthi is almost automated response unit of pictures and statements, informative but at times cold. PPC Tolhurst regularly tweets, about the issues on the campaign, however does appear to tweet in the 3rd person!Cllr Mike O’Brien regularly tweets and blogs, and something to like about it is it genially reflects his day to day activities as a Councillor, but the rest of the @Medwaytories seem to not feel the need for electronic communication.
@medwaylabour regularly tweets, though they have been accused, by Keevil mostly, of being negative. @Cllrtrisosborne, regularly tweets in support of Labour national and local, as well as individual ward. He also blogs. Reports that he would sacrifice your young to the Twitter gods to win remain unsubstantiated. The Rochester & Strood Gillingham South candidate @naushabahkhan semi regularly tweets in a fairly pleasant if unremarkable fashion. @paulclark4GandR regularly tweets from the campaign trail, or at least somebody does. @vinceMaple leader of the labour group, and fellow beardy, regularly tweets along party lines. Well say regularly, its almost as if he does social media in bursts. And you can often find older tweets retweeted. Vince has challenged Rodney Chambers to a debate #BattleForGunWharf and we fully expect Cllr Chambers to respond in the next 3-4 not in your lifetimes.
They don’t trust the internet, they don’t think people of Gillingham have the internet, and therefore Twitter is one of the only places a Gillingham resident wont get sent a picture of Goeff Juby pointing at a pot hole. The above image on the Medway Lib Dem website is, in a rumour we are making up here and now, part of a Lib Dem plan to annex Rochester from Stood Constituency and close the bridge. Chris Sams, a LibDem candidate in Gillingham does tweet but wants it to be made VERY clear he does so in his own capacity and does NOT have a view that represents the Medway Lib Dems. On anything. In unrelated news he also runs the @medwaylibdems account. @Prue4Rochester is the Lib Dem PPC for Rochester. Do not mention to her that she is from outside Medway. Its not relevant. Or of interest. Or have any merits in mentioning. Which is why we haven’t brought it up here. At all. No. @MedwayPaul Paul Chaplin representing the hallowed Gillingham Lib Dems. This sentence is as interesting as his tweets. Contact has been received from Tonbridge & Malling @TMLibDems so that’s Chatham and Aylesford covered.
We have been ‘accidentally’ blocked by @medwaypaul so he may have got much more interesting. or liberal. its impossible to tell.
Prue Bray fairly requested us to actually say something about her tweeting, What’s of interest is her Rochester centric account @prue4rochester hasn’t tweeted in a week (at time of writing) whilst her regular account @pruebray has. Does this mean she has given up on Rochester already?
Medway UKIP hasn’t tweeted since February. @UKIPRochester is currently tweeting. Has @MedwayUKIP been expelled from the party? MP @MarkReckless semi regularly tweets and shows a mixture of party line and seeming to actually care. He has so far failed to say anything racist, which just goes to show that Medway Ukip are not a racist party. Cllr Chris Ivine aka @ci247 formerly @cgi247 is the tweeting voice of Medway UKIP, happy to inform or cause offence in equal measure. Not all tweets survive.
@MedwayTUSC regularly tweets, and can be easily angered. PPC @Jacqui Berry regularly tweets and blogs pushing the anti-austerity message, somebody should.