The Week in Medway Politics: Trains, tunnels, lasers

The big stories

Cllr Tristan Osborne to be Labour Kent Police and Crime Commissioner candiate
This week, we exclusively revealed that Luton and Wayfield councillor Tristan Osborne will be the Labour candidate for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner in May.

The troubling tweets of Conservative councillor Michael Franklin
We also uncovered the worrying Twitter history of the Conservative councillor for Luton and Wayfield.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Quiet week in Parliament
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch now away on maternity leave, and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst didn’t speak in any debates this week. That left Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti as the only Medway MP to speak this week, where he only asked questions – six of them no less – on laser pointers.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, presumably because trying to keep Cllr Franklin off Twitter is taking up too much of their time.

Medway Labour
This week, Medway Labour have mostly spent the week moaning about the trains. Because you can’t go wrong moaning about the trains.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Not much happening within the Medway Lib Dems this week, but they’re holding a Ladies Social next week, because apparently it’s 1956.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, the Greens have an opinion on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing that will link from the M2 west of Medway across to Essex.

Medway TUSC
Missing, as they’ve probably all signed up to Labour by this point.

Other News

Lower Thames Crossing kerfuffle
After months of indecisiveness, it was formally announced that the preferred option for a new crossing of the Thames would be the one that had most impact upon Medway. The planned route, involving a tunnel and new high speed road connection between the west of Strood and Essex, will now undergo a full consultation. Various councils are now forming their positions on the plan – Kent and Dartford are in favour, while Gravesham is opposed. The Medway Council cabinet don’t seem to want to commit to a position, with Regeneration lead Cllr Chitty saying she’d need to see proper detail of the infrastructure and junctions before commenting. She apparently missed that these details, and much more, were published in full on the Lower Thames Crossing website.

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman saw selfie opportunities while he was signing the Holocaust Book of Commitment, while laying on a radiotherapy machine, while meeting a parliamentary delegation from Pakistan, and while talking to a solitary resident.

The troubling tweets of Conservative councillor Michael Franklin

Over the past few years, more and more Medway councillors have taken to Twitter, with mixed results. Some take it up pretty naturally, while some come across as only opening an account because they think they need to. Others are in another category completely of being completely out of their depth. It’s this category where recently elected Conservative councillor for Luton and Wayfield Michael Franklin finds himself.

It was immediately clear that he perhaps wasn’t a natural to Twitter when he adopted the snappy moniker of @mikefra74161391 and this was his first tweet:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 09.17.15In the months after, his account was only occasionally used, ramping up significantly following his election in May. By and large, Cllr Franklin seems to spend most of his time tweeting anti-EU and anti-Corbyn content, which perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising for a Conservative.

In more recent weeks, it’s become clear that he’s definitely pro-monarchy (and pro-capitalisation):

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.42.07

He’s definitely got some strong opinions on the criminal justice system:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 09.10.46

And he’s definitely not a fan of 16 and 17 year olds being given the vote:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 09.14.01All of which probably wouldn’t matter too much if he was effective at dealing from comments from constituents. Instead, he decides to interact with them in the form of insults and accusing them of deliberately not paying their council tax, even doing so by jumping into a conversation that doesn’t involve him:

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.39.11

A spectacular moment came when he argued that high bus fares in Medway are absolutely fine because too many people on the bus “need to walk more” anyway, following it up by accusing a resident of being unable to read:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 09.05.45

Jennings highlighted this particular tweet, leading to a rather odd exchange, and resulted in his usual catchphrase of “COMMIE Corbyn strikes again” being busted out:

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 21.49.38

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 21.57.58

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 22.04.25

Another surreal incident occurred a few days later, when the Medway Messenger reported an increase in council tax, and Cllr Franklin accused them of some underhanded news gathering practices. An accusation all the more bizarre given that his own council had already published a press release about the council tax rise.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.39.24

All of this wouldn’t really be that big of a deal – eccentric people on Twitter is hardly news – if it wasn’t for his rather troubling tendency to retweet increasingly racist and Islamophobic tweets, like this one where he suggests the Prime Minister of Canada in a mosque was “worshipping the devil”:

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.36.45

He has no qualms in condoning those on the left being laughed at, mocked, and most worryingly, referred to as “leftards”:
Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.39.52 He seems to think it’s cool for feminists against Islamophobia to be described as “kunts”, also referencing the anti-Muslim #Bluehand movement.
Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.40.16

He is absolutely happy to retweet this kind of anti-Muslim propaganda, even going so far as to ask if “anyone has any doubts” about the claims:

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.41.12 Cllr Franklin is more than comfortable on pinning a supposed increase in child sex abuse cases entirely on the Muslim community, with this kind of provocative imagery:
Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.42.35

When we showed some of this retweeting on Twitter by literally posting screenshots from his own account, he accused us of “editing”:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 08.59.21 It’s not our job to police what politicians can and can’t say on Twitter. Everyone is entitled to their views, and everyone is willing to express them. That said, Cllr Franklin represents one of the most diverse wards in Medway, and the fact Medway Conservatives feel comfortable selecting him and continue to stand by him suggests some worrying lack of judgement within the local party.

Note: Since Cllr Franklin’s tweets started gaining attention, many of the above tweets have since been deleted from his account. This is why we have presented them as screenshots. It’s also notable that his tweeting has been toned down considerably since this issue was initially raised.

EXCLUSIVE: Cllr Tristan Osborne to be Labour Kent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate

Exclusive: Sources have told us that Luton and Wayfield councillor and former Chatham and Aylesford Parliamentary candidate Tristan Osborne will be Labour’s candidate for Kent in the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

Cllr Osborne previously announced that he was putting himself forward for the role in November, with nominations closing this month. We are now able to reveal that Cllr Osborne was the only candidate to pass the Labour interview panel, and as such will be formally announced as the candidate next month.

Cllr Osborne is a former special constable, and intends to focus his campaign on opposing cuts to frontline services and maintaining neighbourhood policing.

Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioners elections will take place this May. So far, the Conservatives, UKIP, and the English Democrats have all announced their candidates, as has Independent Fergus Wilson. It is unclear whether or not the current Commissioner, Independent Ann Barnes, intends to stands for a second term.

The Week in Medway Politics: Tax, Momentum, solar panels

Medway MPs in Parliament

The fun police
All three Medway MPs voted in support of scrapping student maintenance grants this week, after a debate was forced on the issue. All three of them also voted to ban ‘poppers’ too, so lots of people will be thrilled about their work this week.

Tolhurst on Tax
A pretty incredible exchange in Parliament this week, where Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst raised concerns about the burdens of changes to the tax system on small businesses. All well and good, if it were not for the fact such changes hadn’t been proposed, as the minister helpfully informed her.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst is concerned that the officers at facilities such as the recently scandal hit Medway Secure Training facility might be having a tough time of it. Also, Friday was Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch’s last regular day in Parliament until July, as she takes some time off for maternity leave.

Medway Council

First meeting of 2016
Thursday saw the first full Medway Council meeting of 2016. Unfortunately we were unable to provide live coverage this time. If you’d like to experience the whole thing yourself, an MP3 of it is available at the bottom of this page. Not much of any interest seemed to occur, other than the little issue of the council cutting £1.4m of public health funding.

Other council news
The council are sticking 400 solar panels on the roof of Gun Wharf, which will apparently save them £23,000 per year, while neglecting to mention how much the panels will cost in the first place. In happier news, the council was ranked as the 93rd best place in the country for LGBT staff to work.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, presumably because trying to keep Cllr Franklin off Twitter is taking up too much of their time.

Medway Labour
The first meeting of Medway Momentum took place on Saturday. No signs of any serious conflicts within Medway Labour at this stage, but we’ll have to see how this plays out.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
It’s a little late, but new Chairman of the Medway Lib Dems John Castle has provided a new year’s message of where he intends to take the party.
The party is also jumping on a national campaign about criminal driving which helpfully includes copy and pasted text, and a made up quote from Brake.

Medway Green Party
Those sneaky Greens have managed to take the council solar panel story, and use it as a way of questioning how many of the council’s 30,000 upcoming homes will be environmentally sound.

Medway TUSC
After weeks of us joking that they’ve all gone to join Momentum, they popped up to advertise and talk at this week’s Medway Momentum meeting.

Other News

Rehman About Town
Rehman is definitely slowing down his photo opportunities this year, but he still found time to have his photo taken with the Austrian ambassador, a Pakistani news team, staff at Medway Hospital, Gillingham FC chairman Paul Scally, and a charity sleep out he wasn’t actually taking part in.

The Week in Medway Politics: G4S, traffic, tax dodging

Medway MPs in Parliament

Medway G4S scandal reaches Parliament
A remarkable exchange in Parliament this week between Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst and Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Tolhurst decided to point her ire less at G4S themselves over the recent Medway abuse scandal, instead questioning why the BBC didn’t reveal the evidence earlier. In response, Gove helpfully explained exactly how journalism works.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst again popped up, this time to raise concerns about congestion at the Dartford Crossing in a debate on the subject.

Medway Council

That awkward moment
Medway Council had to slightly awkwardly announce this week that one of it’s own employees had been convicted of dodging council tax. The council doesn’t have a brilliant record of chasing outstanding council tax, so it’s nice to see them have something of a win here.

First meeting of 2016
The first full council meeting of Medway Council will take place this Thursday. Following the council’s changes to public questions, we’ve gone from around 20 being asked at the last meeting, to only 3 this time around. Highlights of the meeting this week include Cllr Shaw raising the #medwaybincrisis, Cllr Stamp wanting the noise team to clamp down even more, and Cllr Bowler’s attempt to allow public questions at planning meetings. You can read the full agenda here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The Kent Conservative Police & Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott popped up to campaign in both Rainham and Rochester this week. Cue several pictures of local Conservatives standing around in the cold next to a slightly lonely looking ‘six point plan’ sign.

Medway Labour
Missing, because they probably need to pump themselves up for the big council meeting this week.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, and if their website is anything to go by, I wouldn’t expect much out of them before March.

Medway Green Party
Helpfully, the Greens noticed and raised a consultation about improving the area around Chatham rail station that everyone else seemed to miss.
The party are also a bit wary of the environmental impact of the Lower Thames Crossing that may skim around the edge of Medway.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
Rehman still isn’t back up to full selfie power, but this week he was able to have his photo taken running in the rain, with a TV camera, literally off the TV, with a guy called Neil, with a sick child, and with the aforementioned Matthew Scott and his sign.

Are you now, or have you ever been…


We met in a side room of small terraced house in Chatham. I’m shown into the room and quickly given a cup of tea and a biscuit. There are four people already in the room, all from different backgrounds and all with one main thing in common. We have all been blocked by Tris Osbo.

A woman, 27, sips from her tea, and smiles shyly. “I can’t even say why I’m bothered, I just, I just find it upsetting, I should be grateful, to be free, but it’s the not knowing why.”

“Agreed,” says the host, “nobody is saying he isn’t allowed to block. I suppose it’s the surprise of being blocked as much as anything.”

“I know why,” says the 45 year old member of the Socialist Workers Party. “Its because I didn’t properly apologise for not supporting his campaign.”

“Which one?” I ask.

“The general election. TUSC had put up a candidate, and well, the politics are different, aren’t they? Seemed an obvious choice, I just didn’t realise it would come to this.”

There was a legend, that during the late hours of the result; when it was obvious that Tris was going to lose the general election campaign and a rumour that he might even lose his council seat, that he had been changed by the experience. Some say that he softened, regained his sense of humour and even opened up. It’s laughable to think people actually believe that.

A gruff northern voice speaks up, “What you need to know about Osbo is that he is a cu..”

“Stop, easy now”, our host shouts in.

“What?” He continues, “I thought this was Chatham House rules!”

“No,” says the host, “this is a house in chatham, we can still be polite.”

“He’s brilliant really” says the woman, “His election strategy, I mean.”

“What for a guy that lost overwhelmingly, you mean?” says the gruff voice.

“Yeah, with the PCC elections coming up. He doesn’t explain or give any reason to vote for him. He either ignores you or demands to know why you aren’t supporting him. It’s brilliant.”

“Agreed,” says the SWP member, “Thanks to him, I’m very aware that it’s my fault the Tories won. I just wish I could message him and let him know.”

There is a gentle laughter, even from the gruff voiced man, and they start sharing stories, stories of life on the outside, stories of being blocked by Tris.

I sit and sip tea and listen, and think, it’s not so bad, I could get used to this, being here, being blocked by Tris, and not seeing the dazzling political intellect at work.


The not knowing eats away at me, not knowing what I did that put me with these lost souls. I haven’t really slept, I’ve just picked at food.

Oh who am I kidding. Why? WHY ME?

My mobile phone goes.

There is a slew of messages, and I see that yes, yes! I am no longer blocked by Tris.

See ya later suckers, I hold my tongue from saying out loud. Stay polite, I might be returning one day, and these aren’t bad people, even if they have been blocked.

I sneak out the back door, not making eye contact, just catching up online. The insights. The humour. The end.

In memory of Stephen Kearney

Stephen KearneyA couple of weeks ago my friend Steve Kearney died. It was not really a shock as he has been unwell for quite some time and this has been exacerbated by Shelia’s poor health.

I first met Steve and Shelia at a Medway Liberal Demo
crats exec meeting back in 2010. I hadn’t been long with the party and had decided to leave my comfort bubble by meeting new people and seeing what it was all about. I had just arrived when someone asked me who I was and where I lived.

“Steve! One of yours!”

After a lengthy chat about everything I’d found myself volunteered for deliver Focus leaflets for Sturdee Avenue, Valley Road and Acorn Road but was happy to do it. It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning that I found myself thinking about what I had volunteered to do and how I had got there!

Steve had a long association with the Medway LibDems having sat on the council for some years, even serving as Deputy mayor, and with Gillingham itself. He was well liked by members, residents and politicians from other parties – something I hadn’t really realised until I had posted news of his passing with comments from Rehman Chishti and Vince Maple. I heard a rumour that had he not lost his seat in 2011 then the local Tories were going to offer him the position of Mayor.

I remember sitting with him over the night of the local election count in May 2011 and watching the votes come in. I had to leave him at 6 am as exhaustion set in but when I got home an hour later I got an email saying Steve had lost out. It was gutting for him as he had given his all into the position and only lost out by a handful of votes because of the Coalition.

Steve had amassed a vast array of deliverers across Gillingham South through personal loyalty and friendship. He was warm, friendly, very knowledgeable about history and militeria which he collected in vast swathes. We had several long discussions about military history – our shared passion and the Imperial War Museum (where I work) and Gillingham. He always stopped my wife in the street or at her work and asked after her and my children.

My thoughts and prayers are with Sheila who is recovering from her own operations and has lost her husband of many years right on top of Christmas.

He was a good man and friend and I will miss him.

Chris Sams is an author, Gillingham resident, and executive committee member of the Medway Liberal Democrats.

The Week in Medway Politics: Airport, taxes, bins

Medway MPs in Parliament

Quiet week in Parliament
No votes in Parliament this week, but at least Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti managed to pop up to suggest that Saudi Arabia’s recent executions might not be as bad as they originally seemed, while Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst raised the issue of biodiversity at Lodge Hill.

Medway Council

Council tax increase
The council announced this week that it would be seeking the largest possible council tax increase without a referendum in this years budget. The 3.994% increase will consist of a 1.994% general council tax increase, alongside an additional 2% to be used to fund social care. Local councils are in a tough position following large cuts in their grants from local government, so it’s likely that Medway will be far from alone in taking this position.

Rochester Airport clusterfuck
The Rochester Airport saga that has been rumbled on for an incredible 417 years now has no end in sight, as the council are once again returning to the planning stage on it. Which suggests someone has messed up somewhere. We’re still going to be covering this one for many more years yet.

The council’s rubbish collections proved to be pretty rubbish over the festive period, with some areas facing delays of several days for their rubbish to be picked up, leaving many areas resembling a sea of rubbish. The council hasn’t really explained why this was the case, but let’s all be grateful that our long unitary authority nightmare is now over. The above hashtag also managed to become a thing, so at least one good thing came out of it.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
The party decided to protest outside of Medway rail stations over expensive rail fares, as part of a national campaign. Kind of hard to go wrong with that one in a commuter area.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
This week saw the funeral of former Lib Dem councillor Stephen Kearney, which the party marked with an obituary on their website.

Medway Green Party
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Medway Greens aren’t too happy about the plans for Rochester Airport.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
Rehman eased himself back into his promotional photos after a Christmas break, only managing to have his photo taken with some squash players, some thrilled looking students, himself on the TV, some other students, a plaque, and a solitary resident.