The Week in Medway Politics: Super brief edition

A briefer roundup than usual this week as Jennings is currently across the Irish sea..

Medway MPs in Parliament

Data privacy
This week, MPs debated and voted on the new Investigatory Powers Bill, that will give the authorities the ability to store and investigate every citizen’s communications records and data, including every website they have ever visited. The Bill passed with both Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst voting for it, the latter going full ‘won’t somebody please think of the children’ in her speech on the issue.

Elsewhere in Parliament
A busy week for Rehman Chishti, as he brought up the crucial issue of a constituent who hasn’t had their tumble dryer repaired fast enough. More importantly, he wrote an article for ConservativeHome, detailing his plan to get laser pens banned from public sale. On top of that, he wrote for PoliticsHome on his plan to increase penalties on dodgy tobacco.

Medway Council

For possibly the first time, absolutely nothing of note seems to have happened involving Medway Council this week.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, presumably trying to make excuses for Cllr Franklin’s tweets. This week he suggested fox hunting is no worse than killing ants.

Medway Labour
Despite claims last week that it would be fixed, and some bizarre spin about it raising awareness of cyber security, the Medway Labour website is still hacked.
The party also responded to the budget, which you’ll be shocked to discover, they weren’t really a fan of.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because there’s not much going on they’d be interested in.

Medway Liberal Democrats
They’re worried about cuts to pharmacies, apparently.

Medway Green Party
Perhaps prudently, the Greens are gearing up for a potential by-election in Strood South.
They’re also concerned about the amount of affordable housing in Medway in the coming years.
Oh yeah, they’re not happy about the Lower Thames Crossing either.

We’ll be off for an Easter break next weekend (when Jennings will be in Wales), but normal service will resume in two weeks time..

The Week in Medway Politics: Sunday trading, tents, football

The big stories

Internal strife within Medway Labour as ex-UKIP councillor Mark Joy tries to join party – full story
In which the Medway Labour leadership cause an almighty row by trying to bring a former UKIP councillor into the fold.

Rehman Chishti in breach of parliamentary rules – full story
In which the Gillingham and Rainham MP doesn’t declare his football freebies, and gets a new job.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Sunday Trading
This week, MPs voted on whether or not to extend Sunday trading hours, as it still seems strange that someone can’t do their shopping at 5pm on a Sunday in 2016. In a rare outbreak of good sense, all three Medway MPs – Rehman Chishti, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch, and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst – all voted for the changes, but alas, the vote was lost overall. So no shopping at 9am on a Sunday for you.

Elsewhere in Parliament
In one of the stranger speeches of the week, Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length in parliament about being unable to get a phone line installed in her office. After weeks of buildup, Rehman Chishti’s complaints about laser pens finally came to a head, as he introduced a bill to get them banned. Finally, after Channel 4 News pushing on the Rochester and Strood by-election spending issue for a while, the Daily Mail have stepped, all guns blazing, into the fray.

Medway Council

Rochester Riverside
Not for the first time, a new developer has been chosen to deliver the 1300 home Rochester Riverside project. Countryside Properties and Hyde Housing will now begin work on the project, with work due to complete in 2028, a mere 21 years after the process began. At least it’ll help solve Medway’s next decade housing crisis.

Cabinet decisions
This week, Medway Council’s ruling cabinet met. Amongst their decisions were to formally endorse the Southern Western variation of the Lower Thames Crossing proposals, and to rescind current arrangements for Business Rates Relief for next year. Both decisions will likely not be particularly popular. You can read the full minutes from the meeting here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, presumably trying to make excuses for Cllr Franklin’s tweets.

Medway Labour
As you’d expect, Medway Labour are crowing about the laws on Sunday trading not being relaxed, because they’d rather it was impossible to get hold of things after 5pm on a Sunday.

Medway UKIP
A remarkable stance from Medway UKIP this week, who requested the council prepare tents for migrants to live in on the Great Lines. The full story also features a superb bit of Photoshop work too.
Elsewhere, former UKIP Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless has been selected to stand for the Welsh Assembly in coming elections. If he takes up a seat in the Assembly, will his wife – Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless – give up her seat on Medway Council, or begin an almighty commute?

Medway Liberal Democrats
The Medway Lib Dems went on the attack this week, with a scathing statement from new chairman John Castle attacking the Tories, calling out the opposition parties on the council, and demanding a change to the scrutiny system. The fact they have no councillors to really do anything was sadly missed out.

Medway Green Party
Well, you probably won’t believe it, but they’re angry about the Lower Thames Crossing.

Other News

Ann Barnes out
After months of speculation, current Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes ruled herself out of the running for the upcoming elections, meaning Kent is assured a new Commissioner in May. Which makes the coming election slightly more interesting than the circus side show it had largely been up until now.

Rehman About Town
A strong photo week for Rehman, seeing him have his photo taken with some children, a giant tourism sign, Stewart from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a treadmill, an award, meeting his obligatory single resident, and despite the story above, we shit you not, a Gillingham player, and himself at the match. He also found time to highlight himself reading the local paper after they mentioned his tweets in a tiny column. We cover his whereabouts every single week and what do we get? Sheesh.

Rehman Chishti in breach of parliamentary rules


Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham Rehman Chishti has breached parliamentary rules, the Sun reports.

The paper reports that Chishti received multiple hospitality tickets – worth £900 – to see Gillingham Football Club, but despite being obliged to report such gifts within 28 days, didn’t do so for over a year:

The Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham got a £100 VIP ticket to the Priestfield Stadium to watch League One “Gills” in February 2015.

And another in May and August that year, and further three hospitality tickets in September that year — all as a guest of club boss Paul Scally.

However — in a breach of the rules — the freebies were not logged in the Commons registers until this month.

Mr Chishti refused to comment or explain the delay.

It’s unclear to what action Chishti may face for this error, but that he’s declining to comment or even explain why he didn’t declare the tickets is troubling.

Perhaps more interestingly though is the news within the article that Chishti has secured a new job, earning £24,000 working for a think tank in Saudi Arabia:

The rule breach came as Mr Chishti announced he has secured a plum £24,000 advisory role with the King Faisal Center for Research — a think tank in Saudi Arabia.

The appointment came after Mr Chishti enjoyed on a £2,888 all expenses paid trip as a guest of the controversial Middle Eastern kingdom last month.

It’s unclear exactly how spare time Chishti has for his new role, as he is both the MP for Gillingham Rainham and a local councillor for Rainham Central. He might need to cut back on some of those football matches.

Internal strife within Medway Labour as ex-UKIP councillor Mark Joy tries to join party

Did you hear the one about the Conservative activist turned UKIP councillor, who went independent, tried to rejoin the Tories, failed to do, tried to join Labour instead, and was turned down but still kind of managed to join anyway?

Allow us to introduce you to Strood South councillor, Mark Joy.

Mark Joy rose to prominence in Medway politics when he was part of Medway’s own gang of four, defecting to UKIP from the Conservatives in 2014 along with Mark Reckless, Chris Irvine, and Paul Monck. Medway UKIP was riding high at the time, winning by-elections for both parliament and the local council, but the good times came to a crashing halt on May 7 2015. Mark Reckless lost the Rochester & Strood constituency, while Chris Irvine lost his council seat, and Paul Monck failed to gain his. In the middle of this though, Mark Joy just about won a council seat in Strood South.

All of which left Joy in a slightly strange position. His ties always seemed closer to Reckless and Irvine personally rather than to the UKIP party, and now he sat with the three other untested UKIP councillors in the chamber. Within a month, Joy resigned from the UKIP group, choosing to sit as an independent in the chamber.

In the time since, he’s proved to be an interesting voice in the chamber. He often inserts himself into debates, sometimes to raise small issues, sometimes to ask questions. His voting record, untethered from party whips, sees him voting both with and against the ruling Conservative administration in roughly equal measure.

In the time since becoming an independent, Joy approached the Conservative group about the potential of rejoining their ranks, and was told in no uncertain terms that it would not be happening. Which meant the only options to Joy were to remain as an independent, or attempt to join the Labour group. Given Joy won his seat from a sitting Labour councillor, this would surely be impossible. At least it seemed so until this week, when Labour councillor Tristan Osborne tweeted the following:

Tristan Osborne tweet

The accompanying picture (as seen at the top of this article) shows Joy out campaigning for London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan with both Osborne and Medway Labour Deputy Leader Teresa Murray. Given how critical Medway Labour Leader Vince Maple was of Joy following his resignation from UKIP, the sudden about turn is all the more curious.

Requesting comment from Joy, he told us that he “decided to help with London Mayor elections, as I think that Sadiq Khan is the best candidate”, but declined to offer any further comment.

Our own investigation discovered that Joy approached Maple to join the party, but was turned down on the basis that no one can join who has stood against the party within the last 12 months. That period is up in June, which means there will be nothing to stop him joining the party then. Sources within the party told us of ferocious opposition to this, with more than one councillor threatening to quit the group if that happens.

By way of a compromise, Joy has since been told that he can campaign with Labour, and attend local meetings, but will not be able to become to officially join the party for now. As one angry activist put it to us though, “he’s joined without a card”.

Other activists have raised serious concerns about Joy within the party, arguing that there is “massive opposition to any move for him to join”. Some have cited his past views, his closeness to Mark Reckless et al, and how it would make the group “a laughing stock”. Others have raised questions over his opportunistic jumping between parties, and his conduct in parish council meetings. Despite this, Maple and Murray seem to be actively encouraging him to join the party, against the will of their own group.

The Political Medway asked Medway Labour group leader Vince Maple, but made it clear he had no comment to make on the issue.

The Week in Medway Politics: Trains, hacks, planning

The big story

The Subliminal Adverts of Fergus Wilson – full story
A bit of fun this week as Keevil decided to analyse the increasingly bizarre campaign adverts of Kent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Fergus Wilson to see if anything was lurking between the lines.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Southeastern shambles reaches Parliament
This week, MPs debated the reliability of Southeastern rail services, a topic close to the hearts of many Medway residents. These kind of debates achieve little, but it was interesting to see where Medway MPs focussed their concerns: Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst asked how Southeastern will cope with Medway’s population growth, while Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti demanded automatic compensation for delays, issues with capacity, and even alluded to their franchise being taken away.

Benefit cuts
This weeks, MPs continued their battle with the House of Lords over cuts to disability benefit. The Lords have requested that the government carry out an impact assessment before making any changes, which you’d think would be normal anyway. MPs voted to ignore this suggestion, and push on with the cuts anyway. Both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst voted in favour of the cuts.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Rehman Chishti continued his war against laser pens, asking how many times they were used in “attacks” against both trains (answer: more than you’d think) and motor vehicles (answer: less than you’d think). Additionally, Kelly Tolhurst managed to write several paragraphs on how she still doesn’t know how to vote in the EU referendum.

Medway Council

Upcoming meetings
On Tuesday, the Cabinet will meet, where the main attraction will be deciding where the council stands on the Lower Thames Crossing, with the west variant of the proposed plan likely to be endorsed.
On Wednesday, the Planning Committee will meet to decide various applications, including turning The Railway pub in Rainham into a Wetherspoons, and the redevelopment of Canal Road in Strood.
Both meetings are held at Gun Wharf, and are open to members of the public.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, presumably trying to make excuses for Cllr Franklin’s tweets.

Medway Labour
The Medway Labour website was hacked over a week ago. We helpfully pointed this out to them when we spotted it. They didn’t acknowledge that and have done nothing about it, potentially opening up visitors to their website to malicious activity.
In a curious turn of events, Conservative UKIP Independent councillor Mark Joy was out campaigning with Labour this weekend. There’s likely lots more to come on this development.
In actual policy news, they’ve finally come out kinda-sorta in favour of the Lower Thames Crossing.

Medway UKIP
Missing, presumably because speaking at last week’s budget meeting tired them all out.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Major, breaking news from the Medway Lib Dems this week: their usual venue for meetings is unavailable next month!

Medway Green Party
Taking a break from fighting the Lower Thames Crossing, local Greens have instead suggested some horrible nanny state ideas to combat littering.
They’ve also (maybe jokingly) suggested sticking some wind turbines up on the Great Lines.

Other News

Rehman About Town
Finally getting his photographing groove back, this week Rehman had his photo taken with the Duke of York, some residents, some students, some insurance brokers, more residents, at the opening of an arts centre, with another resident, and buying some flowers.

The Subliminal Adverts of Fergus Wilson

Fergus Wilson is running for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner. He is legally not allowed to stand, but Fergus isn’t going to let something like the law stand in the way of him becoming Police and Crime Commissioner.

Mr Wilson, to his friends, has been campaigning weekly in the Medway Messenger, and if you read not even between, but actually the red lines in his more recent ads, you get a picture that is at times insightful, contradictory, poetic and sinister:


January 22

To build a lorry park at Stanford for 3,600 lorries is to create a terrorist target. The Dartford Crossing is a Terrorist Target. Proactive not Reactive. Suspected Suicide Bombers will be dealt with in the most severe fashion. Innocent people will die! Vote for Fergus Wilson 

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 13.54.54February 5

There are two ways of dealing with Operation Stack. Fergus Wilson’s way and the wrong way!


February 12

What I intend to do is return illegal immigrants to France within 24 hours. Sexually assaulted and raped. The answer is blame the German Government. The German Government can take those aimed at Kent. It is certain the Exit Britain campaign will succeed in 2017.
I want your help to track down and return illegal immigrants to France within 24 hours in chains if need be. We are at war with illegal immigrants in Kent. If you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen!
If any man beats up a woman there will be no hiding place for him in Kent. There will be an audit trail published so you can see what my salary is spent on! VOTE TACTICALLY


February 19

So what is it you want Mr & Mrs Voter? Do you want me to keep them out? Or do you wish to welcome them with open arms? The choice is YOURS!
You will definetly get people trying to report illegals for the reward. Either you want illegal immigration in Kent stopped or you do not! Which is it? YOUR CHOICE!
What do we do with operation stack in the meantime? I believe I am the only man who can deliver these common sense answers. I ask you to vote for me on 5
th May 2016. This gives me four years to sort out Kent Police! VOTE TACTICALLY


February 26

You cannot give him jam tarts when he wants cream doughnuts. If you any resident of Kent wats an open door policy he is in the extreme minority as I judge the fashion at this time.
The function of the police is to enforce the law not make the law.
If I am elected there will be two types of police officer in Kent. Those that agree with me and ex police officers. Kent is too top heavy with senior officers from inspector upwards. We need more troops on the ground!
British manufacturers? VOTE TACTICALLY


March 4

That must have been some punch as very few professional boxers earn that sort of money at a boxing bout. I wish they would do so. Indeed Jeremy Clarkson was neither charged nor cautioned for the £100,000 Punch! That did not prevent him from becoming an MP.
Civil war has broken out within the Conservative party. I suggest to the electorate that it is time for tactical thinking and tactical voting. Voting for one of the minority parties your vote will be wasted. Apply some brain power and vote tactically.
The Kent policing budget is £300 million and insufficient. Track record of handling money! VOTE TACTICALLY