The Week in Medway Politics: New mayor, not so new Cabinet

Medway MPs in Parliament

Quiet week in Parliament
Just the Queens Speech in Parliament this week, so our MPs haven’t been up to much. In the lengthy debate that began following the speech, Gilingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti managed to ask the Prime Minister about where the line on free speech and extremism should be drawn. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer was worrying vague.

Medway Council

Meet new cabinet, same as the old cabinet
This week, the Conservative administration of Medway Council announced who will be in the cabinet for the coming year. It should come as little surprise that the cabinet remains unchanged from last year, meaning Medway will continue to be represented by a cabinet that’s 100% white and 90% male. Just like Medway itself, obviously.

Meet the new mayor, different to the old mayor
This week, Medway’s new mayor and deputy mayor officially took up their positions, with Rochester West councillor Stuart Tranter and Princes Park councillor Gloria Opara taking on the respective roles. Tranter replaces previous mayor Barry Kemp in the role, who is stepping back after two years in the role, as detailed in this glowing profile from the Medway Messenger.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because after winning the Police and Crime Commissioner election, there’s not much for them to do until 2019.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been twelve weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. Yet they’d like the voters to hand them the keys to Gun Wharf.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because there’s nothing coming up that UKIP might be interested in, is there?

Medway Liberal Democrats
Usually, political parties out campaigning give you some nonsense about everything was so brilliant for them. So it’s refreshing to see such honesty from the Medway Lib Dems, who cheerily announced that they had “some” positive responses to their campaigning in Chatham.
If you’ve missed the previous dates on their tour, you’ve got one more chance to catch them as they descend on Rochester High Street at 10am this Saturday.

Medway Green Party
They haven’t done so for several weeks, so happily the Medway Greens are once again sharing stories of opposition to the proposed option for the Lower Thames Crossing.

Other News

Rehman about town
This week, Rehman Chishti managed to have his photo taken with the new mayor, the new deputy mayor, Kelly Tolhurst, a balcony of his block of flats, some children, the Gillingham stadium, the Strand, a blurry Attorney General, runners at the Race for Life, some confused cricketers, and a soggy Hempstead Fair.

The Week in Medway Politics: Momentum, refugees, rubbish

Medway MPs in Parliament

“This government is doing enough”
A remarkable speech from Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst in parliament during a debate on immigration this week. Sticking solidly by her commitment to refuse to help unaccompanied child refugees, and that anyone arguing for the opposite is using “simplistic arguments”. After that, she managed to go off on a UKIP type rant about how we aren’t doing enough to help our own children before foreign ones, before concluding that the government is doing enough to help refugees. Her constituents can make up their mind on that. The following day, she demanded assurances that Medway wouldn’t have to take any more refugees, even if the government agreed to accept more into the country.

Chishti cleared
Following the revelations that Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti broke parliamentary rules by not declaring hospitality from Gillingham Football Club, he has now been cleared by parliamentary authorities. The authorities accepted that a genuine error was made, and no further action will be taken.

Elsewhere in Parliament
This week, Kelly Tolhurst seemed to be in favour of all schools becoming academies once again, just in time for the government to do a u-turn on it.

Medway Council

What the Dickens?
A huge tourism push from Medway Council this week for their highly original programme of Dickens based events this summer, as part of the imaginatively named Summer of Dickens. Because this is Dickens Country damnit, and Medway Council won’t stop until everything in these towns is connected to the bloody guy in some way.

Housebuilding horrors
In a fantastic example of getting their excuses in early, Medway Council are already preemptively blaming developers for the council’s housing needs being met. This is after the council has refused thousands of new build housing starts within Medway under pressure from local NIMBYs.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because after winning the Police and Crime Commissioner election, there’s not much for them to do until 2019.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been eleven weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. Yet they’d like the voters to hand them the keys to Gun Wharf.
After being quiet on the issue for a while, the party are now once again moaning about bulky waste collection, because it’s an issue that really resonates with voters.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because there’s nothing coming up that UKIP might be interested in, is there?

Medway Liberal Democrats
A rare public sighting of the Medway Lib Dems in the wild this weekend, with them campaigning in Strood. Want to catch up with them yourself? They’ll be in Chatham High Street from 10am on Saturday.

Medway Green Party
The Medway Greens have no opinion on Rehman Chishti being cleared about his parliamentary expenses. None at all.

Other News

No We Khan’t (or won’t)
Former Rochester and Strood Labour parliamentary candidate Naushabah Khan put herself forward to replace Sadiq Khan in Tooting, making it to the final stage of selection, before ultimately losing out. She was well regarded through the short campaign, and it’s a clear signal of her ambitions for the future that will likely see her go far within the party. Unless Medway Momentum have their way at least, who made it very clear that they would not support her as a candidate, before another activist threatened to have her deselected from her Medway Council seat. Between this, open warfare between an activist and a sitting councillor, and a day spent posting conspiracy theories about the media, the original, rather restrained, iteration of Medway Momentum seems to be very quickly falling by the wayside.

..and due to popular demand, a return of Rehman about town
This week, Rehman Chishti managed to have his photo taken with several sets of constituents, a set of Medway Council officers, in the living room of some homeowners, some children, headteacher Colin, some soccerball man, a single resident in Rainham, and a bouncy castle.

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Children, Chairmen, Conduct

The big stories

Matthew Scott is Kent’s new Police and Crime Commissioner – full story
Last week, after an uninspiring campaign period, voters of Kent went to the polls to select a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent after sitting Commissioner Ann Barnes decided to stand down. Matthew Scott for the Conservatives was victorious, beating second placed Henry Bolton of UKIP. We had full analysis of the results, including an awful lot of graphs.

The Medway Council April ding dong – full story
Medway Council held it’s April meeting, which featured such exciting events as a new mayor being selected, and some revelations on the EU referendum. As usual, we were there to livetweet the proceedings, and you can catch up with all of the highlights above.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Save Sod the children
In one of the most remarkable votes of this parliament so far, both Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst voted against allowing unaccompanied child refugees into the UK. Kelly Tolhurst even spoke at length in the parliamentary debate on why taking needy children in would be such a terrible thing to do. Of course, it’s all slightly moot now as it seems the government will u-turn and allow the children in after all, but it’s worth remembering that the first instinct of Medway MPs was to refuse to help children in need.

In, out, shake it all about
Six weeks out from the EU referendum, and our three Medway MPs are still declining to reveal where they stand on this incredibly important issue. It almost seems like they are all attempting to run out the clock and not tell their constituents where they stand, to avoid any awkward confrontations with their local party members.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length on energy generation on the Isle of Grain, while also acknowledging that some will be sad to see the chimney at Kingsnorth power station demolished.

Medway Council

All change
A sudden departure from Medway Council this week for it’s head of children and adult services, Barbara Peacock. Her time at the council can be described as rocky at best.

Curious conduct
A rare outing for Medway Council’s Councillor Conduct Committee this Wednesday. An interesting agenda that focuses on introducing social media guidelines for councillors, while also dealing with a complaint against a councillor. Whatever could it all be about?

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because after winning the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, they don’t really need to bother doing anything.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been ten weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. Yet they’d like the voters to hand them the keys to Gun Wharf.

Medway UKIP
Curious events within Rochester and Strood UKIP as chairman Chris Spalding stepped down from the role. No reason was given for this, but rumours of disharmony within the local party over the actions of Medway UKIP leader on Medway Council Roy Freshwater may well have played a part.
In a rare bout of local campaigning, the very same Cllr Freshwater was out and about in Chatham, encouraging people to leave the EU. Obviously.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Want to meet some local Lib Dems, if only to prove they exist? They’ll be in Strood High Street from 10am on Saturday!

Medway Green Party
As you might expect, the local Greens are a little concerned about Medway’s new local plan allowing housing development on green spaces, particularly after leader of the council Alan Jarrett stated that this would be necessary.

Other news

Reckless move
After being unceremoniously losing his Westminster seat in last year’s general election, Mark Reckless made his return to mainstream politics after being elected to – of all places – the Welsh Assembly. While we wish Mark well in his new venture, we are left wondering what will happen with his wife’s council seat in Strood South. Will she be resigning this to head to Wales, or will Mark be taking in one hell of a commute? Either way, it’s a question that Cllr Andrew Mackness is eager to get the bottom of.

Matthew Scott is Kent’s new Police and Crime Commissioner

Following weeks of campaigning, voters went to the polls yesterday to select a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent. We were guaranteed someone new as previous Commissioner Ann Barnes decided not to stand again, having had enough of her policing onion.

Police and Crime Commissioners are elected under the supplementary vote system, meaning each voter has both first and second preferences, and those second preferences come into play if no candidate manages to get 50% of the vote in the first round.

Kent had six candidates on it’s ballot paper, so it was unlikely to be resolved in one round, but the first round quickly established the way things would be going:

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Kent is a somewhat unusual county where the Conservatives tend to be the main party, while UKIP are the official opposition on the county council, and third party in Medway. As such, both parties were always likely to do well in this contest, particularly as UKIP did put forward a strong candidate who went out of his way to not associate himself with the more ‘interesting’ fringes of his party. Medway councillor Tristan Osborne ran a solid, if uninspiring campaign to cement Labour’s third place position, while the sole independent candidate, Gurvinder Sandher, put in a strong performance in a short campaigning period with very few resources. The Lib Dems managed to not completely humiliate themselves, bolstered by a strong showings in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. Finally, Steve Uncles still managed to find 8000 people willing to vote for him despite basing his entire campaign around Twitter bigotry.

Under the supplementary vote system, the top two candidates proceed to a second round where second preference votes are taken into consideration. This didn’t change a great deal, giving Matthew Scott a solid, if not overwhelming, margin to become Kent’s new Police and Crime Commissioner.

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For all of the doom and gloom predictions about turnout in Police and Crime Commissioner elections, in Kent (and almost all other areas) turnout was considerably up. That does come with a couple of huge caveats though: across some parts of the county, local elections were also taking place, which boosted turnout. Indeed, both Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells saw turnout top 32%. Additionally, elections this year were in May and not on a grim November day in 2012, which likely helped matters. That said, a turnout of 21.5% is still pretty appalling in any democratic election.

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Curiously, the number of spoilt ballot papers was up by a large amount this time around. It’s hard to identify a reason for this, as the system and papers were the same as in the 2012 election, but it does perhaps suggest that voters don’t fully understand the supplementary vote system, particularly when it’s used alongside other types of voting systems for other elections.

It’s hard to directly compare the performance of each party in this election to the previous one, as without Ann Barnes in the mix (who dominated the election last time round), almost every party was able to gain ground. UKIP were the big winners in this regard, leaping from 4th place to a strong 2nd, with Conservatives and Labour both picked up the same additional vote share. Both the Lib Dems and independent Gurvinder Sandher grew a vote share from standing starts, while Steve Uncles, the only candidate fighting again from 2012, managed to be the only candidate to both lose his vote share, and also lose his £5,000 deposit.

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Finally, it’s worth digging into how each of the parties did when only taking Medway into account. Medway was one of the areas where UKIP won outright, though only by a small number of votes. Coming third will be disappointing for Luton and Wayfield councillor Tristan Osborne, who as the only local candidate on the ballot paper will have been hoping for a better result, though his vote share in Medway was up on 2012. The #libdemfightback hasn’t quite made it to Medway, as their candidate David Naghi barely managed to beat Steve Uncles for 5th place.

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So that’s it for another set of elections that the electorate apparently couldn’t care less about. Aside from the coming EU referendum and any by-elections that may be coming up (residents of Strood South may be getting lucky soon!), Medway faces no further elections now until 2019. Whatever will we talk about between now and then?

Want even more analysis of the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election? Blogger Jon Patience has gone over the results in great detail, putting together charts and graphs to compare this election with the previous one in 2012. Take a look!