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):

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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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”:

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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.
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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:
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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.

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.

#medwaybincrisis
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.

The Week in Medway Politics: Oh come on, it’s Star Wars week

Medway MPs in Parliament

Quiet week in Parliament
As MPs finished up for Christmas this week, not a great deal was going on. Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length about the exploitation of 16 and 17 year olds, while Tracey Crouch answered some questions and gambling, and most importantly, announced the government had no plans to change daylight savings arrangement.

Medway Council

Refugees not welcome
The council this week declared that it would not be taking any Syrian refugees, apparently because they can’t afford to look after them. For context, Ashford Borough Council is taking in 250 refugees. The “can’t afford it” argument is a little hard to buy from a council that was able to spend £16,178 on marketing, £12,152 on CCTV cameras, and £1,647 on Warner Bros studio tours in September.

Booze limit
A licence application for a new off-licence in Chatham was turned down this week as councillors decided the area didn’t need another place to buy alcohol. There are already 93 apparently completely acceptable outlets with 1km of the proposed site, so obviously having 94 would be a step too far.

Who needs houses?
Once again, Medway Council rejected a large scale housing application after throwing out a proposed development of 450 homes in the Capstone area. After throwing out similar plans on various sites in Medway, it’s not clear exactly where Medway Council believes the tens of thousands of new homes Medway needs will go, but hey, at least we’ve got a nice field, eh?

Political Parties

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

Medway Labour
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t too happy about the council’s stance of not taking any Syrian refugees.

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

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, because they actually did stuff for the past few weeks and now they need a nap.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, they’re happy the Capstone homes application was thrown out.

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

Other News

Rehman About Town
A shockingly quiet week for Rehman this week, with him only managing to have his photo taken with multiple Medway headteachers, a new distillery, barn dancing pensioners, and the only residents of Gillingham shorter than him.

Dude, where’s my signature?

By now, you’re mostly likely aware of the Rochester Town Council campaign. It’s been running for a while now, with the primary aim to give Rochester more say over it’s own affairs. This article is not about the pros and cons of such a council, it’s about the process and barriers that the campaign is having to deal with.

Disclosure: I am a supporter of the Rochester Town Council campaign, and signed it’s petition. The reason this is relevant will become clear later on.

The campaign for a town council formally began in March of this year. It needed to collect signatures from 7.5% of registered electors in the area of the proposed council to trigger a Community Governance Review. This essentially forces the council to hold a full consultation on whether or not a new council needs to be created. 7.5% of the electors of Rochester meant 1644 signatures were required to meet this threshold.

Throughout the campaign, Medway Council have made their feelings on the matter clear. Despite the fact they have to give the campaign a fair hearing via the Community Governance Reviews, cabinet members (especially the portfolio holder for Democracy and Governance, Andrew Mackness) have stated on several occasions that they see no merit in creating an additional layer of local government in Medway. While this can be dismissed as personal opinion, there are some rather more worrying signs from the council about their commitment to treating the campaign fairly.

In October, the campaign formally submitted their petition to Medway Council, having collected 1785 (141 more than required) signatures in the previous seven months. After two months, the council declared the petition to be invalid, after refusing to accept signatures collected online rather than on paper, despite previous suggestions that these would be accepted. Granted, the campaign should have probably done more to ensure they had the status of online signatures in writing, but it’s not difficult to look at this and wonder why the council didn’t flag this earlier.

The second issue is the way in which the council is verifying the signatures, even those submitted on paper. The council decided to compare the submitted signatures with those on June’s electoral register. This was not the start of the campaign, nor was it the end, instead it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s also how they were able to deny my own signature.

I moved into the town council petition area in September. I duly notified the council and added myself to the electoral register, and received confirmation in writing that I had been accepted. As such, I signed the Rochester Town Council petition, yet have since discovered that my own signature was declared invalid as I didn’t live within the town in June. Which leaves me in a slightly odd position of living within Rochester, being on the electoral roll in Rochester, while also apparently not being a valid resident of Rochester at the same time. I am Schrödinger’s constituent.

The Rochester Town Council campaign are not giving up though, instead attempting to collect all of the online signatures on paper (and some extras too). These will be submitted to the council in the new year, when the council hopefully won’t find another arbitrary hurdle that the campaign has to overcome.

The Week in Medway Politics: Alarms, schools, votes

Medway MPs in Parliament

Votes at 16
In an ongoing battle between the House of Commons and the House of Lords on whether or not 16 or 17 year olds should be allowed to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, all 3 Medway MPs voted against extending the franchise. Despite it recently working well in the Scottish referendum, and complaints that the young are too disinterested in politics, Medway MPs decided that things are just fine how they are. This issue will likely return for another round in the near future.

Votes

Out of a maximum of 3 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 3 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 3 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 3 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Rehman Chishti apparently had a pretty grim week as he discovered the existence of Boko Haram in Nigeria. In brighter news, he also raised questions in Parliament about introducing automatic compensation for delayed Southeastern trains, a definite vote winner in Medway. Tracey Crouch got to speak at length on the effects of incidents like the recent Paris terrorist attacks on tourism, and Kelly Tolhurst didn’t say anything in Parliament all week.

Medway Council

Apocashit
The council created a bit of a panic on the Isle of Grain this week, by accidentally sending everyone an emergency warning message about the gas terminal located there. Seeing as an actual incident at the terminal could be catastrophic for those leaving in the area, it’s unsurprisingly that they weren’t exactly amused by the error.

Edukation standards
It’s hardly even a surprise at this point, but Medway primary schools are once again rated as the worst in the country. Maybe this report will be the one to spur change in the administration, but we expect we’ll be writing the same thing again next year.

Political Parties

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

Medway Labour
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t too happy about the state of Medway’s primary schools, and have called for the portfolio holder, Cllr Mike O’Brien, to resign over the report.
Fun times ahead as Medway Momentum have popped up on Twitter, and are organising their first meeting for January.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Sad news this week as former councillor and Deputy Mayor for the party, Steve Kearney, passed away.

Medway Green Party
The party raised an interesting question about where Medway Council might have funds invested. We’d quite like to know the answer to that too.

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

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken with students from Rainham Mark Grammar School, Reverend Ann from Twydall, the Chief Constable of Kent Police, an exercise bike, a possibly angry resident named Steve, a band, some shitty crafts, Santa, another Santa, some young Tories bowling, some babies, some students from Midkent College, and the Daily fucking Mail.

The Week in Medway Politics: Dickens, bombs, and broadband

Medway MPs in Parliament

Syria Vote
The biggest issue in Parliament this week was the polarising vote on whether or not to launch airstrikes against IS in Syria. All 3 Medway MPs voted in favour of launching airstrikes. Tracey Crouch wrote a detailed explanation for her vote on her Facebook page, while Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst have offered comment via the Medway Messenger.

Votes

Out of a maximum of 8 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 7 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 7 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 2 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst claimed that after knocking on thousands of doors (presumably in Rochester and Strood) in the past year, immigration nearly always comes up. Apparently the broadband in Rochester is pretty shit too. Rehman Chishti also won his battle against Islamic State, but in the most pointless of ways.

Medway Council

Dickensian Christmas
This weekend saw the usual tatfest that is the council organised Dickensian Christmas festival in Rochester. The council seemed to think it went well, with just some “minor traffic issues”, which is hardly how most drivers in Rochester and Strood would likely describe things.

Rochester Town Council campaign
Medway Council this week rejected the initial petition for a Rochester Town Council on the rather tenuous reason that collected electronic signatures are not okay, despite previously implying they were. This definitely not a delaying tactic will not deter the campaign though, who now need to collect the signatures on paper and submit them again in the new year.

Political Parties

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

Medway Labour
Not a busy week for Medway Labour, as they’ve managed to come up with 8 paragraphs on the subject of whether shops should be allowed to put signs on the pavement.
The national strife of Labour may be heading to Medway, as Momentum Medway is holding their first meeting in January, featuring a range of Labour and non-Labour faces.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
The party this week called for more support for small businesses in Medway. All of which is very noble. The party even had some nice quotes on the subject:
Lib Dems

While the Lib Dem leader on Norwich City Council said the following:
Lib Dems

The moral of this story? If you’re going to take a national campaign and make it local, at least vary the words a bit to something vaguely resembling your own.

Medway Green Party
The Greens made a strong play for the local arts/culture community this week, by supporting the crowdfunding campaign for the fantastic WOW magazine.
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t too happy about bombs being dropped on Syria either.

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

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken with Eileen from Medway Hospital Radio, the Ambassador of Kuwait, some shipping containers with an invisible George Osborne, a professor in Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, the Daily Politics green-screen, a Tesco manager in a giant Christmas jumper, some residents all from a similar demographic, former council leader Rodney Chambers in his card shop, a bipolar focus group, some guys from the Bahraini embassy, some windswept residents, Dorris and Dave, some kids at a Christmas fair, the team from a remembrance service, and a squash racquet and a lot of sweat. Imagine what he’d be like if there was an election campaign on.