Radicalised French Radicals

Last year I demonstrated how little I knew about the Labour Party when I wrote the article ‘The French Radicals’. I said that “Jeremy Corbyn will win the first round of the Labour leadership but I don’t expect him to win the leadership.” Which much like our predictions for the general and local elections in 2015, showed how bad we are at this. This time I expect Corbyn to win the leadership election by a considerable margin, I expect the PLP to react even less graciously then they did last time, and I expect positioning for Labour Leadership elections in 2017. Go #DavidMilli2020.

Last year’s piece postulated, via a clip from The West Wing that members of the Labour movement only stood against not winning. The current Leadership contest is a magnification of this, with those opposed to Corbyn’s leadership terrorising that Corbyn will cause Labour to be in opposition for a generation and that anybody speaks out against Owen Smith either wants May as PM, and or should enjoy the May premiership. Very little is given in the way to explain how Owen Smith will win a General Election, except Corbyn definitely won’t.

To be clear, neither Jennings or Keevil are endorsing either Labour candidates, readers will be happy/sad/apathetic to hear.

Having been wrong about Labour last year, I wanted to double down and be wrong again this year when discussing an ongoing situation within Medway, specifically Gillingham and Rainham CLP. When it came time for different CLPs to hold leadership nomination contests; Chatham and Aylesford CLP agreed not to nominate, Rochester and Strood nominated Corbyn, and Gillingham and Rainham decided – well, the exec committee decided – not to hold any nomination discussion at all.

I was informed I was wrong to question this, as they have never nominated a leadership contender. A tradition that goes way back to the origins of the Gillingham and Rainham CLP in 2010. Somebody else who vocally questioned the executive committee’s decision was Labour and Medway Momentum member Alan Higgins. Meanwhile, former MP and technically current Labour PPC for Gillingham and Rainham Paul Clark, didn’t join the Labour PPCs for Chatham & Aylesford and Rochester and Strood in signing a letter.

But he did host a pro-Owen Smith event organised by Labour’s Chatham and Aylesford PPC and former PCC candidate Tristan Osbourne. This raises a distinction that I clearly am unable to understand, something along the lines of; individuals have the right to support whomever they please, PPCs must represent the constituents who didn’t vote them in as MPs and/or PPCs don’t have to represent the CLP that elected them as candidates in pre-Corbyn era.

Meanwhile during #LabourLeadership2016 a series of events called #LabourPurge2 has occurred. In brief, members who are felt not to upheld the aims and values of the Labour Party have been informed they will not be allowed to vote for the leader. We at The Political Medway are concerned for members of Gillingham and Rainham CLP:
Firstly, former MP and current PPC Paul Clark, representing a candidate when his CLP exec does not, has had a complaint made against him to the Regional Director of the Party by member Alan Higgins, for behaviour during CLP meetings. No action has been taken on this complaint at this time.
Also Presumably, current Gillingham North councillor and former Liberal Democrat PPC for Gillingham and Rainham Andy Stamp will be allowed a vote, despite his previous allegiance.
We have been reassured however that 2015 Green Party PPC for Gillingham and Rainham, Neil Williams, seen here with Medway Labour group Leader Vince Maple joining Medway Labour, has been allowed to vote in the contest.

Meanwhile, Alan Higgins, a member of the Labour Party for 45 years, and a Labour candidate for Princes Park in 2015, previously mentioned as the member who criticised Gillingham and Rainham executive committees failure to hold an all members meeting to nominate a leadership candidate, contacted Vince Maple regarding his lack of election ballot.

Alan

Since then, Alan – who put his name forward to be the Labour candidate in the forthcoming Strood South by-election, a move The Political Medway believes was supported by Medway Momentum – has been suspended from the Labour Party for comments he made on a Medway Momentum Facebook group. Those comments were supposedly criticising the Gillingham and Rainham executive committee over their decision not to hold a vote on endorsing leadership candidates, but we have been unable to see the exact comments ourselves. Unsurprisingly, Medway Momentum have not taken this news well.

Of the party members mentioned, with all of their various allegiances, only one has had action against them, which to this uninformed observer seems questionable at least.

 

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:

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January 22

FORTRESS KENT
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

KENT FIRST
BLACK ECONOMY OF KENT
SECURITY NEEDS TO BE BEEFED UP
REWARD
£1,000
£10,000
£20,000
There are two ways of dealing with Operation Stack. Fergus Wilson’s way and the wrong way!

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February 12

COMMON SENSE
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

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February 19

JOHNNY FOREIGNER
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

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February 26

CLOSE THE DOOR
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

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March 4

THAT PUNCH
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

Are you now, or have you ever been…

keep-calm-im-blocked-1

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.

But..

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.

What if Medway Council had Proportional Representation?

The following piece makes the assumption that voting intention for Medway’s local elections in 2015 would have been the same under PR as FPTP. Whilst I’m open to the idea that this wouldn’t be the case (it almost certainly wouldn’t be -Jennings), this is the data I have to work with.

The essential principle is:
1 seat ward – Nearest to 100% wins a seat
2 seat ward – Nearest to 50% wins a seat
3 seat ward – Nearest to 33% wins a seat

Later, we will also look at a list system based on average votes across medway

Disclaimer:
If you are unable to make the leap this requires, stop reading, as you are unlikely to engage with the result. If however, you read on, then I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Results data taken from www.medwayelects.co.uk, with thanks to Alan Collins.

Current Council : Conservatives 36, Labour 15, UKIP 3, Independent 1

For a possible, unlikely, interpretation of a PR Result, read on…

Chatham Central
Labour 34.9% = 1 Seat
UKIP 24.8% = 1 Seat
Conservatives 20.8% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 1Labour 1UKIP 1

Cuxton and Halling
Conservatives 53.8% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 2Labour 1UKIP 1

Gillingham North
Labour 33% = 1 Seat
UKIP 27.2% = 1 Seat
Conservatives 20.8% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 3Labour 2UKIP 2

Gillingham South
Labour 29.6% = 1 Seat
UKIP 23.9% = 1 Seat
Conservatives 21.9% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 4Labour 3UKIP 3

Hempstead and Wigmore
Conservatives 77.7% = 1 Seats
(Con 27.7% Remainder) = 1 Seat
Labour 17% = 0 Seats

Running Total: Conservatives 6Labour 3UKIP 3

Lordswood and Capstone
Conservative 66.3% = 1 Seat
(Con 16.3% Remainder) = 0 Seats
Labour 27.5% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 7Labour 4UKIP 3

Luton and Wayfield
Labour 36% = 1 Seat
Conservatives 32.2% = 1 Seat
UKIP 26.2% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 8Labour 5UKIP 4

Peninsula
UKIP 36.8% = 1 Seat
Conservatives 36.1% = 1 Seat
Labour 15.2% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 9Labour 6UKIP 5

Princes Park
Conservatives 46.1% = 1 Seat
UKIP 27.5% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 10Labour 6UKIP 6

Rainham Central
Conservatives 48.4% = 1 Seat
UKIP 24.5% = 1 Seat
(Conservative Remainder 15.4%) = 1 Seat
Labour 14.9% = 0 Seats

Running Total: Conservatives 12Labour 6UKIP 7

Rainham North
Conservatives 47.7% = 1 Seat
UKIP 24% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 13Labour 6UKIP 8

Rainham South
Conservatives 46.5% = 1 Seat
UKIP 26.2% = 1 Seat
Labour 20.5% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 14Labour 7UKIP 9

River
Conservatives 41.1% = 1 Seat
Labour 27.4% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 15Labour 8UKIP 9

Rochester East
Labour 37.1% = 1 Seat
Conservatives 25.9% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 16Labour 9UKIP 9

Rochester South and Horsted
Conservatives 38.4% = 1 Seat
UKIP 24.2% = 1 Seat
Labour 20.7% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 17Labour 10UKIP 10

Rochester West
Conservatives 42.3% = 1 Seat
Labour 21.8% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 18Labour 11UKIP 10

Strood North
Conservatives 36.4% = 1 Seat
Labour 25.8% = 1 Seat
UKIP 25% 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 19Labour 12UKIP 11

Strood Rural
Conservatives 41% = 1 Seat
UKIP 35.1% = 1 Seat
(Conservative remainder 8%) = 0 Seat
Labour 16% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 20Labour 13UKIP 12

Strood South
UKIP 37.4% = 1 Seat
Conservatives 34.5% = 1 Seat
Labour 25.8% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 21Labour 14UKIP 13

Twydall
Labour 40.8% = 1 Seat
(Labour Remainder 7.8%) = 0 Seat
Conservatives 36.8% = 1 Seat
Greens 11% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 22Greens 1Labour 15UKIP 13  

Walderslade
Conservatives 46.1% = 1 Seat
UKIP 24.6% = 1 Seat

Running Total: Conservatives 23, Greens 1Labour 15UKIP 14

Watling
Conservatives 41.1% = 1 Seat
Liberal Democrats 22.9% = 1 Seat

Total: Conservatives 24, Greens 1Labour 15, Liberal Democrats 1UKIP 14

Whilst this dramatically reduces the Conservative majority, in favour of UKIP, they would have a councillor in every ward. The majority of wards would have a mixed party of councillors representing them. The council would also benefit from having Green and Liberal Democrat voices represented.

I don’t want to cast aspersions with regard to the benefits of certain individuals who would not currently be councillors. I would like to say there was some potentially good individuals who are not currently councillors, who in this mix, would have been.

PART TWO: The List

Based on available data of voter averages from May 2015
Conservatives 32.8%
UKIP 24.2%
Labour 21.3%
Greens 8.1%
Liberal Democrats 7.1%
Independents 4.2%
TUSC 2.3%

Total Seats: Conservatives 18, Greens 5Labour 12, Liberal Democrats 4, TUSC 1UKIP 13, Independent 2

With a result that would reduce the main parties this much and increase the UKIP, Liberal Democrats and Greens result, you can understand why there is such an establishment reaction against PR.

But we can say it’s because of the maths.

Also any result that could lead to TUSC winning a seat, despite having a Zero Vote Ward in Rainham North, is clearly flawed and the system should stay the representative FPTP..

PUCK
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

The French Radicals

I have started writing this piece several times, and played it over in my head several times. It’s about how I feel about the Labour party. My feelings have been confuzzled of late, not helped by the election result and the resulting leadership election.

It is about feelings of disappointment.

I don’t expect Medway Labour to care that I feel disappointment, or even if you care, but it’s how I feel, and I wanted to write it down before the result tomorrow, and my disappointment grows.

Disappointment = Expectation/Reality
Jeremy Corbyn will win the first round of the Labour leadership but I don’t expect him to win the leadership.

As we discussed with the Political Compass, the conversation has moved so far right, that post New Labour the argument is over a relatively small piece of political real estate. Corbyn, who is largely left of centre, is seen as extreme left, purely because how far right the conversation has gone.

There have been a ridiculous number of hours spent analysisng why Labour lost the election. It would seem to be without question that it was the #EdStone. It wasn’t allowing Conservatives to control the economic narrative, which made a global economic crisis there fault; it wasn’t allowing UKIP to take socialist agenda with regards the NHS, ground they had abandoned; it wasn’t losing Scotland (presumably because Ed was too left); it wasn’t failing to stop the narrative being about letting SNP run England if Ed was PM.

It feels now that there are elements that are angry that anyone gives a negative view of Labour – or anything remotely ‘left’ – but instead that we should just being grateful that Labour are there for us. And we shouldn’t question that.

Standing for winning and against the others winning.

There are, or seem to be, elements with Medway Labour that seem obsessed with public opinion when actually what they mean is media opinion.

“It’s worth remembering that in the press, public opinion is often used interchangeably with media opinion, as if the public was somehow much the same as a group of radically rightwing billionaire sociopaths.” – Frankie Boyle

There is an obsession with polling numbers, despite the last general election showing that the polls were very, very wrong.

As this West wing clip shows, numbers lie, and some members of Medway Labour are like the French radicals:

iFAQs: Immigration and Housing

Update, 8 September: This piece has updated to include a response from the Medway UKIP group.

During the full council meeting of Medway Council, Leader of the Council Councilor Jarrett said, in relation to a statement by Cllr Andy Stamp regarding housing targets.

 “… one of the root causes of that, of course, is Labour’s open door immigration policy flooding the country with people and we are still reaping the reward of that and still trying to grapple with the problem… that’s one of the key problems”*

An audio file can be found at http://democracy.medway.gov.uk/mgconvert2pdf.aspx?id=28081
Go to 1 hr 19 minutes

We asked various Medway political types the following:
a) What is your stance on the idea that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages in Medway?
b) How do you feel about Councillor Jarrett’s description that the country has been flooded with immigrants?

Cllr Jarrett responded with the following:

“Whilst, I appreciate that answers will be presented unedited online I must insist that the statement originally made be given in its entirety as well. For your convenience, I record it below from the Council transcripts.”

Cllr Jarrett: “Cllr Stamp talked about the drive for new homes and very high housing targets which we have and all object to. But one of the root causes for that is Labour’s open door immigration policy flooding the country with people and we are still reaping the reward of that, and still trying to grapple with the problem so I think that’s one of key problems.”

What is your stance on the idea that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages in Medway?

“I have repeatedly said that the main reason for the crisis in housing both here in Medway and across the UK is fundamentally the lack of house building over the past 30 to 35 years. In it’s time in government between 1997 – 2010 Labour focused on the decent homes standard, making sure social housing was at a quality which was acceptable – it was a job which needed doing but did mean that not enough new housing stock was put into the mix. I don’t accept that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages, in fact to join the housing waiting list now you need to have been a resident in Medway for a period of time.”
Cllr Vince Maple
Leader of Medway Labour

Immigration has not caused the housing shortage in Medway. Our view is that the housing shortage is caused by:-
– Selling off social housing under the right to buy

– Not building sufficient low cost affordable housing. The Greens would welcome a large scale building programme for social housing by Government. We would oppose building on Greenfield sites, but feel there are sufficient brownfield sites which could be used in Medway

– There is insufficient activity by the council to bring empty properties back into use

– Where housing is built by private developers this often focuses on luxuary developments which may be unaffordable to local people

– Overall there is a real lack of affordable housing both to buy or rent
Medway Green Party

“Immigration is not one of the key problems regarding the housing shortage in MedwayThe Government’s target of 200,000 homes per year by 2020 falls far short of the 250,000 that Shelter estimates is necessary to meet demand but this has nothing to do with immigration. The housing crisis is caused by the failure of the market that delivers low pay and sky high rents with around 60% of new builds in London and the South East being bought by investors rather than as affordable properties to actually live in. Councils in England are sitting on 23,000 hectares, enough brownfield land to build one million decent council homes and the ‘big four’ property developers have enough land to build further 1.4 million. There is plenty of capacity to build high quality and environmentally sustainable homes but only when we are able to control what is built and where. This will require the nationalisation of the banks and the large construction companies whose profits have soared by over 550% since 2010 while the number of affordable homes has shriveled.”
Chas Berry
Medway TUSC

Medway Council has a billowing housing crisis with no action plan since 6 million extra people have been welcomed but literally squashed into Britain’s little communities.

No explanation has been made to the people of Kent how or why this mass immigration from Europe and other countries is advantageous to Medway communities instead we are left to suffer the consequences. Substantial billions of additional tax is being collected but  not one extra house, flat, school or GP surgery has been built to accommodate these people mainly from the failed EU experiment but also foreign lands who come here desperate to improve their family lives.
Medway Council has no real policies and shown no interest in the lack of affordable properties available for renting in order to fairly accommodate the many thousands of people in need . For the many desperate families living in overcrowded, damp and dilapidated private tenanted properties they can no longer complain as they are silently fearful of eviction and their children no longer allowed to attend their local schools.
Medway Council knows how tightly packed families are in the region who are paying ever increasing unreasonable rents because landlords are exploting shortages but does nothing, sighting Governments policy. We need bold and brave Councillors to debate the housing crisis seriously,sensibly and honestly telling the Government how residents are being unfairly housed.  We need Medway to stop supporting the purchase of more and more buy to let properties where the mortgages for these wealthy landlords are being paid by the tax payer through housing benefits. We need Medway to plan and build thousands of new properties for renting not just 100. 
Cllr Roy Freshwater
Leader of Medway UKIP group

Housing building in the UK has not been at sustainable levels to demand since the 1970’s which has resulted in not enough houses being built.

We need to bring into the equation, the EU, due to freedom of movement.  Upto 2004, the EU had 15 countries, which were generally the richer countries of Europe, not fuelling mass migration to get a better life. Since then 12 Eastern European countries have joined (generally poorer countries of Europe).  This has caused mass migration across Europe.  Add to this migration from other countries and lack of infrastructure planning by Conservative and Labour Governments since the end of the 1970’s has led for the current quotas for house building.  However the targets are not achievable as not enough houses are being built by the private sector.  To ever meet the target the government needs to start building houses and providing the boom in house building that was achieved in the 1960’s.  This would not increase the deficit as houses generally sell for twice the cost of building them.

Cllr Mark Joy
Independent

How do you feel about Councillor Jarrett’s description that the country has been flooded with immigrants?

“I would expect the leader of a top tier local authority to be more mindful of the language that he uses, particularly at the time where the issue of refugees coming into Europe from areas of conflict is so high on the agenda. It is on the same level as David Cameron talking of Swarms or David Blunkett talking of being swamped both of whom I criticised when they made their comments.

I’m not sure which immigrants Cllr Jarrett is talking about when he mentions flooding, are they the immigrants who are working hard in our hospital as Doctors, Nurses, Technicians and Porters? Are they the entrepreneurs who are setting up small businesses? Are they the students studying at our Medway Universities? 

The immigration policy Alan Jarrett talks about, if he is talking about EU freedom of movement, is not a Labour policy but actually a fundamental element of membership of the European Union – one can only assume if he doesn’t agree with that he will be campaigning against Cameron but with Mark Reckless, Chris Irvine and Nigel Farage for a no vote in the forthcoming referendum. “
Cllr Vince Maple
Leader of Medway Labour

“We would challenge the view that the country has been “flooded” by immigrants on the basis that this is inaccurate and also that the language is inflamatory and unhelpful. – There are two issues here:-

(i) people who come to the UK to work or study and

(ii) those who seek asylum.

As Greens we acknowledge the huge contribution made by workers from overseas, in particular in areas such as the health service or social care. We also recognise the financial contribution made by overseas students which helps to fund our universities. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of immigration to Britain. We support the flexibility provided by our EU membership which allows people to move freely between the EU states. We would extend the same welcome to other EU workers, as we would expect for British people who may choose work or study in other EU nations. As Greens we would expect the government to comply with our obligations under international law and provide asylum to those in genuine danger or fleeing persecution. We would see the current situation with the migrants in Calais as a humanitarian crisis which should be responded to with compassion. We condemn the alarmist tone taken by much of the media to this issue. We would acknowledge that countries such as Greece, Turkey, Italy and Lebanon are currently shouldering the bulk of the burden and call for the government to take our fair share of refugees (including those at Calais).”
Medway Green Party

 “To describe the country as being ‘flooded with immigrants’ is offensive and revolting. By all accounts net migration to the UK has increased and in Kent this is fairly visible but migrants have brought net gains that would benefit the economy if it were being run in the interests of the majority rather than by exploitative bosses and landlords who have tended to use migrants as a cheap source of labour. When Councillor Jarrett uses emotive terms like “flood” he is trying to dodge responsibility for the poverty inflicted by his party in Government by directing the fears and insecurity felt by millions towards a scapegoat. This sort of language is disgraceful. “
Chas Berry
Medway TUSC

Sadly flooded is a dehumanising word for desporate families fleeing wars. It is true that British people and Medway residents are fearful of uncontrolled influx of foreign nationals, with many families desporate and deserving out help. But they will include terrorist gangs, drug smugglers, people smugglers, killers, thieves or political activists. The Government is sleepwalking into a slow destruction of our communities. No police checks are made on the majority of people bribing there way into Britain who have terrorist or criminal records and are quietly joining our communities.    Quite conceivably in such numbers soon that they could launch a war inside Britain on our once wonderful but now broken communities. At that stage apologies from Government will not be good enough when our streets are turned into yet another war zone.
Cllr Roy Freshwater
Leader of Medway UKIP group

In context the word flood is to do with a deluge (normally water) onto land. Due to excess demand on housing and also on infrastructure by current net migration levels, to make a comment of flooded may be justified. However it should be pointed out that the majority of immigration is due to freedom of movement throughout the EU and not through illegal immigration.

Cllr Mark Joy
Independent

“In answer to your questions

Whilst I absolutely stand by my assertion that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages, my answer was directed towards a national perspective and not a Medway one. 
This is pertinent because during the Labour Government’s time in office, they exercised an open door immigration policy. During that time we saw considerable numbers of immigrants come into the UK as a whole. Not only did many immigrants settle in Medway during that period, we are now seeing not only the immigrants coming through Calais but migrants who settled historically in London who are now it appears being encouraged to re-locate to Medway. 

This makes it increasingly difficult to track, plan and budget for housing requirements and also means that residents are quite rightly taking a strong interest into the future of Medway when it comes to building new housing.”
Cllr Alan Jarrett
Leader of Medway Council

 

Medway Liberal Democrats were invited to answer but we did not receive any response.

The Opposite of Power

Disclaimer: As a naive lefty who is clearly wrong about most things, Keevil has accepted a political life on the outside. Where it is easy to be dismissed, especially by those who are dismissive. Being in opposition to the administration isn’t about being anti-Tory or being contrary, it is about the need for a strong opposition in a strong democracy.

Rather than just accept that an election was won by a small percentage, or not by the majority of voters (the FPTP losers equivalent to the current government/administrations’s ‘Austerity is needed because of the last Labour government’ mantra), we need to ask;

What does it mean to be in opposition?
Is there any real power in opposition?

According to the freedictionary.com
A person or group of people opposing, criticising or protesting something, someone or another group.

Residents expect elected councillors to contribute to the development of policies and strategies, and for the councils policy’s to be signed off by full council, on which everybody sits. They expect concerns to be investigated and decisions to be communicated. They expect to be represented.
They expect those in opposition to question and hold those in power to account.

I’m going to try (I’ll fail) and sound non-partisan, when I say there are issues regarding the role of opposition in the Medway Towns.

Following the 2015 local election result, there was a new status quo, which heavily affected opposition and oppositional power in the Medway Unitary Authority.
Firstly; whilst I don’t think Medway Labour were expecting to lead the council, there was an expectation of increased group side, maybe even no overall control, a view held by this site at least. What resulted was in fact a strengthened and emboldened Conservative administration.
Secondly; whilst nobody expected the Medway Liberal Democrats to do well, their complete removal from council resulting in the loss of a Liberal/ liberal voice, should not be considered a good thing.
Thirdly; Chris Irvine’s foolishly noble decision to stand for election within the ward he lives. This meant the councillor for Penisula Ward and leader of UKIP Rochester/Medway UKIP group (delete as appropriate) left the council and the group lost it’s leader. UKIP have appeared rudderless in full council so far. They have already lost one member who become an independent and have made no meaningful contribution.
It’s the belief of this writer at least that Irvine’s absence is a bigger loss to ofpposition within council then that of Geoff Juby.
Fourthly; The Medway Green Party’s inabilty to build on its by-election profile and mount a credible challenge for a ward seat. Whilst they achieved a larger vote then Medway TUSC, TUSC have – angered by the Rainham North result – been more vocal in their opposition, at full council meetings at least.

The current administration seems angered by the audacity of an member of the council or the public who dares to question them and hold them accountable, going so far as to seek to change the process.

Forgetting that members of council not part of the administration were also elected to do exactly that, and that the administration works for the public, and should answer to them. Frankly more then six times a year at full council and once every four years at the ballot box.

The administration should respect the role of opposition. Whomever holds it. They should not seek to diminish it. Or undermine the politial process, through an ineffective oversight and scrutiny committee, chairing all other committees, and placing all decision making power within a ten person cabinet that meets for ten minutes.

Critical feedback is not a negative experience and any opposition should have an opportunity to contribute to the creation of policy and legislation.
They should oppose proposals they legitimately disagree with, be given an opportunity to voice that disagreement and not have that voice dismissed as sour grapes.

Democracy thrives when there is a peaceful rivalry and a balance between a majority, winner of the election, who is in a position to govern, but not monopolising all the power.

Whilst we can be relieved that there is no likelihood of the police being called to remove minority parties from council (though we should wait for the results of Cllr Mackness’ constitutional review, to be fully sure), there is a concern held by this site about the monopolisation of power with cabinet and the charing of committees.

The oppositions role is to oppose and to do that they must be able to participate in the political process. They then must do this effectively and responsibly. It is this area looking forward that needs to be monitored over the course of the administration. 

If there is to be any true power in opposition the Medway electorate and elected needs to accept that:
1) Medway Unitary Authority is not a two party system.
2) They should not be dismissive of any smaller group seaking to gain a ward seat at the table.
3) A Liberal/liberal voice is needed.
4) As is a Green one.
Saying that, the two party system providing 3 & 4 only works if they actually do.

As the largest group in opposition, Medway Labour needs to also be held accountable for the positions they take on issues. Not opposing for opposing sake and ensuring they offer credible alternatives.

UKIP Rochester/Medway UKIP (delete as appropriate) has a spokesperson woman and they need to find their voice with council and represent the people that voted for them and continue to oppose anti-xenophobia.

Mark Joy’s first council meeting, as a councillor and an Independent councillor, gave an interesting dynamic as he opposed one Labour motion and supported another. Ignoring for this piece the purpose of either motion, this is a positive of opposition, voting on a case by case basis, with or against the opposition. Not along party lines. This is easer when you dont have a party line to follow, obviously.

I understand there is a position of group whip to stop people voting against the party line, but until member and public opposition amounts to more, then any opposition is purely for the record – decisions will continue to be made behind closed doors and outside of democracy.

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Democracy and Rainham North

A much needed review of the local election result in Rainham North.

As reported by the local newspaper:

Medway TUSC had valid concerns about the result:

And as our own Ed Jennings said, this wasn’t about a result for Medway TUSC:

Dave Nellist is national Chair of TUSC:

The Medway TUSC group took legal advice and discussed the situation with the National Agent Clive Heenskirk, who researched electoral law and advised that the legal position was a matter of private law and not going to change the result, even if it raises concerns about the whole count.

Paul and four other residents were all willing to sign a legal affidavit and this would have to go through the High Court, which would require the hiring of a QC, which would have significant costs.

Medway TUSC insist that they did question the result on the night, but no recount was called. Medway Labour’s Vince Maple recognises that this is an issue caused by a long count and Rainham North being the 21st of 22 results, and that electoral law does little to support if nothing is done on the night.

ITV Covered the story here.

Whilst the Medway Greens Gillingham Candidate told us;

“As a newcomer to politics and the election process, the 7th May 2015 was an eye-opener for me. Especially the archaic vote-counting process at Medway Park. I expected a long night but to be there until 8.30 the next morning was a bit of a shock.
Therefore it is no real surprise to me to learn that something could go wrong in the process. However, for the unfortunate TUSC local election candidate for Rainham North, Paul Dennis, not to register a single vote did seem unfathomable to me. Had he forgotten to vote for himself or spoilt his ballot paper? What about his friends, family, supporters….?
It is very important to investigate every issue that is raised to keep that image whiter than white and for Medway Council to be fully supportive and transparent when questions are raised.”
Neil Williams Medway Green Party

Medway TUSC started a campaign on the issue:

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We covered the protest creating the following short video

38 Degrees provided support with a petition that has now attracted over 750 signatures:

Ultimately though, things aren’t looking good:

However, questions do still remain:

Medway Council’s response has not changed:

 “I can confirm that having double-checked our records, the paperwork confirms a zero return for TUSC in Rainham North. Whilst I accept this is unusual, now that the result has been declared, I am afraid there is nothing else we can do to investigate the matter further as we are bound by the rules of election law.”
Neil Davies, Acting Returning Officer

Medway TUSC are now relying on a public support, to lead to a public enquiry rather than a recount.

“The legitimacy of the result has been called into question, the system is a shambles, there were people under enormous pressure with small resources.”
Chas Berry,  Medway TUSC

And then things became more complex in Rainham North:

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Medway TUSC made this revelation at the Council AGM, approaching ourselves and Medway Labour Group leader Vince Maple.

Medway TUSC Gillingham Candidate had this to say:

“Regarding the nominations process in Rainham North, there was no agent query and questions to be asked. I have spoken with senior officers and am awaiting a response.”
Vince Maple, Leader Medway Labour

Medway Council have made the following statement, as if the previous concern’s regarding the Rainham North vote hadn’t occured.

“Rainham North is a two-member ward which was contested in our elections on 7 May 2015.
“It has been brought to our attention by TUSC that one particular individual has signed more than the maximum number of nomination papers for the ward.
“Having looked into this, the individual concerned has signed nomination papers for three candidates in the election, which should have meant the last nomination paper submitted would have been invalid.
“If it had been invalidated, there was time for the affected candidate to have completed and submitted a new nomination paper. The affected candidate was not either of the two successful candidates in the election for the ward.
“Whilst this is clearly a matter of concern, the outcome of the election in the ward is not in doubt.
“We are conducting an in-depth review of our systems and procedures to ensure that this will not occur again.
“This clearly should not have happened, and we are very sorry it did. We have advised the Electoral Commission of the situation.”
Neil Davies. Returning Officer

Keevil

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