We started this site in the run to the 2015 General and Local Elections as a way to help us and others understand a bit more about how politics works at a local level. It was originally intended to be a short run project through those elections, but we enjoyed the process enough that we stuck with it and thus The Political Medway was born.
We assumed at that point that things would be fairly quiet after that, with no more elections that anyone cared about scheduled in Medway until the next round of locals in 2019.
Dear reader, things have not been quiet.
In 2016, we had to deal with the EU membership referendum and it’s fallout, as well as two local council by-elections.
Surely 2017 would give the Medway electorate a break?
Of course it wouldn’t, and we’ll all be voting in a General Election on June 8.
Unfortunately, both of us that man this site have been a tad busy of late, so we’re a little late in getting our coverage underway, but such is life. We’re publishing the full candidate lists for all three seats tomorrow, and in the coming weeks will have some hustings coverage, some questions for our esteemed candidates, and all being well (translation: Medway Council letting us in) our election night count live coverage.
Additionally, and probably more importantly, a lot of the day to day coverage that doesn’t warrant an entire post lives entirely on Twitter @MedwayPolitics.
So dear reader, join us as we once again head unto the Medway electoral breach.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.