Election night in Medway

For the fourth time in a little over two years, Medway has again gone to the polls, this time for a surprise General Election.

Polling stations will close at 10pm, and after that we’ll be live tweeting from the count on @MedwayPolitics. We’ll post the results on this post as quickly as we can, but it’ll probably be very late before the Medway results come in, so we won’t hold it against you if you check back in the morning.

Chatham and Aylesford result – Con HOLD
Nicole Bushill (UKIP) – 2,225
Tracey Crouch (Con) – 25,587
John Gibson (CPA) – 260
Bernard Hyde (Green) – 573
Vince Maple (Lab) – 15,129
Thomas Quinton (Lib Dem) – 1,116

Gillingham and Rainham result – Con HOLD
Paul Chaplin (Lib Dem) – 1,372
Rehman Chishti (Con) – 27,091
Martin Cook (UKIP) – 2,097
Clive Gregory (Green) – 520
Roger Peacock (CPA) – 127
Andy Stamp (Lab) – 17,661

Rochester and Strood result – Con HOLD
David Allen (UKIP) – 2,893
Steve Benson (CPA) – 169
Primerose Chiguri (Ind) – 129
Sonia Hyner (Green) – 781
Teresa Murray (Lab) – 19,382
Bart Ricketts (Lib Dem) – 1189
Kelly Tolhurst (Con) – 29,232

Why did the councillor hide in the toilet?

Sadly, not the setup to a hilarious joke, but one of the most depressing questions in Medway politics for years now.

The whole sorry saga begins in January 2013, at a full Medway Council meeting where the Labour group put forward a motion in favour of equal marriage, as was topical at the time. When it came time for the vote, Labour Strood South councillor Isaac Igwe got up from his seat, and proceeded to go to the toilet, only returning once the vote was completed.

Inevitably, a number of questions were asked about the behaviour of then councillor Igwe at the time. It’s not entirely unheard of for someone to hold personal views that would make it difficult to support such a motion, yet when challenged on his position, Igwe flatly refused to answer any questions on the subject. This led to an absurd scenario where he was asked, again and again, for months while continuing to refuse, which could have been wholly avoided had he just explained his position at the time.

Igwe lost his seat on Medway Council in May 2015, when he managed to fall from 2nd to 8th place in his Strood South seat. In theory, this should have been the end of the matter. Once out of public office, the questions would stop, leaving us to never truly know where he stood.

At least, it was until a vacancy became available in Strood South, following the resignation of UKIP councillor Catriona Brown-Reckless. A slightly bizarre selection process for Labour began, involving six candidates, some odd infighting, and very few actual members, and the last minute result was Igwe fighting the seat for Labour once again.

Inevitably, this has again thrust his position on equal marriage into the public eye. Questions again began, which were again refused. Questions were put to other Labour councillors, usually champions of equal rights, who again refused to comment. The whole issue has dominated a bizarre campaign, one not helped by the frankly bizarre tweets appearing from Igwe’s Twitter account, clearly not written by the man himself. Much of the wider campaign from Medway Labour has also left itself open to ridicule.

Despite the wall of silence being put up by the Labour councillors, we’ve been hearing more and more discontent from local activists and members within the party over his selection. One member told us that Igwe had told a friend that he considered being gay ‘an affliction’, some complained that he refused to tell them whether he supports equal rights, and others flatly refused to take part in his campaign. The most damning came from one activist who wished to remain anonymous, and we have published their complete comments below:

As a Labour Party member and activist of many years and, more significantly, a member from Strood, I am deeply concerned to see my party put forward Isaac Igwe as it’s candidate in the Strood South by-election.
As a Councillor, Mr Igwe hid in the toilet at the time of a vote – which Labour called – urging the Council to support Equal Marriage. Since then, despite many attempts to ask him to do so, Mr Igwe has never clarified his position publicly.
The Labour Party is the champion of equality and I am ashamed to see my party stand by a man who appears to be both a bigot and a coward. If Mr Igwe opposes equal marriage then he should say so and the party should not accept him as it’s candidate. If he support equal marriage then he should say so. What I find most alarming is his – and the party’s – public silence on the matter.
For some time now, I, amongst others, have sought to confront Mr Igwe about his views. He has publicly failed to do so. However, I was enlightened in a recent private discussion with him to find that he ‘was happy to spend time with gay people through work and in his personal life’ but that he ‘was not entirely comfortable’ with equal marriage. My suspicions of Mr Igwe being a bigot were confirmed and his failure to declare his position publicly confirms him to be a coward as well. That the Labour Party would chose to endorse a candidate with such views is abhorrent. I am in no doubt that other figures within the party as aware of Mr Igwe’s views but I am appalled by the failure of figures to respond to questions about Mr Igwe’s views. The wall of silence is appalling but should not be surprising. Cllr Vince Maple, Cllr Teresa Murray and Cllr Tristan Osborne appear comfortable in ‘ignoring’ the matter and I am aware that they have encouraged activists to do so. I am disgusted in the behaviour of my party and it’s local leaders. What are we if we are not the party of equality? I will not be supporting Mr Igwe in this by-election because I refuse to support a bigoted coward. I would urge all other members, activists and voters to examine their consciences before they do.

It seems baffling that Labour would select a candidate that would be so controversial even within it’s own party, and it’s even more baffling because it’s so unnecessary. Igwe should have come clear long before now to set the record straight on where he stands on this issue, so both his party and the electorate can make an informed decision about him and his views.

Many councillors voted against the Labour motion in favour of equal marriage in 2013, and several abstained. The difference with Igwe is the manner in which he did so. If you don’t want to vote on something, then don’t vote on something. Just don’t run off and hide in the toilet in the hope that no one will notice.

Whether or not we’ll ever get an answer on where Igwe stands is questionable. If he loses the by-election on Thursday, this won’t come up again, unless he seeks public office again in the future. If by some miracle he wins though, we fear this sorry saga will drag on and on and on.

The campaign for Rainham Central has begun

Following the sad death of Councillor Mike O’Brien, a by-election will take place in Rainham Central to elect his replacement on 3 November. We’ve taken a quick look at each of the candidates standing in the election:

Conservatives – Jan Aldous
We’d love to be able to tell you all about the Conservative candidate, but there seems to be very little information on Jan Aldous available, other than the fact she’s lived in Rainham for 40 years. So, er, good for her.

Mike Russell

English Democrats – Mike Russell
The English Democrats continue their slow march on Medway, as Mike Russell is standing in his second by-election in a fortnight, as he’s also standing in Strood South. Mike has stood for Medway Council several times in the past, has campaigned to be the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, and even had a run at the European Parliament. This campaign is likely to be about as successful as all of those.

Green Party – George Meegan
The Greens have selected Professor George Meegan as their candidate. Professor Meegan is a lifelong adventurer, and ran a somewhat baffling campaign to become an independent MP for Gillingham and Rainham in 2010. He intends to base his campaign around environmental issues and education. You can follow him on Twitter.

Labour – Simon Allen
Simon Allen is a freelance journalist and has previously worked for MPs and campaigned against fixed odd betting terminals. Beyond that, he apparently intends to campaign on the ‘issues that matter locally’. Rightio. You can follow him on Twitter.

Liberal Democrats – Paul Chaplin
Paul Chaplin was the parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems in 2015, coming in 4th place. Paul is a lifelong resident of Medway, and school governor, and intends to run a campaign on supporting students and their families. You can follow him on Twitter.

UKIP – Mark Mencattelli
We don’t really know much beyond Mark Mencattelli, other than that he stood in Gillingham North last year and came pretty close to taking one of the seats.

The battle for Strood South officially gets underway

Following the resignation of UKIP councillor Catriona Brown-Reckless, the battle to replace her in Strood South is underway. With the by-election being held on 20 October, less than four weeks away, we’ve put together this handy roundup of the six candidates for the seat.

josieilesConservatives – Josie Iles
The first of two former Strood South councillors trying to win the seat back, Josie Iles represented the ward between 2011 and 2015, when she narrowly lost her seat to UKIP. Josie is a former mayor of Medway, and has lived in the Strood South ward for 30 years. She voted leave in the EU referendum, and while it’s unclear exactly what platforms she’ll be standing on, she’s off to a great start in the ‘having serious photos taken in front of things’ competition.

Mike Russell

English Democrats – Mike Russell
The English Democrats continue their slow march on Medway, as once again Mike Russell is standing for the party. Mike has stood for Medway Council several times in the past, has campaigned to be the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, and even had a run at the European Parliament. This campaign is likely to be about as successful as all of those.

stevedykeGreen Party – Steve Dyke
Steve Dyke is the current leader of the Medway Green Party, and unsuccessfully stood for election in Strood North in 2015. Steve has lived in Strood for 50 years, and intends to run on a platform based around sustainable housing, transport improvements, and the environment. You can follow him on Twitter.

isaacigweLabour – Isaac Igwe
The second former Strood South councillor trying to win his seat back is Isaac Igwe, who represented the ward between 2011 and 2015. Despite coming 2nd in the ward in 2011, he dropped to 8th in 2015. Given Labour only selected him at the last possible minute, it’s unclear what he intends to campaign on. Notably, in 2013, Isaac once fled a council meeting and hid in a toilet to avoid having to cast a vote in favour of equal marriage. You can follow him on Twitter.

isabellecherryLiberal Democrats – Isabelle Cherry
By far the youngest candidate in the by-election, the Lib Dems have put forward Isabelle Cherry. Isabelle has lived in Medway all of her life, and is currently studying for her A-levels. Isabelle intends to run a campaign based around improving schools and public transport, and reducing litter. You can follow her on Twitter.

karlwellerUKIP – Karl Weller
Despite currently holding the seat, UKIP have put forward an unfamiliar face in Karl Weller. Karl has lived in the ward for 18 years, and beyond that, we know pretty much nothing about him. You can follow him on Twitter.

Cllr Brown-Reckless resigns from Medway Council

Medway Council is set for it’s first by-election in several years, following the resignation of Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless.

Cllr Brown-Reckless was elected to represent Strood South as a UKIP councillor last year, and was deputy leader of the UKIP group on the council.

As such, a by-election will now need to be held to fill the vacancy in the ward, on a date to be decided in the near future.

It also means that the UKIP group on Medway Council has now been reduced from 4 to 2 since their election last year, with Cllr Brown-Reckless’ resignation following Cllr Joy’s decision to sit as an independent.

Strood South has been a split ward for some time now, with Conservative, Labour, and UKIP councillors all representing the ward in recent years, so a fierce by-election battle looks likely for the vacant seat.

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!

Final list of candidates for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner

After months of flirting with the electorate, we now have a formal list of candidates for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, as published today.

The formal list of candidates nominated:

Henry Bolton (UKIP)

Dave Naghi (Liberal Democrat)

Tristan Osborne (Labour)

Gurvinder Sandher (Independent)

Matthew Scott (Conservative)

Steve Uncles (English Democrat)

We’ll be looking at each of the candidates in more detail between now and the election.

In the meantime, it’s time to say goodbye to the following declared candidates that didn’t make it onto the ballot paper:

Fergus Wilson (Independent) seemingly didn’t submit his nomination papers properly, so wasn’t allowed to stand. It was unlikely he’d be able to take up the position regardless following his assault conviction.

Tim Garbutt (Independent Green) discovered last week that the £5000 deposit required to stand was quite a lot of money.

The Green Party declared that they would be standing a candidate, but one never made it onto the ballot paper.

With current commissioner Ann Barnes not standing again, we now know that one of the six names above will be Kent’s next Police and Crime Commissioner.

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

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

A Short Film Audioboom Union and Socialist Coalition

On Saturday, members of Medway Trade Union Socialist Coalition (TUSC) were in Rainham precinct following the zero vote result they got in the local elections for their candidate Paul Dennis in Rainham North.

We will be posting a more detailed look into those events and following events as they unfold.

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