Voice of the Leader: March

Once a month we are offering the Leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition the opportunity to talk unedited about.. well, Medway politics. Today we hear from Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council and the Conservative Group.

Alan Jarrett

‘Going forward I promise that we will protect Medway from those who seek to close down facilities and services; against those who belittle Medway and its hard-working people; and against those who snub our military heritage and insult our monarchy.’

Oh my word! My last Political Medway contribution really hit a nerve with the Labour Group! This culminated in a bizarre and obsessive “Truth and Memory” speech from one of them at the Budget Council meeting in February. Apparently it’s all my fault that Labour engage in untruths and hypocrisy! I am reminded of the line from Hamlet – “The lady doth protest too much”!

Ever consistent, Labour produced its election manifesto full of half-truths. Apparently according to Cllr Mrs Murray – it is “deliverable and costed”. It appears Labour has learnt nothing since 2010 when it left that note to the incoming Conservative Chancellor “There’s no money – good luck!” Reading that manifesto left me wondering who really is the Leader of the Labour Group, for it is Cllr Mrs Murray who seems to be calling all the shots. However, more on Labour’s manifesto later.

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Entrenched views

In which Andrew Dennis ponders the effect firmly held beliefs are having on our political discourse..

The thing I think most needs to change in politics, locally and nationally, is the continued entrenchment of political philosophies, culture, tradition and views. Views that are wrapped up in a political dogma, attitude or belief that isn’t perhaps as relevant today as it might have been when a person’s views were first formed – often in their teenage years, or, in the case of Chelsea Clinton, whose parents encouraged her take part in philosophical, social and political debate around the dinner table at the age of 5, much earlier!

Entrenchment is defined in an online dictionary resource as the fact of an attitude, habit or belief becoming so firmly established that change is very difficult or unlikely. The 1980s seem to be the time, in my lifetime, when views hardened, to the right, to the left, and you were either one of us, or one of them. 

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Uncertain Starts

In which Lia Mandaracas and Alexandra Chatfield look at the impact closing Sure Start centres has had across Medway..

Part 1 / Lia Mandaracas

Sure Start, since its introduction in 1999 transformed the lives of families with under 5s. By 2009 there were over 3600 centres with most of them concentrated in disadvantaged areas. In mid-2016, Medway Council made significant savings with a staffing restructure and reduced sessions, which came with assurances that this was the only way to save the full provision. By early 2017 they proposed closing all centres in favour of four “super hubs” that would serve wide areas and 0-19 rather than 0-5. Due to public pressure they relented slightly and created the super hubs with satellite centres to run some sessions, although these centres no longer had continuity of staff or full time opening hours. I thought I would take a look at the effects on service users, the impact on the councils Key Performance Indicators, and Ofsted results compared to other parts of the country.

For background here are two speeches I gave to the council drawing on evidence from other councils to speculate on what closing Medway Sure Starts might mean.

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School’s Out

In which Vicki Sigston looks at why so many families in Medway and beyond are turning to home education..

There are many reasons why families, like my own, choose to home educate their children. Some are not a fan of our rigid national curriculum and lack of funding in music and the arts. For others it’s the freedom that home education provides in letting children learn at their own pace, in their own way. The freedom to travel without the threat of fines for missing school. The freedom to spend a whole year on a topic if that is sparking a passion. Sometimes children who are home educated have needs that our schools struggle with and home education can provide a much less stressful environment for them to learn in.

There are lots of choices that lead to the decision to not have your children in mainstream education. But it is just that, a choice, and one that families should be free to make without fear of retribution.

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Know the power of women in leadership

Ahead of International Women’s Day, Medway Labour councillor Naushabah Khan looks at how the fight for equality is going.

This week in honour of International Women’s Day, and well, because I would have done so anyway, I went to watch On the Basis of Sex. Spoiler alert, the cleverly titled film is a moving story about the early years of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, a US Supreme Court justice; an exceptional woman, now in her eighties, who championed women’s rights in America.

At a particularly poignant point in the film, Ginsburg is challenged by her male counterpart in court, who accuses her of wanting the country to undergo ‘radical social change’. She upends his line of attack, reminding him that the ‘radical’ change he is so worried about meant that prestigious Harvard Law School still did not have female toilets.

Watching the scene, I couldn’t help but reminisce about a story told by female MP who recalled a similar experience. In her first year of entering Parliament she had sought a bathroom, only to be told that women did not have access to one in the entirety of this section of the parliamentary estate. The only difference between her story and that of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, was that this was 1997 not 1957.

Since then, within a short space of time, great progress has been made in striving for gender equality and promoting women in politics, public life and society; championed by a Labour government committed to furthering women’s rights. But there is much work still to do and within political parties the challenge remains significant. Take as an example the fact that Labour has never had a female leader, or that we were not immune to the need for change put forward by the #MeToo movement.

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Voice of the Opposition: March

Once a month we will be offering the Leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition the opportunity to talk unedited about.. well, Medway politics.

Today we hear from Vince Maple, leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition on Medway Council.

With a little over 50 days to go until May 2nd, the focus now is firmly on the pledges which each main party is putting forward.

I’m proud of the manifesto launch held this past weekend at Dragon Co-Working in the heart of Medway.  A packed room heard outstanding speeches from our administration in waiting on the key pledges to the residents of Medway.  We were also joined by the Shadow Treasury Minister Lyn Brown MP who gave an inspiring speech, in particular highlighting how austerity has impacted on the community she represents.

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Political Figures: Changing the ballot

Once a month we are going to hand over to Alan Collins from Medway Elects who is going to dig into the Medway electoral data, and try to tell us what it all means..

Short of 30 pieces of silver, what does it take to influence a vote?

Three years ago, the authors of this blog shone a spotlight on Mike Franklin, the Conservative councillor for Luton & Wayfield, for sharing unseemly tweets. Last month, following the intervention of Baroness Sayeda Warsi, he was finally suspended as a Conservative councillor and member of the party pending an internal investigation.

Of course, one does not wish to prejudge the outcome of such an investigation, but it is likely the local Conservatives will not wait for its results, and instead select a new candidate for the ward – as despite these claims being brought to their attention what feels like a lifetime ago, he continued to sit as a Conservative councillor and was slated to stand for re-election in May.

Everyone enjoys reading about a good scandal (what, just me?), but do they have any effect on the outcome of subsequent elections? And are there any other major events happening which could also impact the result this May?

Today I am going to be looking at scandals and farces during the 2007-2011 council term, all with their own hints of scandal, and also trying to guess (emphasis on the word “guess”, as data alone is insufficient for this purpose) whether Brexit will have any effect on this year’s elections.

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Just Because We Can’t Vote Does Not Mean We Can’t Change Things

In which Thomas Baldock shares his experience of being involved with the Medway Youth Council.

Being under the voting age was frustrating for me, I felt that young people’s voices were mute, that we didn’t have the opportunity to make changes because our elected representatives didn’t need to listen to us just yet. That was until I joined the Medway Youth Council. This organisation is a-political in that there is no party political or ideological viewpoint that we follow; this in many ways can give us the freedom to act in a pragmatic way to best serve the interests of young people in Medway.

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Franklin v Joyce

In which local historian Chris Sams digs into the past to find a parallel with the present..

In recent weeks the Medway political scene has been rocked by the discovery of Councillor Franklin’s suspension from his post and even the Conservative party for the Retweeting of Islamophobic posts but he is not the first person to be thrown out of somewhere for overtly or subtly racist propaganda during a social and racially divisive period.

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