The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Children, Chairmen, Conduct

The big stories

Matthew Scott is Kent’s new Police and Crime Commissioner – full story
Last week, after an uninspiring campaign period, voters of Kent went to the polls to select a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent after sitting Commissioner Ann Barnes decided to stand down. Matthew Scott for the Conservatives was victorious, beating second placed Henry Bolton of UKIP. We had full analysis of the results, including an awful lot of graphs.

The Medway Council April ding dong – full story
Medway Council held it’s April meeting, which featured such exciting events as a new mayor being selected, and some revelations on the EU referendum. As usual, we were there to livetweet the proceedings, and you can catch up with all of the highlights above.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Save Sod the children
In one of the most remarkable votes of this parliament so far, both Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst voted against allowing unaccompanied child refugees into the UK. Kelly Tolhurst even spoke at length in the parliamentary debate on why taking needy children in would be such a terrible thing to do. Of course, it’s all slightly moot now as it seems the government will u-turn and allow the children in after all, but it’s worth remembering that the first instinct of Medway MPs was to refuse to help children in need.

In, out, shake it all about
Six weeks out from the EU referendum, and our three Medway MPs are still declining to reveal where they stand on this incredibly important issue. It almost seems like they are all attempting to run out the clock and not tell their constituents where they stand, to avoid any awkward confrontations with their local party members.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length on energy generation on the Isle of Grain, while also acknowledging that some will be sad to see the chimney at Kingsnorth power station demolished.

Medway Council

All change
A sudden departure from Medway Council this week for it’s head of children and adult services, Barbara Peacock. Her time at the council can be described as rocky at best.

Curious conduct
A rare outing for Medway Council’s Councillor Conduct Committee this Wednesday. An interesting agenda that focuses on introducing social media guidelines for councillors, while also dealing with a complaint against a councillor. Whatever could it all be about?

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because after winning the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, they don’t really need to bother doing anything.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been ten weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. Yet they’d like the voters to hand them the keys to Gun Wharf.

Medway UKIP
Curious events within Rochester and Strood UKIP as chairman Chris Spalding stepped down from the role. No reason was given for this, but rumours of disharmony within the local party over the actions of Medway UKIP leader on Medway Council Roy Freshwater may well have played a part.
In a rare bout of local campaigning, the very same Cllr Freshwater was out and about in Chatham, encouraging people to leave the EU. Obviously.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Want to meet some local Lib Dems, if only to prove they exist? They’ll be in Strood High Street from 10am on Saturday!

Medway Green Party
As you might expect, the local Greens are a little concerned about Medway’s new local plan allowing housing development on green spaces, particularly after leader of the council Alan Jarrett stated that this would be necessary.

Other news

Reckless move
After being unceremoniously losing his Westminster seat in last year’s general election, Mark Reckless made his return to mainstream politics after being elected to – of all places – the Welsh Assembly. While we wish Mark well in his new venture, we are left wondering what will happen with his wife’s council seat in Strood South. Will she be resigning this to head to Wales, or will Mark be taking in one hell of a commute? Either way, it’s a question that Cllr Andrew Mackness is eager to get the bottom of.

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!

The Medway Council April ding dong

Medway Council held it’s April full council meeting last night, with issues on the agenda ranging from all schools being academies to the EU referendum to how many things a Chatham shop can put on the pavement. As usual, we live tweeted the excitement, and if you missed it at the time, we’ve collected all of the highlights here:

The Week in Medway Politics: Referendum, housebuilding, babies

Medway MPs in Parliament

Told off Chishti
Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti got himself into trouble with Speaker John Bercow after running afoul of parliamentary procedure. It seems you can’t mention the Public Gallery in the House of Commons without a telling off, but no one says anything about your somewhat dodgy connections to Saudi Arabia.

In, out, shake it all about
On the issue of the EU referendum, all three Medway MPs seem to be taking the latter option. While Chatham and Aylesford MP has the somewhat valid excuse of maternity leave, Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst have no such excuses. Neither MP wants to state where they stand, with Chishti “listening” to residents on an almost daily basis, while Tolhurst keeps her head down all together. It’s unfair on their constituents that so close to the referendum, none of our MPs are willing to tell them exactly where they stand on such an important issue.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Rehman Chishti’s suspicious relationship with Saudi Arabia began gaining further attention, with a forensic analysis from Middle East Monitor. On a jaunt to the Council of Europe, Kelly Tolhurst got into a bit of a ding-dong with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Medway Council

Set some of Medway on fire! (part 2)
Following on from last week’s social media fail by Medway Council, their competition to allow a resident to light a beacon to celebrate the Queen’s birthday didn’t go any better. Blogger Alan Collins have covered the whole sorry saga.

No babies, thanks
Medway Council went to court (and lost) to try to get out of looking after a baby. Because that’s the kind of world we live in.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Conservative Kent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott was in Chatham. So there’s that.
Rochester South and Horsted councillor Rupert Turpin was outraged that Barack Obama dared to use the word “queue”, even though he’s used in on several occasions previously.

Medway Labour
The Medway Labour website was hacked eight weeks ago, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. Yet they’d like the voters to hand them the keys to Gun Wharf.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because with an EU referendum, and a Police and Crime Commissioner election where they’re likely to be in the top two, they’ve got nothing to do.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, because they’ve got some campaigning coming up next month and don’t want to wear themselves out too soon.

Medway Green Party
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Greens aren’t too happy that the Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett said it was “inevitable” that green spaces would need to be built on to meet housing demand.

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Beacons, think tanks, tax returns

The big story

Final list of candidates for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner – full story
After months of build up, we finally received confirmation of who is, and more importantly isn’t, standing for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner. With current commissioner Ann Barnes standing down, one of six new names will be taking on the role next month.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Two jobs Chishti
There were some interesting revelations in the latest issue of Private Eye about Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti. After taking up a £24,000 a year job for a Saudi Arabian think-tank, he led a delegation of MPs to the country. Unlike his recent football freebies, Chishti did at least register this trip correctly in the register of MPs’ interests. Curiously, he claimed to have met with “human rights groups” during the trip, which the Eye finds questionable given that the country doesn’t apparently have any such groups. Upon being asked to name the groups he had met with, Chishti refused to respond.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst was very, very concerned that some Africans managed to sneak into north Kent. Following recent stories about the tax arrangements of MPs, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch declared there was ‘nothing of interest’ in her tax return. But then she would say that, wouldn’t she?

Medway Council

Set some of Medway on fire!
Medway Council launched a curious competition this week, inviting residents of Medway to light a giant beacon on the Great Lines to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. As a staunch republican, Jennings immediately took the opportunity to enter, and after several days, is still one of only two entries. So if you’d like your chance to set fire to a little bit of Medway in the name of an antiquated class based system, head on over to Twitter and tell Medway Council why you should be allowed to light the beacon using #MedwayBeacons.

Unappy days
After five years, Medway Council has done away with it’s Love Medway app, which allowed residents and council staff to report issues such as fly tipping, broken street lights, or graffiti. Launched at a cost of £7,000, the council claimed it saved money overall, yet has decided to do away with it now. Despite some perfectly good free alternatives being available, such as FixMyStreet, the council has suggested residents go back to phoning the council to get things fixed, as if it was 1989.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Once again, the two main factions of the local Conservative group engaged in their annual scrap to decide which councillor should receive the role of mayor for the following year. Despite the role being entirely meaningless, both sides will go all out to take control of it, with Rochester West councillor Stuart Tranter being the lucky recipient this year. Princes Park councillor Gloria Opara is likely to be his deputy.

Medway Labour
Remarkably, several months on, the Medway Labour website is still hacked, so it’s clear they’ve pretty much given up trying to fix it at this stage, even if leaving the old site up presents a security risk to visitors.
Following the above revelations about Rehman Chishti’s second job in Saudi Arabia, Medway Labour are concerned that he hasn’t registered this new role with the council.
If you fancy meeting a Shadow Cabinet Minister (and why wouldn’t you?), you can join Medway Labour’s ‘Curry & Chat’ evening in Rochester, which will only set you back a mere £25.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because with an EU referendum, and a Police and Crime Commissioner election where they’re likely to be in the top two, they’ve got nothing to do.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Happily, the Medway Lib Dems notify everyone of when they’ll be campaigning, so no one has to miss out on the excitement. Over the coming weeks, they’ll be out no less than five – count ’em – five times! Next Saturday you’ll find them in Rainham, and the week after that in Gillingham. After that, they’ll take a week off, before popping up on May 14 in Strood, then May 21 in Chatham, before wrapping up their campaigning for the year on May 28 in Rochester.

Medway Green Party
Unusually, they haven’t posted about the Lower Thames Crossing for a while, but they are unhappy about plans to demolish the Royal Oak pub in Frinsbury.
Rather charmingly Green, they’d also like to see pod homes built above car parks in Medway that could be sold to first time buyers for £50,000.

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Planning, police, powerhouses

Medway MPs in Parliament

Lower Thames Crossing
The consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing closed at the end of March, so we thought we’d take a look at where our local MPs stand on an issue that has great relevance to the people of Medway. Somewhat surprisingly, most of them don’t really stand anywhere. Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch have made little public comment beyond sharing the consultation. Unusually, the only one to take a stand is Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, who came out against it, presumably because she doesn’t have to sit in the queues at Dartford every day.

Elsewhere in Parliament
It won’t be all that surprising to discover that both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst both voted for George Osborne’s recent (and not entirely well received) budget. Additionally, in a slightly bizarre intervention following the Brussels attacks, Rehman Chishti demanded more “theological language” to fight terrorists.

Medway Council

Planning palaver
A baffling interlude courtesy of Medway Council’s planning policy this week. On Wednesday, councillors will vote on a range of planning applications, the most interesting being a proposed trampoline centre at Rainham Mark. Despite the proposed building having sat empty for a long time, the centre creating 45 jobs, consultation responses being 3 to 1 in favour, the recommendation is for the committee to refuse the application. The reason? It’s not in the right part of town, whereas the the KFC drive-thru right next door is perfectly fine. In the same week, the Cabinet looks set to wave through a plan to build a giant marina right outside of Gun Wharf.

The Kentish Powerhouse
Some curious comments from Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett, who told the KM that Medway is talking with other councils in Kent about powers and funding models that may be offered from central government. While there has been talk previously of other Kent County Council controlled boroughs forming larger groups, this is the first time Medway has been confirmed as taking part in such discussions.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Kent Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott campaigned in Rainham this weekend, but otherwise, the party seems to be keeping it’s head down.

Medway Labour
Incredibly, the Medway Labour website is still hacked, despite the party being aware of the issue weeks ago.
The party are also concerned by the seeming hypocrisy between the Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett opposing government plans to make all schools academies, while trying to make all Medway schools convert mere weeks earlier.
Labour also hit the streets of Strood South, ostensibly to campaign to remain in the European Union, and nothing to do with a likely by-election in the ward. Interestingly, there was no sign of Strood South Conservative UKIP Independent Labour councillor Mark Joy on the campaign trail.

Medway UKIP
Not to be outdone by Matthew Scott, Kent UKIP Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Henry Bolton campaigned in both Gillingham and Chatham this weekend.

Medway Liberal Democrats
They reported some dumped bin bags to the council. Jolly good.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, they’re still unhappy about the Lower Thames Crossing, and not really sure how to deal with Kelly Tolhurst ultimately being on the same side as them.
They’re unhappy that Medway Council have begun charging for all bulky waste collections too.
They’re also unhappy about a new retail development on Medway City Estate being built without road improvements. Though if the council proposed more roads, they’d probably be unhappy about that too.

Other News

Minor Police and Crime Commissioner candidate roundup
Previously announced Independent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Tim Garbutt may be out of the race as he seemingly didn’t check how much it costs to stand before now.
No such problems for another Independent candidate, Gurvinder Sandher, who has been hitting the campaign trail all over Kent, including a stop in Rochester this week.
We’ve covered the baffling campaign of Fergus Wilson several times before, so we won’t again in detail here, but blogger Jon Patience has been staying on top of latest events.
..and in one of the most jaw dropping twists of the campaign, English Democrat candidate Steve Uncles successfully convinced a judge to delay his trial for election fraud so he could fight this election.

The Week in Medway Politics: Super brief edition

A briefer roundup than usual this week as Jennings is currently across the Irish sea..

Medway MPs in Parliament

Data privacy
This week, MPs debated and voted on the new Investigatory Powers Bill, that will give the authorities the ability to store and investigate every citizen’s communications records and data, including every website they have ever visited. The Bill passed with both Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst voting for it, the latter going full ‘won’t somebody please think of the children’ in her speech on the issue.

Elsewhere in Parliament
A busy week for Rehman Chishti, as he brought up the crucial issue of a constituent who hasn’t had their tumble dryer repaired fast enough. More importantly, he wrote an article for ConservativeHome, detailing his plan to get laser pens banned from public sale. On top of that, he wrote for PoliticsHome on his plan to increase penalties on dodgy tobacco.

Medway Council

For possibly the first time, absolutely nothing of note seems to have happened involving Medway Council this week.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, presumably trying to make excuses for Cllr Franklin’s tweets. This week he suggested fox hunting is no worse than killing ants.

Medway Labour
Despite claims last week that it would be fixed, and some bizarre spin about it raising awareness of cyber security, the Medway Labour website is still hacked.
The party also responded to the budget, which you’ll be shocked to discover, they weren’t really a fan of.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because there’s not much going on they’d be interested in.

Medway Liberal Democrats
They’re worried about cuts to pharmacies, apparently.

Medway Green Party
Perhaps prudently, the Greens are gearing up for a potential by-election in Strood South.
They’re also concerned about the amount of affordable housing in Medway in the coming years.
Oh yeah, they’re not happy about the Lower Thames Crossing either.

We’ll be off for an Easter break next weekend (when Jennings will be in Wales), but normal service will resume in two weeks time..

The Week in Medway Politics: Sunday trading, tents, football

The big stories

Internal strife within Medway Labour as ex-UKIP councillor Mark Joy tries to join party – full story
In which the Medway Labour leadership cause an almighty row by trying to bring a former UKIP councillor into the fold.

Rehman Chishti in breach of parliamentary rules – full story
In which the Gillingham and Rainham MP doesn’t declare his football freebies, and gets a new job.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Sunday Trading
This week, MPs voted on whether or not to extend Sunday trading hours, as it still seems strange that someone can’t do their shopping at 5pm on a Sunday in 2016. In a rare outbreak of good sense, all three Medway MPs – Rehman Chishti, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch, and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst – all voted for the changes, but alas, the vote was lost overall. So no shopping at 9am on a Sunday for you.

Elsewhere in Parliament
In one of the stranger speeches of the week, Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length in parliament about being unable to get a phone line installed in her office. After weeks of buildup, Rehman Chishti’s complaints about laser pens finally came to a head, as he introduced a bill to get them banned. Finally, after Channel 4 News pushing on the Rochester and Strood by-election spending issue for a while, the Daily Mail have stepped, all guns blazing, into the fray.

Medway Council

Rochester Riverside
Not for the first time, a new developer has been chosen to deliver the 1300 home Rochester Riverside project. Countryside Properties and Hyde Housing will now begin work on the project, with work due to complete in 2028, a mere 21 years after the process began. At least it’ll help solve Medway’s next decade housing crisis.

Cabinet decisions
This week, Medway Council’s ruling cabinet met. Amongst their decisions were to formally endorse the Southern Western variation of the Lower Thames Crossing proposals, and to rescind current arrangements for Business Rates Relief for next year. Both decisions will likely not be particularly popular. You can read the full minutes from the meeting here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, presumably trying to make excuses for Cllr Franklin’s tweets.

Medway Labour
As you’d expect, Medway Labour are crowing about the laws on Sunday trading not being relaxed, because they’d rather it was impossible to get hold of things after 5pm on a Sunday.

Medway UKIP
A remarkable stance from Medway UKIP this week, who requested the council prepare tents for migrants to live in on the Great Lines. The full story also features a superb bit of Photoshop work too.
Elsewhere, former UKIP Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless has been selected to stand for the Welsh Assembly in coming elections. If he takes up a seat in the Assembly, will his wife – Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless – give up her seat on Medway Council, or begin an almighty commute?

Medway Liberal Democrats
The Medway Lib Dems went on the attack this week, with a scathing statement from new chairman John Castle attacking the Tories, calling out the opposition parties on the council, and demanding a change to the scrutiny system. The fact they have no councillors to really do anything was sadly missed out.

Medway Green Party
Well, you probably won’t believe it, but they’re angry about the Lower Thames Crossing.

Other News

Ann Barnes out
After months of speculation, current Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes ruled herself out of the running for the upcoming elections, meaning Kent is assured a new Commissioner in May. Which makes the coming election slightly more interesting than the circus side show it had largely been up until now.

Rehman About Town
A strong photo week for Rehman, seeing him have his photo taken with some children, a giant tourism sign, Stewart from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a treadmill, an award, meeting his obligatory single resident, and despite the story above, we shit you not, a Gillingham player, and himself at the match. He also found time to highlight himself reading the local paper after they mentioned his tweets in a tiny column. We cover his whereabouts every single week and what do we get? Sheesh.

Rehman Chishti in breach of parliamentary rules

Rehman

Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham Rehman Chishti has breached parliamentary rules, the Sun reports.

The paper reports that Chishti received multiple hospitality tickets – worth £900 – to see Gillingham Football Club, but despite being obliged to report such gifts within 28 days, didn’t do so for over a year:

The Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham got a £100 VIP ticket to the Priestfield Stadium to watch League One “Gills” in February 2015.

And another in May and August that year, and further three hospitality tickets in September that year — all as a guest of club boss Paul Scally.

However — in a breach of the rules — the freebies were not logged in the Commons registers until this month.

Mr Chishti refused to comment or explain the delay.

It’s unclear to what action Chishti may face for this error, but that he’s declining to comment or even explain why he didn’t declare the tickets is troubling.

Perhaps more interestingly though is the news within the article that Chishti has secured a new job, earning £24,000 working for a think tank in Saudi Arabia:

The rule breach came as Mr Chishti announced he has secured a plum £24,000 advisory role with the King Faisal Center for Research — a think tank in Saudi Arabia.

The appointment came after Mr Chishti enjoyed on a £2,888 all expenses paid trip as a guest of the controversial Middle Eastern kingdom last month.

It’s unclear exactly how spare time Chishti has for his new role, as he is both the MP for Gillingham Rainham and a local councillor for Rainham Central. He might need to cut back on some of those football matches.

Internal strife within Medway Labour as ex-UKIP councillor Mark Joy tries to join party

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:

Tristan Osborne tweet

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.

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