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.
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.
The Subliminal Adverts of Fergus Wilson – full story A bit of fun this week as Keevil decided to analyse the increasingly bizarre campaign adverts of Kent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Fergus Wilson to see if anything was lurking between the lines.
Benefit cuts This weeks, MPs continued their battle with the House of Lords over cuts to disability benefit. The Lords have requested that the government carry out an impact assessment before making any changes, which you’d think would be normal anyway. MPs voted to ignore this suggestion, and push on with the cuts anyway. Both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst voted in favour of the cuts.
On Tuesday, the Cabinet will meet, where the main attraction will be deciding where the council stands on the Lower Thames Crossing, with the west variant of the proposed plan likely to be endorsed. On Wednesday, the Planning Committee will meet to decide various applications, including turning The Railway pub in Rainham into a Wetherspoons, and the redevelopment of Canal Road in Strood.
Both meetings are held at Gun Wharf, and are open to members of the public.
Medway Labour The Medway Labour website was hacked over a week ago. We helpfully pointed this out to them when we spotted it. They didn’t acknowledge that and have done nothing about it, potentially opening up visitors to their website to malicious activity.
In a curious turn of events, ConservativeUKIP Independent councillor Mark Joy was out campaigning with Labour this weekend. There’s likely lots more to come on this development.
In actual policy news, they’ve finally come out kinda-sorta in favour of the Lower Thames Crossing.
Missing, presumably because speaking at last week’s budget meeting tired them all out.
Medway Council budget smackdown ’16 – full story
On Thursday, Medway Council set it’s budget for the coming year with all of the associated political ding dongs. The meeting was a colourful event, lots of arguments about things like bulky waste collections rather than the bigger issues. It also included a formal investigation about the conduct of Cllr Michael Franklin being requested as a result of this blog.
Medway MPs in Parliament
Transitional pension arrangements The ongoing battle to sort out state pensions for women hit Parliament this week following an epetition that triggered a debate on whether or not the government should help women of a certain age who are losing out. As if the way of these things, the government took a line not to change the arrangements, with Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst both voting to keep things as they are.
In/out/shake it all about Despite nearly every Conservative MP declaring where they stand on the EU referendum, not one of our three Medway MPs have made their position clear. While Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch may have good reasons for this, Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst are still continuing the sham of pretending they don’t know where they stand, as if it’s something they’ve never considered before.
Duress, G4S A potentially explosive new revelation in the scandal over abuse carried out by G4S staff at the Rochester Secure Training Centre this week. While Medway Council has largely been able to keep itself away from the issue up until now, a story this week suggests the council could have been notified about the concerns at the facility in a letter as early as 2003. Medway Council, for their part, are claiming they are unfamiliar with the letter.
Medway UKIP At this week’s budget meeting, Medway UKIP council group leader Roy Freshwater challenged the Tories on their by-election spending. As the main victims of the supposed overspending, it’s surprising that this has been the only way Medway UKIP have found to capitalise on it.
Medway Liberal Democrats In a Christmas miracle, the Lib Dems have finally announced their candidate to be Kent Police and Crime Commissioner. Step forward, Dave Naghi! Dave has been the Lib Dem candidate in the constituency of Faversham and Mid Kent for many years, most recently coming 4th with 6.6% of the vote in 2015.
Additionally, in some actual local campaigning, they want a speed camera reinstalled in Strood. Easy now, guys.
Last night, Medway Council held it’s annual budget meeting, which aims to set out the council’s spending for the coming year. Not usually the most exciting affair, this year’s meeting managed to feature a lot of anger about bulky waste, an official investigation possibly being triggered by one of our blog posts, and an interesting revelation about the Leader of Medway Council and Sandra Bullock.
If you missed the full excitement of the meeting, you can catch up via this handy Storify collection:
Spending allegations Following serious allegations about the Conservatives possibly overspending in 2014’s Rochester and Strood by-election, Kent Police have said they will not be taking any action. The suggestion seems to be that this is due to a 12 month statutory limit in prosecutions in such cases, meaning it’s now too late to launch any action.
In/out/shake it all about With the EU referendum being officially announced for June, we’re delighted that despite all three Medway MPs being Conservatives, we have a full set of differing opinions on the subject. According to this handy spreadsheet of MP positions from Guido Fawkes, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti will be voting to remain in, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch will be voting out, while Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst used to be out, but is now in. Which, frankly, we are shocked by.
Medway Council is continuing to develop it’s Local Plan, where it needs to find room for tens of thousands of new houses over the next two decades. All of the documents for this and the ability to respond to the consultation are available via this webpage. Alternatively, you can go along to a local event to see more detail and discuss it with council officers. We went last week and found a lonely council officer, a solitary information board, and some leaflets. This week’s events are:
Medway Innovation Centre, Rochester – Tuesday (10am – noon)
Strood Sports Centre – Wednesday (2pm – 4pm)
Halling Community Centre – Thursday (2pm – 4pm)
Pilkington Building, Universities at Medway, Chatham – Friday (11.30am – 2pm)
Medway Conservatives In a fairly unusual public move, Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett has, alongside 40 MPs and 150 other councillors, signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the liberalisation of archaic Sunday trading laws.
Medway Labour The Rochester & Strood branch will be meeting this week to decide whether or not to endorse Tristan Osborne as Labour’s Kent Police & Crime Commissioner candidate. Given it’s his home constituency, this should just be a formality, but it would seem some vocal Corbyn supporters are encouraging members to turn up and vote against him, which was obviously be horribly embarrassing. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.
Medway UKIP Missing, because there’s not much going on at the moment that would be relevant to them.
Medway Green Party Constantly finding new angles to tackle the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, they have dug up an old plan for Shorne which will be somewhat decimated by a giant new road and a tunnel ploughing through the area. We await to see next week’s angle on the subject.
Serious allegations raised about Kelly Tolhurst’s campaign spending Channel 4 News crunched the numbers of the Rochester & Strood by-election in November 2014, noting that the Conservatives may have exceeded the spending limit by over £50,000. Notts Police have begun an investigation following similar claims over the Newark by-election, but so far, Kent Police have said nothing on the matter. Kelly Tolhurst has, for her part, managed to keep her head down and not make any comment on the issue.
Also this week, MPs voted to reduce the Revenue Support Grant, the main grant for funding local councils, by 24.6%. Unsurprisingly, both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst voted for the cut. Given both are also councillors on Medway Council, this may put them at odds with certain council colleagues who are unhappy with the reductions.
Medway Council is continuing to develop it’s Local Plan, where it needs to find room for tens of thousands of new houses over the next two decades. All of the documents for this and the ability to respond to the consultation are available via this webpage. Alternatively, you can go along to a local event to see more detail and discuss it with council officers. This week’s events are:
Medway Park, Gillingham – Tuesday (10am – noon)
Riverside Country Park – Thursday (11am – 2pm)
Capstone Country Park – Friday (11am – 2pm)
Rochester Farmers Market – Sunday (10am – noon)
The Rochester and Strood MP declared a total spend for the campaign of £96,793, which is just shy of the £100,000 limit. Channel 4 News have now identified additional undeclared spending amounting to £56,867, meaning her campaign would have spent more than £50,000 over the legal limit.
The largest apparently undeclared receipt obtained by Channel 4 News was in Rochester & Strood, at the four-star Bridgewood Manor hotel in Chatham, Kent.
The receipt includes 19 pages of accommodation costs along with food, drinks, tips, and conference room and equipment hire, totaling £50,228.15.
Five other receipts for the hotel add up to £963.01 – making a total £51,191.16 bill.
Of this, 446 nights’ stay and £38,112.83 fell within the regulated period of 24 October 2014 to 20 November 2014, and should have been declared.
On top of this, Channel 4 News also noted that despite operating two campaign offices during the election – one on Rochester High Street and one in the Dockside Outlet Centre – no receipts were declared for either location.
Channel 4 News has also found that two Conservative campaign centres in Rochester were not declared, including one in an expensive retail mall.
The centre, Unit 67/68 of the Dockside Outlet Centre, consisted of 3,100 square feet of space in the busy shopping mall on St Mary’s Island next to the River Medway.
A quote obtained by Channel 4 News shows the cost including rent, rates, service charge and marketing cost would have been approximately £67,052 per year.
For the 28 days of the regulated period, this would work out as £5,143.71, not including any additional expenses such as utilities and telephone costs.
There is no receipt for the unit in Ms Tolhurst’s spending return.
The campaign also used an office on the High Street, Rochester where rent, rates, and phone receipts for the campaigning period would amount to £1,387.91.
Again, no receipt was declared.
The Conservative Party maintain that all spending has been correctly recorded, while the Electoral Commission that they are aware of the allegations, but it is for the police to investigate such complaints.
Free thinkers As it’s been yet another quiet week in parliament for our Medway MPs, we thought we’d check out how rebellious each of them has been in the nine months since the general election. The answer? Not very. According to data from Public Whip, Tracey Crouch was the most rebellious, voting against the government in 0.7% in votes, while both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst haven’t rebelled once.
Rehman takes on tobacco The Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti got to ask a question at Prime Minister’s Question this week, raising the case of illegal tobacco being sold in Gillingham that had “destroyed the local economy”. As is always the case on these things, the Prime Minister promised to have a look into the matter.
Elsewhere in Parliament Rehman Chishti managed to ask another question about Pakistan, a place he seems to raise more in parliament than Gillingham or Rainham.
Rochester developments This week’s Planning Committee meeting will likely see the council agree to a proposal to demolish 32 homes on Corporation St in Rochester, to be replaced by 89 new units. This in itself is no bad thing, as Medway urgently needs housing, and the properties currently on the site are rather run down. However, the project will see the demolishing of 16 social homes, with 0 of the 89 new units being offered as social homes, or even ‘affordable housing’. The council’s own policy dictates that such developments should have a minimum of 25% affordable housing, and are still disputing with the developer on this one, but seem happy to let the project go ahead regardless.
Medway Conservatives Still missing, presumably because trying to keep Cllr Franklin off Twitter is taking up too much of their time.
Medway Labour Missing, presumably because there’s no elections to fight for a while now.
Medway UKIP A rare appearance for Medway UKIP in this section as, inexplicably, constituency chairman Chris Spalding popped up on Radio 4’s Today programme to weigh in on the upcoming EU referendum.
Medway Liberal Democrats Missing, because the last few weeks of activity now means they’re all tuckered out.
Quiet week in Parliament
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch now away on maternity leave, and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst didn’t speak in any debates this week. That left Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti as the only Medway MP to speak this week, where he only asked questions – six of them no less – on laser pointers.
Medway Conservatives Still missing, presumably because trying to keep Cllr Franklin off Twitter is taking up too much of their time.
Medway Labour This week, Medway Labour have mostly spent the week moaning about the trains. Because you can’t go wrong moaning about the trains.
Medway UKIP Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.
Missing, as they’ve probably all signed up to Labour by this point.
Lower Thames Crossing kerfuffle After months of indecisiveness, it was formally announced that the preferred option for a new crossing of the Thames would be the one that had most impact upon Medway. The planned route, involving a tunnel and new high speed road connection between the west of Strood and Essex, will now undergo a full consultation. Various councils are now forming their positions on the plan – Kent and Dartford are in favour, while Gravesham is opposed. The Medway Council cabinet don’t seem to want to commit to a position, with Regeneration lead Cllr Chitty saying she’d need to see proper detail of the infrastructure and junctions before commenting. She apparently missed that these details, and much more, were published in full on the Lower Thames Crossing website.