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.

6 comments

  • Don’t recall so much fuss when Andy Stamp and Pat Cooper jumped the LIb Dem ship to go independent before being welcomed into the local Labour ranks… After all Master Stamp was hardly flattering toward Labour candidate Paul Clark when he stood against him for MP. Still anything for a bit of company especially when no one else ever wants to talk with you and they did remove all that really nasty stuff from Twitter!

  • It appears is a political opportunist, joining a party that suits his needs, there is an obvious lack of loyalty in the way he leads his political life. It would appear he is far from being a left wing socialist man, unlikely to have any loyalty to the Leader of our party, that suits many of the current labour group!!!
    The local labour group must be really desperate to welcome Mark Joy in to the fold, shame on you all, if you allow it too happen.

  • I absolutely agree with Alan Higgins.

    An application from Mark Joy to join Labour would be not welcomed by most local party members and those who have encouraged him to submit one have shown an astonishing lack of loyalty to colleagues who stood against him in May last year.

    I hope Mark saves himself months of hostility by remaining independent.

    • Thanks Glenn, I am a true socialist, proud to be on the left wing of the party. There are too many locally that are prepared to compromise their labour values to welcome a complete right winger into the Labour group, in all honesty they should be ashamed by their actions. Mark Joy is a political player who is using some members of the Medway Labour group to achieve his own ends.

  • If this true, its immoral to jump from UKIP on the right to Labour on the left. CLLR joy resign stand again.

  • I was so pleased with my fellow EC members in the Gillingham & Rainham CLP, who all supported the condemnation of Mark Joy being allowed to attend meetings of Rochester & Strood CLP. There was total support that Mark Joy should not be allowed to join the Labour Party or the Medway Labour group.

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