Cleaning Up Their Pledges

In politics, making a pledge to help you get elected is a fairly standard thing. Particularly for the challenging upstart trying to separate themselves from the tired incumbent. Some are fairly minor, some are fairly major, others (if you’re Liberal Democrat Independent Labour councillors) are made to be broken.

Going into the 2010 General Election, distrust in politicians was rife following the expenses scandal. This offered those candidates vying to become new MPs a great opportunity to make themselves seem like better, more open candidates. So it was, that all three Medway Conservative candidates signed up to Tracey Crouch’s Clean Campaign Pledge. Much of this was centred around fighting a good, clean campaign, but it also included a whole section on what all three (Crouch, along with Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless) would do if elected to make themselves more transparent.

Well, all three were elected, so let’s see how they have done.

Pledge 1

To publish online details of all of personal expenses incurred as a Member of Parliament.

Pledge 2

To publish online details of all office expenses incurred as a Member of Parliament.

These should be the easiest ones for any candidate to comply with – all each of them had to do was publish their expenses. Not one of the candidates has managed to do this is in full. Tracey Crouch comes the closest, having an ‘Expenses’ page on her website, with some information on things she has claimed, along with her full expenses for the current financial year. It’s unfortunate that the data for the previous years isn’t also listed, but it’s better than nothing.

Nothing being exactly what we get from Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless. Indeed, when you search for the word ‘expenses’ on Chishti’s website, this is what happens:

Chishti expenses

Now, if we could play devil’s advocate for a moment, the full expenses of all three MPs are available via IPSA – but that’s a bit of a pain in the balls, and not exactly meeting the pledge to publish their expenses online.

Pledge 3

To publish online details of all donations in line with Electoral Commission rules.

None of the three have seemingly met this particular target, at least not in terms of publishing the data themselves. Again, most like the expenses pledge above, the information is online, as the data is taken from the Register of Member’s Interests where they are published, and placed online by websites like They Work For You. These websites do a great job, but we’d suggest the average constituent probably wouldn’t know where to look to find this data, and would struggle to understand parts of it even if they found it.

Still, the data for each MP is here, so feel free to try and make what you can of it: Tracey Crouch / Rehman Chishti / Mark Reckless

Pledge 4

To appoint a local firm of auditors to approve expenses accounts at the end of every financial year.

Pledge 5

To open up the unedited expenses claims to local newspapers at the end of every financial year.

We have no idea if these pledges have been met or not. We couldn’t find any references to these local auditors on the websites for any of the MPs, nor anywhere else. The pledge regarding opening up expenses claims to local newspapers may or may not have been done, but those newspapers should have the sense to throughly trawl from the IPSA records regardless, so it doesn’t really matter.

Pledge 6

Never to claim for food, furniture or household goods.

This pledge has been absolutely met by Tracey Crouch – she has never claimed for any of these things during her nearly five years in office. Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless haven’t claimed for furniture or households goods, but they have claimed for food, albeit to feed their interns. Which given they seem to be unpaid (Chishti for one advertises this fact), it seems fairly hard to begrudge.

Pledge 7

To meet all tax liabilities – such as stamp duty – without claiming them from the taxpayer.

This pledge has been met in full by Tracey Crouch and Rehman Chishti – neither of them have ever claimed  any kind of tax liability from the taxpayer.

The same can’t be said of Mark Reckless though, who has claimed £4,799.89 in council tax in his time in Parliament. Now, to be clear, he is perfectly entitled to do so, but it’s fairly difficult to square this with the above pledge.

Overall, none of our current MPs have done exceptionally well with their pledges – Tracey Crouch is definitely the closest, and if she had the full five years on her website, we’d basically be there. Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless have come out of this less well. True, most of the information they promised to publish is publicly available in some way, but only if you know how to find it – they certainly haven’t made it easy for their constituents to find the information.

Jennings

What is Past is Prologue

past-is-prologue

In 2010 future Prime Minister, David Cameron, started his campaign in Gillingham, whilst the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown started at Morrisons in Strood.

This is because in the British electoral system, not every vote is equal. And the three Medway seats were hotly contested as they had a high chance of switching parties. They were, and had been since 1997, held by Labour.

illusion of choice

The 2010 General Election saw the Conservatives sweep the parliamentary seats in Medway, when; Tracey Crouch beat Jonathan Shaw for the Chatham and Aylesford seat, former Labour councillor Rehman Chishti, now Conservative PPC, won the Gillingham and Rainham seat from Paul Clark, and Mark Reckless beat Teresa Murray for the Rochester and Strood seat after Bob Marshall-Andrews chose not to defend his seat.

In 2011, all 22 of Medway’s council wards were contested as part of the four yearly cycle of local elections and resulted in the Conservative group maintaining control as they had done since 2003.  Things continued uneventfully in a theatrical ‘they said this, they said that’ style of minimal scrutiny and maximum point scoring that the Council leaders expected and accepted. Issues like Rochester airport expansion and the moving of Strood library are endlessly discussed, with little meaningful progress ever really made.

In 2014, an event occurred which was more shocking then discovering that ‘there is gambling going on in this establishment’: Mark Reckless MP defected to UKIP. This caused a by-election in Rochester and Strood. As a result of this, political turmoil descended on the towns: Britain First protested a proposed mosque in Gillingham, Medway residents protested against Britain First, a UKIP council group appeared on Medway Council, Mark Reckless based his entire campaign on opposing a development he previously supported, and Rochester and Strood residents voted for change by re-electing him back into office.

Will the Medway constituencies be visited by national leaders during the 2015 election? At this stage it seems likely, if only because the good folks of Rochester and Strood haven’t suffered enough in recent months.