Control

Back in 2010, just before the last general election, Medway Council demolished the Aveling and Porter building, a heritage site. Many felt that the building should be preserved, perhaps as a heritage museum. The council thought a car park would be much nicer, at least until there’s money to be made from development.

AP2
Click to see BBC News coverage
AP3
Click to see evidence of the campaign to save the building

Will the forthcoming election result in no single party holding overall control of the council?

Photos © Phil Dillon – All Rights Reserved.

The artist is Jim Hill

The One Man Rainbow Coalition

We regularly hear about voters that don’t want to vote for any of the parties. If you live in Gillingham & Rainham and have the opposite problem, and want to vote for all of them, you have a solution: The Incredible Shifting Mike Walters!

In 2002, he resigned from the Liberal Democrats in an apparent argument about whether he could use the word Christian on his leaflets. He joined the English Democrats, where he stood for election in such various locales as Dover, Strood, and Eastleigh, never really troubling the electorate. In 2013, he was removed from the party, who accused him of doing a number of “odd” things. This was no problem for Mike! He immediately jumped to the Conservatives, where he didn’t seem to last very long. Now, he’s standing in this election as a candidate for the SDP.

Yes, the same SDP that ceased to exist in 1988.

Mike Walters Mike Walters

Click through to read the full text of each leaflet. Trust me, you’ll want to.

Before we continue, we should probably examine the photo he is using to promote his campaign again as it’s really quite something:

Mike Walters

The leaflet also includes some other ‘interesting’ points. He wants to ban sex education in schools with no detail at all, is remarkably candid about his history and personal life, and also manages to accuse current MP Rehman Chishti of being a secret Muslim.

Now if that lot combined with picture of a candidate surrounded by a bunch of anonymous, heavily armed officers doesn’t win you over, we’re not sure what will.

Jennings

Game of Wards

2015 what lies ahead

Note:

This isn’t about preferences which would have shown Medway sending a rainbow coalition of Green, Lib Dems and TUSC to Gun Wharf (again, no it wouldn’t – Ed), but rather based on our misunderstanding of numbers and how vote swings work. Also we understand that every party is working to win every seat, and every seat is(nt) a target. Also, anything is possible. But..

Medway Council

Current Administration: Conservative

Keevil Prediction: No Overall Control
Jennings Prediction: No Overall Control

Council Groups

Conservative: 31 Members
Labour: 17 Members
UKIP: 4 Members
Liberal Democrats: 3 Members

Keevil Prediction

Conservative: 24 Members
Labour: 23 Members
UKIP: 6 Members
Liberal Democrats: 2 Members

Jennings Prediction

Conservative: 23 Members
Labour: 20 Members
UKIP: 9 Members
Liberal Democrats: 3 Members

5 6 Wards to Watch

Gillingham South
Peninsula
Princes Park
Rochester East
Rochester West
Strood Rural

Keevil Analysis

The first thing you discover when you look at the numbers is how many of the wards are held with relatively large majorities, large enough so as to make you question wether the wards are even in contest. Some contests there are though, and between a potential drop in Conservative and Lib Dem vote as well as an increase in Labour and UKIP vote means there are predicted changes. This will lead to the council being under No Overall Control, which I think will be a good thing for Medway after years of single party cabinet control and a lack of scrutiny. The two main groups will have an almost similar number of wards meaning co-operation is essential.

Wards
Cuxton and Halling: Whilst I am predicting a Conservative hold, Monck, who is a parish councillor for UKIP is a big question mark. One to watch for 2019!
Gillingham North: Whilst I think this will be an easy hold for Labour, the interest is an alternate universe where in 2011 Stamp and Cooper stood and won as Labour, rather then Independents before changing. In this universe Khan stood in Gillingham South in 2011 and won, leading to a different Labour candidate in the Rochester By-Election and a different 2015 campaign.
Gillingham South: Back in this Universe 2 of the 3 current councillors are not standing for reelection. A busy polling card, will see Lib Dems reduced to one councillor, and I wouldn’t put money on that being Goeff Juby! 2 Labour Councillors, 1 of which you would expect to be Khan. A telling ward for the development of the smaller parties.
Luton and Wayfield: This could have been a Labour seat loss but I think Osborne will gain a #GE2015 recognition bounce which will see him through to 2019.
Peninsula: I was preparing to predict 2 UKIP councillors returned by the Penisula word, but with Irvine not standing in the ward, I think it is a big ask for two new UKIP candidates.
Princes Park: Seems a site for an actual contest. Current Councillor Pat Gulvin not standing for the seat currently held, adds to the interest in this ward and a seat changing to Labour.
Rainham North: Hewett’s choice to join UKIP is an interesting one, especially as it’s not with support of the seemingly better organised Rochester & Strood UKIP. Will it lead to UKIP taking the ward? Or Labour taking the seat? No.
River: With Mackinley standing in South Thanet and Mackness, who had the smaller majority in 2011, busy deselecting Conservative councillors in Rochester & Strood, Labour must feel River is for the taking. With better candidates it might have been. UKIP to do well, but not well enough.
Rochester East: To turn half purple! This is based on no rational look at the numbers. Only that the UKIP group leader has given up the Penisula seat he won with a healthy majority for a strong Labour ward. There MUST be something we don’t know otherwise the UKIP group are in serious trouble.
Rochester West: I am going to predict a labour seat gain here, but I think Tolhurst will win a #GE2015 bounce which will keep her safe until 2019.
Strood North: The two councillors contesting their seats, leaving a battle for the third seat. I’m going to say the UKIP surge won’t get them a seat, and Labour will win it.
Strood Rural: UKIP are working well in Rochester & Strood and this will lead to seats being held here, and if Mason does hold his seat that will be embarrassing for the Conservatives who deselected him.
Strood South: Had a low turnout in 2011, an increased turnout from the General Election, and a UKIP surge mixed with a Reckless bounce, means I am predicting a three way split of seats.
Walderslade: Had a large poll card in 2011, and this isn’t the case in 2015 which will change the outcome to a Labour seat gain.
Watling: This will be a very close battle, Smith will see her majority reduced by the collapse of the Medway Liberal Democrat vote, but will hold on. Chaplin will have a #GE2015 bounce but not enough to min a council seat. The battle for the second seat will see a Labour win.

Jennings Analysis

I think it’s generally accepted now that Medway Council will be under No Overall Control following this election, it’s just the exact make-up that is up for debate. My numbers are perhaps more pessimistic for the establishment parties, with the Conservatives losing 8 seats, but Labour only being able to pick up 3. This does lead to UKIP being the main beneficiaries. While their poll numbers have slipped in recent days, they have built a good infrastructure in Medway, and relatively easily topped the Euro elections in May and the Rochester by-election in November. The problem is exactly where these predictions leave us. It’s difficult to imagine either the Conservatives or Labour working with UKIP in Medway, meaning the only viable route to a council that can get anything done is a ‘grand coalition’ of the Conservatives and Labour. If the parties do decide to go down this route, there will certainly be interesting times ahead.

Wards
Cuxton and Halling: This is a tough one to call, but a combination of the incumbent Conservative councillor standing down, along with the local popularity of UKIP candidate Paul Monck means that I think he can just about pull it off.
Gillingham South: Labour are throwing the kitchen sink at Gillingham South, as it’s a ward they need to even come close to taking control of the council. They almost managed it in 2011, but if the Lib Dems are ruthless enough in their campaigning, Juby’s name recognition should be enough to help him hang on, but I definitely wouldn’t put any money on it.
Peninsula: Peninsula appears to be very fertile ground for UKIP, with them handily winning the by-election there in November. That said, their most recognisable candidate, Chris Irvine, is attempting to move wards, so they face a slightly tougher battle here, but they should at least be able to defeat the two new Conservative faces.
Princes Park: A curious ward where both sitting councillors are standing down, with both Conservatives and Labour putting forward serious candidates. I’d be inclined to say Labour can take both seats, but the Conservatives are putting forward respected former councillor Tashi Bhutia, a split ward appears to be looming.
Rainham North: The wildcard here is Vaughan Hewett’s defection to UKIP. Traditionally a safe Conservative ward, the question is whether his name alone will be able to see him through. I think it will, but it’s not entirely out of the question that the ward will turn completely blue again.
Rochester East: The most baffling thing about this ward is the decision for Medway UKIP group leader Chris Irvine to stand here. This ward has been safely held by Labour for some time, so to give up a reasonably safe position in Peninsula to stand here is one hell of a gamble. Still, these things aren’t done lightly, so UKIP must be confident that they can win here. If not, the Medway UKIP group could well be thrown into chaos post-election.
Rochester West: The Conservatives, Labour, and the Greens are all putting forward strong candidates here. Under normal conditions, this ward may well have been a strong contender to go red, but Kelly Tolhurst’s status as PPC, along with the Green’s Clive Gregory taking votes away from Labour, should be enough to see her home here.
Strood Rural: The only ward that I’m predicting to go completely UKIP, almost wholly on the name recognition of sitting councillors Mason and Rodberg. They’ll face a tough fight, but they should be able to pull off the clean seat sweep.
Strood South: An interesting one that the Conservatives, Labour, and UKIP are all fighting. The national winds should see Labour pick up a second seat here, and there’s a chance UKIP will come through and snag the third. The question though is which candidate will be able to pull it off?
Walderslade: If Labour hadn’t spectacularly screwed up their candidate selection here, they might have been able to pull it off. But as they selected two candidates, both of which pulled out, leaving two late selections, they face an uphill battle here.
Watling: I was originally going to predict the Lib Dems winning both seats here as a result of UKIP taking from the Conservative vote. UKIP have decided not to run here though, making the battle tougher for the Lib Dems. Sitting councillor Diana Smith is incredibly popular though, and combined with the name recognition of Gillingham PPC Paul Chaplin, if they are ruthless enough in their campaigning, they should just be able to pull it off.

Ward Breakdowns

  1. Chatham Central (current: 3Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Labour
  2. Cuxton and Halling (current: 1 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 1 UKIP
  3. Gillingham North (current:3 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Labour
  4. Gillingham South (current: 2 Liberal Democrat1 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat
  5. Hempstead and Wigmore (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  6. Lordswood and Capstone (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  7. Luton and Wayfield (current: 3 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Labour
  8. Peninsula (current: 2 Conservative1 UKIP)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative, 1 UKIP
    Jennings Prediction: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative
  9. Princes Park (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
  10. Rainham Central (current: 3 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Conservative
  11. Rainham North (current: 1 Conservative1 UKIP)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP
    Jennings Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP
  12. Rainham South (current: 3 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Conservative
  13. River (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  14. Rochester East (current: 2 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Labour, 1 UKIP
    Jennings Prediction: 1 Labour, 1 UKIP
  15. Rochester South and Horsted (current: 3 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Conservative
  16. Rochester West (current:2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  17. Strood North (current: 2 Conservative, 1 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Labour, 1 Conservative
  18. Strood Rural (current: 1 Conservative2 UKIP)
    Keevil Prediction: 2 UKIP, 1 Conservative
    Jennings Prediction: 3 UKIP
  19. Strood South (current: 2 Conservative1 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Labour, 1 Conservative, 1 UKIP
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Labour, 1 UKIP
  20. Twydall (current: 3 Labour)
    Keevil Prediction: 3 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 3 Labour
  21. Walderslade (current: 2 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Conservative, 1 Labour
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Conservative
  22. Watling (current: 1 Liberal Democrat1 Conservative)
    Keevil Prediction: 1 Labour, Liberal Democrat
    Jennings Prediction: 2 Liberal Democrat

To read our General Election Predictions

Introducing Medway Elects

MedElects3

A little over four years ago, I introduced the world to my latest project, Democracy in Practice, with far more fanfare than it probably deserved. It was, essentially, a collection of Medway Council election results and basic councillor details (i.e. their allowances) presented on a primitive site that looked like it belonged in 1997. After the local elections in 2011, I moved away from Medway and started to migrate the format to my new-found home in Birmingham, although I didn’t live there long enough to complete the project and launch. I know that Democracy in Practice had its fans, but I was never happy with the look and feel of the site. I have always been a programmer, never a designer. So when the code started to show flaws, and I got involved in other projects which took up my time, I switched the site off and let the domain name expire. I thought that would be the end of the story. Today, I am launching Medway Elects. We are 25 days away from the most important, and most unpredictable, general election in my lifetime – and, on the very same day, voters in Medway have a chance to change the makeup of Medway Council. I felt Democracy in Practice could live again, but it needed a major facelift – and a lot of changes under the hood to make it function in exactly the way it should. I got to work building the basic site layout first of all. I modelled it on another website I had built for an Air Cadet project. It’s not flash – just easier to navigate and more pleasing to the eye. I am also working on building a mobile-friendly version. Next, I rewrote the code from scratch – using Democracy in Practice as a strong foundation – and began adding new elements to the website. Medway Elects still contains election results (plus newly-added turnout figures, where available), including the ability to see each candidate’s electoral (and, where they have served on the council, allowances) history. But I am pleased to have been able to add electoral history for Medway’s three parliamentary constituencies (running from 1997). I am also excited to have been able to programme in various graphs to better illustrate party support and how it has changed over time. MedElects2 Clearly, as a party activist, I have never been able to lay claim to being an independent observer (although I have, in the past, had quiet words spoken in my ear for making independent observations on my blog or Twitter), but that is even more true now that I am standing in my first election as a candidate. However, Medway Elects is independent – it contains simply facts and figures, without any spin. Nothing on the site is designed to persuade anyone to vote for any particular candidate, with the only exception being the “Social Media” page, where anybody using the Twitter hashtag #medwayelects can join in the conversation. MedElects1 Perhaps the most exciting part of the Medway Elects which I am launching today is that it is not the finished article. I am continuing to explore additional improvements to the site – although most of these will come after the election, for obvious reasons. Until then, you can explore Medway Elects in all its glorious local political geekiness at www.medwayelects.co.uk. P.S. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors of this blog for their valuable advice over the past couple of weeks. Their contribution spurred me on to adding new features and tweaking what I had already created. You too can help make Medway Elects even better by letting me know what you’d like to see added.

They Shall Not Pass

The first in a series of photo blogs looking at places, people and events in the Medway Towns

“About 30 members of the far right party Britain First came to Rochester to try to do a bit of hate speech fluffing for UKIP. They were outnumbered, outwitted and outclassed by the good people of Rochester who weren’t going to let them desecrate the war memorial with their presence, and sent home. A proud day for Rochester and a ringing endorsement of people power and the strength of a united community. The police were great too”

All photos © Phil Dillon All Rights Peserved
© Phil Dillon All Rights Reserved
All photos © Phil Dillon All Rights Peserved
© Phil Dillon All Rights Reserved
All photos © Phil Dillon All Rights Peserved
© Phil Dillon All Rights Reserved

 “Unfortunately, Rochester went on to vote UKIP”

Phil Dillon

Game of Seats

Note:
This isn’t about preferences which would have shown Medway sending a rainbow coalition of Green, Lib Dems and TUSC (no it wouldn’t – Ed) to parliament, but rather based on our misunderstanding of numbers and how vote swings work.
Also we understand that every party is working to win every seat, and every seat is(nt) a target.
Also anything is possible. But….

Our meaning:
Small Majority: Under 1,000
Medium Majority: 1,000-3,000
Large Majority: Over 3,000

At least 5% of the vote is needed to keep the deposit.

 

Chatham & Aylesford

Conservative win from Labour in 2010.
Labour’s only target seat in the area.

Keevil Prediction

Conservative win. Medium majority.
Greens, Lib Dems, TUSC and Christian People’s Alliance to lose their deposits.

Keevil Analysis

It will be close, but not as close as it could have been. A mixture of Crouch being a hard-working and likeable MP and Labour understandably focusing on winning Gun Wharf. Also anything could and maybe does happen in Aylesford.

Jennings Prediction

Conservative win. Medium majority.
Greens, Lib Dems, TUSC, and Christian People’s Alliance to lose their deposits.

Jennings Analysis

It’s a bit of a boring start, but I’m with Keevil on this one. Crouch has proven herself to be an outstanding constituency MP, and her only competitor is Tristan Osborne, who perhaps not put across the best image for his party. He’ll increase the Labour vote compared to 2010 thanks to the electoral winds, but Crouch should be retaining here.

Gillingham & Rainham

Conservative win from Labour in 2010
Not a target seat.

Keevil Prediction

Conservative win. Large Majority.
Greens, TUSC and independent candidates to lose their deposits.
Naushabah Khan, Councillor, to stand and do better in 2020.

Keevil Analysis

A backward step for Labour re-standing Clark, who was soundly beaten by Chisthi in 2010, and nothing since then, not Chisthi’s questionable voting record on equal rights or Clark’s support of a primary school in Twydall has changed that. If Clark has stepped aside for new blood he could have continued to support as an elder statesmen of the local party.

Jennings Prediction

Conservative win. Large majority.
Greens, TUSC, and independent candidates to lose their deposits.

Jennings Analysis

Well this is all a bit boring, isn’t it? Chishti hasn’t been the strongest local MP, but he’s built up a reasonable level of support in the community. Paul Clark, who vanished from the area for a while following his loss, is locally popular, but also too tainted by the sins of Labour past. Again, he’ll improve on his vote from 2010, but it won’t be enough to allow any other than a strong result for Chishti. This is the one seat in Medway where the Lib Dems can possibly retain their deposit, but reaching that 5% of the vote will be a struggle here, but their levels of support in Gillingham should be able to see them through.

Rochester & Strood

Conservative win from Labour in 2010.
UKIP by-election win in 2014.
Conservative (non)-target seat.

Keevil Prediction

Conservative Win. Small Majority
Lib Dems and TUSC to lose their deposits

Keevil Analysis

This depends on whether you think there will be a UKIP surge and whether the Conservative machine turns up to vote.
Whilst UKIP will do well in the peninsula, where other parties except TUSC seem to avoid. The Conservative machine will turn out, in spite of, not necessarily because of Tolhurst.
Having bloodied the Government nose in the by-election, a late result will show UKIP should have favoured Proportional Representation, not First Past The Post.

Jennings Prediction

UKIP win. Small majority.
Lib Dems and TUSC to lose their deposits.

Jennings Analysis

Finally, an area of disagreement! UKIP have developed a strong local infrastructure in Rochester and Strood (emphasis on the latter part there). While the national party may not be able to throw the same resources at the seat as in the by-election, the recent publicity from that and the local groundwork will be enough to see them home here, albeit on a wafer thin majority. Which means to say the Conservatives could still squeak it. A lot of that potential depends on convincing tactical voters to come to them purely to keep UKIP out, but if they couldn’t manage that in a by-election, they likely can’t here either. The Greens are the party to watch here, to see if they can capitalise on their strong by-election performance and just about manage to hang onto their deposit.

 

To read our Local Election Predictions

Medway Council responds to “Grain’s ‘China Syndrome'”

Dear Keevil

Jack Hope has not been ignored by the Council, which has responded to multiple letters and emails, raised directly by Jack Hope or numerous other people, seeking answers on his behalf.  The Council, to enable all residents in Grain village to raise concerns on off-site planning and the safety of the Grain LNG site, held a public meeting where residents posed questions to the site operator, senior officers from the Council, Health & Safety Executive, Kent Police and Kent Fire & Rescue Services.  Mr Hope has also approached these organisations in a similar way to the Council.

The Council’s off-site Emergency Plan for the National Grid, Grain LNG Importation Terminal contains specific information on site operations, including the emergency responses of the operator and the emergency services.

The Grain LNG operator distributes information to residents and businesses in an area determined by the Health & Safety Executive on the hazards on the LNG site and the actions that the public should take in the event of an off-site emergency.  Based on the hazards associated with the Grain LNG site the advice is. Go In, Stay In, Tune In.

St James’ Church of England Primary Academy and St James’ Children’s Centre is outside of this determined area.

Using the term “Fallout” is unhelpful as it refers to radioactive particles and the Grain LNG site is not a nuclear facility.

The emergency services are satisfied with the location of the barriers

There is no evacuation plan for Grain village as the main hazard from the LNG site is either a dispersing gas cloud or heat from fire if the vapour ignited. The advice is ‘Go In, Stay In, Tune In’.

None of the LNG safety leaflets have stated casualty figures.

In addition to the Grain village siren, which is tested annually, the Council provide, free of charge, an emergency notification service which will, if residents subscribe, send an email, text or phone call to landline or mobile alerting them to an off-site incident at the Grain LNG site.  This is tested annually.

To register for the emergency notification service:

http://www.medway.gov.uk/crimenuisanceandsafety/emergencyplanning/comah.aspx

Regards,

Robin Cooper

Director of Regeneration, Community and Culture

(Delayed) Reaction ‘Return to Rochester & Strood’

Sunday Politics South East: 1st March

In the studio is Mark Reckless (former Conservative councillor and then MP, then UKIP MP, now UKIP PPC), Craig Mackinley (former UKIP Leader, then Conservative councillor, now Conservative PPC) and Naushabah Khan (former Labour PPC, now Labour PPC). The presence of Mackinley is fine – he is after all a councillor in Rochester’s River ward, but he is a PPC for South Thanet, not Rochester like the other two PPCs, which is what the main segment is about. It does raise the unasked question of where is Kelly Tolhurst (Conservative councillor and former Conservative PPC, now Conservative councillor and PPC).

Another unasked question is if Farage – rhymes with garage – loses South Thanet and thus the UKIP leadership, are Reckless and Mackinley potential future UKIP leaders? (No. No, they aren’t. – Jennings)

Following the discussion of the UKIP conference piece, I would make a joke about Khan feeling the need to make a point about being from an immigrant background, and feeling uncomfortable about watching a UKIP documentary, despite continuing to watch it, but as the show points out she is an amateur boxer, I just want to say: well said Naushabah, well said.

Head to 11 mins and 43 secs for the ‘Return to Rochester and Strood’ and for what it’s worth, I hate that opening and the rubbish random horror gag.

Is a majority of over 2,500 really an only just victory? How many thousand would tip it into comfortable win? Is there a scale?

We are taken into a long drawn out could it be UKIP or Tory, only to get a ‘we just don’t know’. I really dislike the music and voice over.

There follows a series of mini interviews:

Kelly Tolhurst: At the time there was the Conservative website leak that the constituency was a non-target. It was promptly visited by Mr and Mrs Cameron, on separate occasions. So is it a target? Or is it a target in the Labour sense of everywhere is a target?
Strong words from Tolhurst ‘I know the people, I know the place.’ Tolhurst disappoints however: She has yet to be seen, despite her words, with her sleeves rolled up.

Clive Gregory: Strong opening, ‘I’m not here because I want to become an MP..’ that’ll get you a vote for MP every time. There is a valid idea that the best way to actually put pressure on the government is to become an MP.

Goeff Juby: SPSE starts off by spelling it Geoff which is awkward, though not nearly as awkward as interviewing him after the disastrous by-election result, or that he is no longer the candidate.
And then it gets awkward(er) when he sets the Lib Dems the target of returning to over 7,000 votes, but I suppose that’s fine when its up to somebody else to do.
They cut to a wide shot, but cut back before Juby has a chance to point out some potholes.

Rochester & Strood is described as part of the new battleground. I can see that in the by-election, but the general election?

Back in the studio, where we discover that Tolhurst was invited but is too busy, and thus why Mackinley is stepping in.

Khan is asked ‘Ed is your biggest handicap’ that actually isn’t a question, but I think that’s my poor note taking. This was all before ‘hell yes, I’m tough enough’.
Khan’s then asked what she is going to do differently, and the answer she gives is to do everything the same. Which presumably includes coming third.
Khan does however hold her own, talking of pounding doors, amidst disbelief of any effect.

Mackinley is asked if he would have won the by-election.
‘Who knows’ comes the response, which isn’t a ringing endorsement of himself or Tolhurst. It could be argued he was being honest, but in the run up to an election you perhaps want a ‘Kelly did the best all considered and will do better in May’.
Not ‘I wasn’t in the pool’.

Reckless then takes everybody by surprise by ignoring this is an election and trying to talk positively about issues. Khan is particularly aghast when he says Labour were right on the NHS.
Which as he pointed out was in his blood.
When reproached on his voting record by Mackinley, he states he believed Ministers, but they were wrong and he is free of that now.
So did Chisthi and Crouch also vote based on wrong information from ministers?

Reckless is then cut off from speaking further, which is surely a sign of the media’s obligatory anti-UKIP bias.

 Keevil

 

Left Disunity

 

Left Unity was formed in 2013, after Ken Loach’s “Spirit of 45” documentary and a call for a new voice of the left.

‘Labour is part of the problem, not the solution’
Ken Loach

The Labour left has all but disappeared, being left of the Conservatives or UKIP isn’t the same as being on the Left, and sadly Tony Benn has passed away.

‘Viewing the Greens many admirable policies, but lack analysis for fundamental change.
Calling for a new party, democratic, principled and properly organised.’ Ken Loach

Medway Left Unity was formed soon after. Keevil did not go to the launch, but Jennings did and reached the conclusion that it probably wasn’t for him when someone declared that they wanted to “kill the fucking Tories” to the approval of many in the room.

Medway Left Unity is listed on Left Unity’s website of local branches, yet when Left Unity launched there 2015 manifesto, from a squat in Soho, Medway’s Left Unity were silent.

Since we launched this blog we have repeatedly requested comment from Medway Left Unity, in the beginning were informed of MLU’s GE2015 intentions, and then asked not to publish and we would receive official word.

And we never did.

Left Unity, the new voice of the left, democratic, principled and properly organised is not standing parliamentary candidates in Medway in 2015.

To no fanfare and little notice they decided and much later announced that they would instead be supporting TUSC candidates.

We contacted MLU for confirmation and received no reply.

So all things considered, what’s left for what’s left?

– Is this the Labour left? (The guy in the background)

– Joining MLU and support TUSC who have taken aim at Medway Greens, their former anti-cuts comrades, over Brighton Greens implementing council cuts, showing that TUSC are the only anti-austerity party to seemingly no response from the Greens?

– Or join the party of the NHS, and no tax on minimum wage, that sounds left?

Are watermelon’s the political Jabberwocky?

 

Grain’s ‘China Syndrome’

Grain village is on the Isle of Grain, part of the Rochester & Strood constituency, and on the edge of the Thames estuary.

Grain

On the island is a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant owned by National Grid, which was expanded upon with giant gas storage tanks, moving it closer to the village.

One Grain resident, Jack Hope, has since 2011 been questioning the validity of any emergency plan and been vitriolic on social media on the issues. Calling many local politicians out on the situation, this has left many of them, some of whom feel they are not being given a fair deal having previously engaged with Jack, to ignore and in some cases, block him. As a result, many were reluctant to engage with us for this piece, if at all, due to not wanting re-engage with the issue or Jack Hope, who has been viewed as ‘obsessive’ and ‘abusive’. We want to make it clear that whilst we have used information provided by Jack, this is not a piece by him, and not a piece written with the intention of unreservedly supporting him.

Jack posted the following comment on Facebook before the publication of this post.

“A big thankyou to Steven Keevil & Ed Jennings for taking the time to at least ask questions about my concerns.
I could be about to be torn apart here or I could be shown to be right that my questions deserve answers and that the safety here in Grain should not be hidden in redacted documents. Whatever this blog shows, Steven & Ed have taken the time to write this up and to put across my views and the views of certain Politicians.
If the Politicians in Medway had not been so devious in their attitude to being questioned publicly then maybe the off site plan would today be fit for purpose and not hidden away. ( For the record I have no Idea what the centre and whats left have written. ) All I ask for is the airtime to be heard and to show how politicians here in Medway have placed people in danger zones so that National Grid can profit. Kids are at risk and politicians are trying to hide that fact!!
Thanks Ed & Steve looking forward to reading your blog.”

I’m not going to go into detail about LNG here, for which there are environmental concerns, or about the nature of LNG storage, for which there is evidence of hazards.

There are two main concerns to consider;
1) There have been allegations that the Emergency Plan for the island, in case there was a serious incident, has been hidden and redacted.
2) That children have  been placed in a danger zone.

A map dated 2010, the most up to date we have seen, shows the outer zone in the event of an incident would affect the whole village, and we are given to understand the current plan requires a manual barrier to be placed on Grain road, to stop people driving into the incident, Jack maintains the planned site for the barrier, is in the wrong place.

map 2010

Medway Council and National Grid have in the past maintained that there is little likelihood of an incident, and that is why no public evacuation test has been done. Jack Hope believes this to be one of many unsatisfactory conditions, including the fact that;
– the village fire station is not manned 24/7,
– there is no clear plan to deal with panic should an incident occur,
– or any plan to evacuate the village.

‘Stay home, tune in’ is the best advice given by the council.

In 2011 Cllr Mike Obrien responded by saying:
“I’m confident that I can say to the people of Grain. You have nothing to fear”

The worst case scenario that is acknowledged, maintains that the incident would be contained to the LNG site, and that any attempt to evacuate would result in residents or first responders being placed in danger. If residents go home and stay there they can be contacted and found. The river and beach front then used to bring services to the island. First responders only responding when a risk assessment had been carried out.

Robin Cooper, Medway Council’s Director of Regeneration, Community and Culture, said at the time that a new escape road would be unworkable.

What didn’t help the situation, if not caused the situation, is the reported dropping of an LNG safety leaflet which incorrectly stated significantly high casualty figures as a possibility. More people in fact then lived in the village, which Cooper stated was a blunder. This led to several meetings to be called, meetings which did not alleviate the fears of all residents.

There is a belief that telecommunications would not be vulnerable, despite them traveling past the LNG site, and that the residents homes would provide suitable shelter, offering a safer option then any attempt to evacuate, with Grain having approximately 2,000 residents. Jack Hope’s concerns being for those not in their homes, and for those at school. Would children be safe in those buildings during an incident?

Have children been placed in danger? It is an incredibly emotive question. The 2012 plans are confidential, as they contain sensitive information and intended for emergency responders. There has been no public consultation, and it was suggested that it was actions by Jack Hope that led to previous plans being removed from public view, though we do not know what those actions were.

Jack Hope has requested that a compensation package be made available to those residents of the village who wish to relocate due to the LNG site.

The councils Health & Safety Executive are satisfied the current plan is well tested with an emergency notification system and a warning siren, which Jack insists is not sufficient. And the council insists that the school is beyond any danger zone, though again Jack points out the consideration of wind carrying any fallout.

“Should something happen to the LNG facility it would affect the whole of the Medway towns in a worse case scenario.”
Chris Sams, council candidate for the Liberal Democrats

TUSC candidate for the Peninsula Chas Berry does believe that children have been placed in danger for this very reason.

We spoke with Vince Maple, Labour Group Leader, and a significant target for Jack’s anger.

“We met with Jack because in the large amount of emails there was legitimate concerns… one being the siren system, which is now louder.
Glyn Griffiths and I visited the National Grid LNG plant – I am not “on the payroll” when I say it seemed to be well run and as safe as possible.
With regards redacted files, the plant is a site of National Interest, there will be redacted information, which the public, which I as leader of the council opposition do not have a right to see. I think that for national security that is acceptable.”

Have children been placed into a danger zone?

“I don’t believe this is a simple yes or no.

When a child crosses the road they are at risk, but using the green cross code and safe driving dramatically reduces that risk.
So is there is a risk, but the risks are being managed.”

Mark Reckless, the UKIP MP for Rochester & Strood, of which the Village of Grain is part of told us

“Jack’s approach hasn’t necessarily encouraged bodies to co-operate, but when he started he drew attention to important issues;
1) the evacuation plan involved the parish council, something they weren’t aware of and hadn’t agreed to.
2) The siren which had been installed wasn’t sufficient and hadn’t been fully tested.
3) I ensured that a senior HSE representative came to a meeting of Grain residents, and I feel this meeting was constructive and showed safety was being taken seriously.

I have visited the site three times, and before I visited the LNG I met with other MPs researching LNG sites and I was satisfied the plant was well run and they take safety extremely seriously, for what is in a worst case scenario a horrific outcome.
It is a concern about the information that is available, but there is a trade of between local concerns and National Grid/ Police concerns about making information available to those that would do us harm.”

Have children been placed into a danger zone?

“I think there is a small, a tiny, possibility, as there would be when you store that much gas in one place, although the temperature it stores at mitigates against the risk. I believe HSE believe the most stringent measures in place.”

It is our measured and non-scientific or expert opinion that whilst there is a real risk with LNG, just as there is with any gas storage, it is unlikely to cause the destruction of Grain village, however the lack of clear continual communication on the issue has given the appearance of a conspiracy to hide the fact that people, including children, have been placed in danger without care or consideration.

A clear frustration for Jack Hope is that he is the only person talking about this. A clear frustration for others is that Jack Hope is talking about this.

Following the issue becomes difficult for some on social media, with Jack’s passion being a barrier to some from using Facebook groups where Jack can frequently be found accusing many of Medway’s local politicians for being silent and complicit in the danger. We contacted members of each party regarding this post and there was reluctance to speak with us and answer questions on this issue because of the connection with Jack, and he needs to take some responsibility for poisoning the well of available information, and muddying the water of available information, on this issue.

Medway Council refused to answer any of our questions seeking clarity on the points above, citing the fact that we had been in contact with Jack Hope as the reason.

Parish councillor Chris Fribbins said on his blog:
“with hindsight the worst thing I did was trying to help you (Jack) in the first place”

We hope that isn’t true for us at this blog also. If so, then this was written by Jennings.

Keevil