(Delayed) Reaction: Winning Back Medway

During the Sunday Politics South East (SPSE) on 15th Feb there was a piece entitled ‘Winning Back Medway’ book-ended with an interview with Medway’s own Labour PPC for Chatham & Aylesford, Cllr Tristan Osborne. We at The Centre and What’s Left thought it would be good to consider and counterpoint the piece, and a month later, here that is!

The programme makes the valid starting point that Medway should/ could be a key battleground – we covered this with Medway Voter Power – yet only Chatham & Aylesford appears on the target list for Labour, whilst Rochester & Strood is in a nexus point of being/not being a target ward for the Conservatives. Whether Chatham & Aylesford is a target for Tonbridge & Malling Liberal Democrats remains unclear, but we probably all know the answer to that.

Former MP for Gillingham & Rainham Paul ‘confident of a Labour comeback’ Clark appeared in the piece full of political bluster. He is obviously not going to appear on SPSE and say Rehman Chisthi has a clear lead, even if he does. Clark stated he is

“determined the Labour Party wouldn’t forget about Gillingham and Rainham”

If he is true to his word we can expect additions to ‘Our Honoured Guests’.

The piece goes on to interview the Prime Minister, in Chatham, the Labour target. Yet he fails to mention he was there with Conservative PPC for Rochester & Strood Kelly Tolhurst, not Tracey Crouch MP, because whilst the location was Chatham, the constituency was Rochester & Strood.

The presenter then hits the high street to vox pop our way to meaningless insights. Asking people who they would vote for, then showing the party leaders for the Conservatives and Labour, rather than Tracey Crouch MP and PPC Tristan Osborne, who they can actually vote for (ignoring this is a High street, so the people being asked might not even live in Chatham). The meaninglessness was compounded when residents were also offered Nigel Farage, somebody else they can’t vote for, and at the time of writing UKIP don’t have a candidate standing in Chatham & Aylesford!

In the main show Labour PPC Tristan ‘I am aspirational’ Osborne appears to discuss issues live, there is no sign or mention of Tracey Crouch the MP for Chatham & Aylesford in the whole show. Importantly however they do point out that Tristan did use to be a choirboy, and he for good measure points out that ignoring the concept of target seats Labour are “fighting to win every seat”, it will be interesting to see how good a fighter they really are for the Medway seats, and if they do have a full slate of 55 Medway Council Candidates, name them.

“Will be announcing that on Saturday (21st March) as well as launching local government manifesto”
Cllr Vince Maple. Labour Group Leader

Keevil

 

 

 

No Medway Lib Dems willing to stand in Rochester & Strood

Given the disastrous result for the Lib Dems in the Rochester & Strood by-election, it was going to be a brave soul that would be willing to become the candidate for the upcoming general election.

Happily though, the party have selected their candidate. Step forward, Prue Bray!

Prue Bray

Not being familiar with this particular local Lib Dem, we decided to find out a little bit more about her. It didn’t take long to notice this:

Prue Bray Twitter

It’s not entirely uncommon for candidates to be brought in from outside the constituency, and there should be no illusions that the Lib Dems are the only party to partake in this.

Still, the Medway Lib Dems are perhaps in a worse state than thought if they have to bus in a candidate 60 miles to stand in a seat they’ll never win.

Jennings

How is Rehman Chishti an MP and a Councillor?

The second in a series of posts, ‘inFrequently Answered Questions’ all Medway; parties, MPs and candidates, have been invited to answer and we will update should further answers be presented.
The answers are presented here unedited.
If you have an iFAQ then leave it as a comment and we will attempt to get it answered for you.

 

“I don’t understand how he is either.”
Jacqui Berry, TUSC PPC for Gillingham and Rainham

“Because he was elected as both.”
Cllr Chris Irvine, leader of UKIP council group, UKIP councillor for Peninsula

“He was elected.”
Cllr Tristan Osborne, Labour PPC for Chatham and Aylesford

“He ran in a local & general election. Not a really good idea as it has left him very stretched & can’t be much help to his ward mates.” 
Chris Sams, Liberal Democrat council candidate for Gillingham South

“Both positions are attainable subject to winning a respective election. Rehman Chishti stood as both a Parliamentary candidate and a local candidate in the 2011 local elections, and Rehman achieved the highest poll in the Medway towns.
As he won both elections he holds both offices and manages his time to support his constituents utilising both roles as appropriate, as both roles involve representing the same constituents. Since becoming a Member of Parliament Rehman has not claimed any expenses from Medway Council and has saved the taxpayer £34,923”

Cllr Mike O’Brien, Conservative councillor for Rainham Central

Vote for Policies 2015

When Jennings and Keevil undertook this political blogging mini-adventure, they wanted to be open about their politics and so they used a variety of tools to demonstrate this.

One of those tools was Vote for Policies and as the title suggests it has been updated for 2015 policies.

Two clear differences this time: The first is no BNP.

The second is more meaningful. Your first option is to decide whether policies are something you would definitely vote for or not.

And this was interesting because presented this way, unattached to a party name. there were policies that you might not vote for, but you also potentially wouldn’t definitely not vote for them.

 

So how did Jennings and Keevil do?

Here we will be presenting the results of their 2015 vote. Later blogs will look at individual policy areas and invited others to comment and counterpoint those.


If you want to take the Vote for Policies 2015

(For full transparency it should be made clear that Keevil contributed to a crowdfunding site to support VfP2015, and received a sticker)

VfP2015c

VfP2015b

Potentially interesting points to notice.

Jennings not Lib Dem areas of choice are evenly split between the other parties, including Conservative and UKIP. His support for Conservative education policy will undoubtedly be an area of future conflict with Keevil.

Keevil’s support for Green policies has declined since VfP 2010, most notably like Jennings supporting the Liberal Democrats policy on the environment, which arguable identifies why he is no longer a member of the Green party.

Would the real UKIP candidate please stand up?

On Monday the 23rd of February, while Nigel Farage was in town announcing UKIP health policy, a funny thing happened. Mark Reckless introduced the audience to Mark Hanson, UKIP’s newly selected parliamentary candidate for Gillingham & Rainham.

Mark Hanson isn’t without history in the party – he was originally selected as the UKIP candidate for Rochester & Strood before Mark Reckless defected, which obviously disrupted his campaign somewhat.

All of this may be something of a surprise to one Martin Cook, who was previously selected by the local party to contest the Gillingham & Rainham seat. As little as last month, he was out campaigning in the constituency.

Still, we’re sure the other Medway UKIP candidate in that photo – Steve Newton, the candidate for Chatham & Aylesford – isn’t having any problems either, right? Oh, wait, he’s been removed from his position in recent months as well, and the seat is currently waiting for a new candidate to be selected.

A member of Medway UKIP wouldn’t offer any comment on the situation.

Why was there a by-election in Rochester?

The first in a series of posts, ‘inFrequently Answered Questions’ all Medway; parties, MPs and candidates, have been invited to answer and we will update should further answers be presented.
The answers are presented here unedited.
If you have an iFAQ then leave it as a comment and we will attempt to get it answered for you.

“Our MP Mark Reckless became increasingly disillusioned with the failed promises which had been made by David Cameron and his Conservative Party to the point where felt he had no other choice but to change parties.
Mark could have simply changed parties and continued on, but he felt it was imperative to seek a fresh mandate from the Rochester and Strood electorate so triggered the by-election. 

The rest is history.”
Cllr Chris Irvine – Leader of the Medway UKIP Group

 

“A by-election was triggered by the resignation of Mark Reckless MP on his defection to UKIP from the Conservatives in September 2014.”
Cllr Tristan Osborne – Labour PPC for Chatham and Aylesford

“And Strood!
Because rats leave sinking ships.”
Jacqui Berry – TUSC PPC Gillingham and Rainham

“Mark Reckless wanted to guarantee he was the people’s choice and for ‘a referendum’ on Lodgehill”
Chris Sams – Liberal Democrat Candidate for Medway Council

“There was a by-election in Rochester because the sitting MP decided to resign the Conservative Party whip and join UKIP.
He didn’t need to force a by-election but he was right to do so given that he was elected as a Conservative and therefore sought a mandate in his new party. 

It was unfortunate however that as a consequence it cost the Medway taxpayer a significant amount of money which could have been put to better use.”
Tracey Crouch – Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford

The Rochester and Strood by-election: A Reckless Legacy

Rochester sweets

Wandering along Rochester High Street one Saturday afternoon last year, someone stopped me in the street and asked “had I heard about Mark Reckless?”. This kind of question isn’t wholly unusual, as years of tweeting council meetings and tackling evasive politicians tends to lead to this kind of thing. Still, in this case, I hadn’t heard anything, and was told that the Rochester and Strood had MP had just defected to UKIP. I scrambled to my phone for more details, and found he’d appeared at the UKIP conference and announced his intention to fight a by-election, in the same way Douglas Carswell had recently done.

In retrospect, perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Reckless had always been in the awkward end of his party, and a Eurosceptic so staunch that UKIP wouldn’t even stand against him in 2010. The writing was likely on the wall once Carswell made his decision. Both were always close with each other, allies on a number of issues. Where one led, the other was likely to follow. Constitutionally, there was no requirement for Reckless to trigger a by-election – he would have been well within his rights to defect to UKIP and remain in office until May 2015. Whether or not triggering a costly by-election is the right thing to do is up for debate, but it gives his choice more of a democratic mandate.

So began a fraught by-election campaign for Rochester and Strood. Of the 2010 candidates, only Reckless and Lib Dem Geoff (or Goeff) Juby stood again. Labour selected Naushabah Khan, who works in public affairs, from the Progress wing of the party. The Green Party put forward one of their rare Medway members not named Marchant, and the Conservatives went with Kelly Tolhurst, a Rochester councillor with a local portfolio in improving educational standards (spoiler alert: she didn’t).

Then, as is natural for a by-election, the side show of minor candidates were rolled out. The Monster Raving Loony Party rolled into town, offering perhaps a more credible alternative than many of the major parties. Independent sex workers stood, and then more worryingly, Britain First stood.

Standing on a platform of opposing a mosque two constituencies away, Britain First attempted to hold two marches in Rochester before the election, which they were perfectly entitled to do. Thankfully though, the usual apathy of the masses was washed away as local residents blocked their path, and refused to let them through. They just had to settle with getting some photos with UKIP activists instead.

The election quickly settled into being a two-horse race between UKIP and the Conservatives, giving voters a choice between right and righter. Quite how this happened is slightly baffling as Labour held the seat until 2010, but didn’t seem particularly interested in trying to win it back this time around. In the end, UKIP managed to win it, albeit with a less than expected margin, but what was the state of each party following the campaign:

UKIP

Mark Reckless won the seat for UKIP with 42% of the vote. This was lower than the 49% he achieved as a Conservative in 2010, but still a respectable number for a seat they hadn’t even competed in in that election. There was some basis for this – UKIP did win Medway in the European elections earlier on this year – but this was their first parliamentary success in the area.

Conservatives

The Conservatives ended on 35% of the vote, higher than predicted by the polling in the run up to the election. Some of this number was likely made up of people who aren’t traditionally Conservative voters lending them their vote purely to keep UKIP out. Which means the party are still in a very difficult position for the repeat in May: If they can’t win when throwing every resource available to them at it, what more can they do while also fighting 631 other seats at the same time? In the meantime, they’ve decided to launch legal action against Mark Reckless, which definitely won’t backfire at all.

Labour

In the early days of the campaign, it felt like Labour might actually have a serious attempt at the seat. Ed Miliband even turned up and talked really awkwardly about immigration. After that, everything seemed to fall away. The party seemed to decline pouring resources in, which for a seat they held until 2010, seems like quite a strange choice. As such, they fell back to a final result of 17%, making the seat almost impossible for them to win in the coming elections.

Green Party

Other than UKIP, the Greens were the only party to increase their share of the vote from 2010. They nearly tripled their share of the vote to 4%, which doesn’t sound like much, but is their best electoral result in Medway. Their candidate, Clive Gregory, came across well whenever he got the opportunity to speak, and leaves the party well placed to pick up more of the traditional left vote as Labour back away from the seat.

Lib Dems

Recording the worst result for the Lib Dems in pretty much forever, the party received less than 1% of the vote. To put that into more pure numbers, they received 349 of the more than 40,000 votes cast. Showing that the Lib Dems are retreating back to their limited Gillingham heartlands in Medway, they didn’t seem to bother campaigning at all in this. In short, they put less effort into their campaign than I put into this paragraph.

The 2015 rerun

This year will see almost an exact repeat of the by-election, with UKIP, the Conservatives, Labour, and the Greens all fielding the same candidates. With the more limited resources of a general election, it’s likely the result won’t be all that different. Isn’t democracy grand?

Jennings

Repost: Taking Votes

quote-let-s-not-just-look-at-it-as-taking-votes-away-from-gore-our-support-comes-from-a-lot-of-people-ralph-nader-133577

(The last of three reposts from an initial political blog in 2011 – Keevil)

A Local Elections Blog Post, by a new Labour Councillor could not go without comment.

(It is no longer available to view. Which highlights the lie that things are on the internet for ever, and that people aren’t fans of archiving – Keevil)

As much as I don’t want this blog to be a constant rebuke to things that other party members say,

(which is why this blog was created! – Keevil)

sometimes it is needed to raise the level of debate in these towns.

(it’s still needed. again hence the new blog – Keevil)

In it, it said;

“Despite the protestations by those on the left; if the Green Party or this TUSC band of lunatics, we would have been able to dent the Tory majority. This point is stressed every single time – if you split the left vote with fringe parties (and lets be frank they are not a realistic prospect of being in government, and even less so with no AV) then you open the field up to the right. Fact.”

I’m not indifferent to the situation. I was inclined to only reply to this with a West Wing clip, which makes the point I would like to make marvelously, though you have to wait till the end of the clip.

(at about 1:49. if you can’t watch it all – Keevil)

However, I couldn’t just leave it there, for one simple reason.

“Fact.”

The blogger in question had used that at the end, and by the rules of intellectualism had won the point. The only thing they could have done to make a stronger point would have been to put “QED” at the end of the sentence. Now I don’t fully understand this, but a housemate used it all the time at Uni, and he got his way a lot.

Anyways.

(a decade later and I’m still not over it – Keevil)

There are two points, firstly the admission that the voting system is unfair under FPTP (which favours a two party system)  compared to what it would be under AV, or heaven forbid Proportional Representation.

(There having been a referendum – a completely fair and open referendum at that – this topic can never be again discussed – Keevil)

Secondly is the idea that the Green Party should stand aside for the Labour Party. This implies that the voters like sheep would automatically vote Labour which they wouldn’t. Also I could not in good conscience support a local party which refuses to apologise, on any level, for the New Labour Government.

If I concede that good things happened under New Labour, will the blogger concede that bad things did to? Or will the very attempt cause them to go into mental breakdown?

Thirdly, they should look at the large percentage of people who don’t vote in Medway and ask themselves what they did to encourage/discourage higher turnout.

I am reminded of a ballot paper in the second By-Election where the voter had written no in every candidates box. Except mine. Except for the Green Party.

How could I stand aside in my

(by my, I meant I lived there, not owned it – Keevil)

ward for two Labour representatives, one who in his acceptance speech upon becoming Councillor stated regarding his Conservative opponent

“we agree on a great many things”

(nearly half a decade later and I’m still not over it – Keevil)

The other who argues loudly for cuts and defends Trident, despite it being illegal and unaffordable.

Labour members continue to assume they have a right to be the party of opposition, whilst siding with the Conservatives on issues and ignoring the growth of a party which now has an MP and successful councillors in Brighton and Norwich.

The Brighton Politics blogger, in his Post ‘Labour is no closer than ever to understanding how to respond to the Greens’  talks about how Labour have rejected a coalition with the Brighton Green Party.

(That blog is still there. Brighton bloggers, showing it how its done – Keevil)

“There is no way that Labour will come anywhere near taking control next time. The next locals are likely to take place on the same day as the general election in 2015. Caroline Lucas will be re-elected with a thumping majority, with Labour coming in a distant third.”

They go on to state that Labour have misled the public twice in recent Elections and that Brighton Labour activists are blinded to reality.

“Labour’s obsessive attacks on Caroline Lucas make the party look like bad losers, and many people are delighted that the City has produced the first Green MP.”

Can we one day expect as has occurred in other areas, a Labour campaign of;

Vote Green get Tories.

(There has been instead a rise of the UKIPper instead. Who do campaign under ‘Vote UKIP, Get UKIP’. Ahem – Keevil)

All I know for certain is that in the first By-Election I stood in

I beat the BNP.

And they didn’t stand in the second.

Come the next election, should the opportunity arise I will most likely stand again,

(which I did. Yay me – Keevil)

and I will definitely support any member of the Green Party that stands also. As I can not support a party which assumes too much and concedes nothing. More importantly, I shouldn’t force the people that voted for me or the Green Party to do it either. QED.

Keevil