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
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.
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.
(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.
(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.
(This post was originally posted in 2011 – Keevil)
In my previous blog post I discussed my continuing emotional turmoil towards the Conservatives.
(Following the reposting of that blog, they former Councillor in question spoke out against relevance 5 years later and completely missed the point (again) and reinforced why I reposted – Keevil)
And as part of that post I questioned a quote by a former local councillor, and they have taken the time to respond to the question about leftist mass-murders.
(Sadly the post is no longer available online – Keevil)
Now the knee jerk reaction was to challenge again what they had said, but a little time has passed and its enabled me to reconsider, and to question, he pointed out my ignorance, and what if he was right? That’s why they win: no self doubt, tough on ignorant left bloggers, and tough on the causes of ignorant left bloggers.
(Seemingly disagreeing with what I have to say and my right to re-say it – Keevil)
Before we go any further, I think it is essential that we discuss what do we mean by left and right wing.
Cue West Wing Clip…
Okay, firstly what is Political Compass?
(We now have a whole section on this blog on this here – Keevil)
Our friend Wikipedia says;
‘The political compass is a multi-axis model, used by the website of the same name, to label or organize political thought on two dimensions.’
So left or right. Authoritarian or libertarian.
Sorry that was a distraction, what DO we mean by right and left wing?
The original idea of left and right wing, actually comes from the pre-revolutionary French assembly, where the Conservatives sat on the right and the Liberals on the left.
Also right means correct and left actually has a Latin translation meaning sinister.
Which actually highlights an issue with the Political Compass, but we shall return to that in a second. Let us address the above image which shows us a left wing BNP.
Well if we refer to the Political Compass for UK Compass for UK Political Parties in 2010 you will see something different.
The BNP are firmly on the right!. Left of Labour and the Conservatives sure, but still on the right.
Which does mean Conservatives ARE more right wing than the BNP.
However this is because left and right as referenced to in this diagram is based on an economic approach. With communism on the far left and neo-liberalism on the far right.
Whereas I would argue, ignorantly and wrongly, that the general understanding of left and right is still based on that historical French model. And in the political compass would be understood by the up and down axis of libertarian and authoritarian.
If we were to flip the compass so that that axis was left and right then we would see that the BNP were now far to the right and the Lib Dems were back on the left.
(A friend with autism said they couldn’t comprehend flipping the compass, I suggested turning the screen on its side, that just made things worse. So take my word on it. Or you know be right and don’t – Keevil)
So let us accept the left and right economic axis.
Which would mean that historically there have been dictators and mass-murderers who were on the left…
Now I feebly inquired of the blogger whether there could be accidental mass-murder and they clarified that if mass death wasn’t caused by the left wing then it was by “instances of unintentional plagues by release of stored diseases or other exceptions”.
So not only have I learned that there was only left wing mass murderers but that there were no right wing dictators who committed mass murder.
Where does this leave Hitler, Franco, and Thatcher’s friend Pinochet?
Are we to say that they were left wing?
Whilst Franco and Pinochet killed a small amount compared to icons of the t-shirt wearing Left, Stalin and Mao, they did still kill. Or commit an “exception”.
Can we for the sake of clarity at least no longer refer to it as left or right, but communism and neo-liberalism. We do not refer to libertarians and authoritarianism as up and down.
Something that is worth celebrating is the continued success of the Conservative Party, the political underdog, in light of a left wing conspiracy of teachers and media whose leftist agenda makes our nation’s children ignorant.
If only they had the support of a multi-national ultra conservative neo-liberal press baron… C’est la vie.
We are demanding the introduction of a ‘Living Wage’. This will help ensure low paid workers earn enough to provide for themselves and their families and eradicate poverty in Britain for good. The Green Party will fight for a National Minimum Wage of 60% of net national average earnings (currently this would mean a minimum wage of £8.10 per hour).
Which I’m assuming is a typo.
The usual three-prong lefty approach: theft (ever higher taxes, property theft, losses of liberties and rights)
Loss of liberty, again is an interesting one, I’m against national ID cards and detention longer than 48 hours without charge. I’m also against rendition and the torture of suspects.
I will have to check if I am in conflict here with others on the left, if I am, this could be awkward.
(you were when this was written sadly – Jennings)
I must end my post (and repost – Keevil) there and read no more, as according to the Blog post I only have three options;
1) Live in ignorance.
2) Become evil.
3) Become right wing.
Feel free to let me know which option you think I should go with.
(The following comment was left on the original post and I present it here, unedited – Keevil)
It would be worth asking a conservative if your most ravenous, militant revolutionary anti-capitalist is evil – they will say yes, certainly and probably cite a similar argument to the one in your former Tory Councillor’s blog post that you referenced. These political differences are a conflict of social and economic interests – ‘lefties’ aim to do away with the excessive economic privileges of the minority of successful capitalists and share this wealth amongst all people to raise their living standards, what act is more evil than this to a businessman or the elected representative that swears to protect his interests? By their standards, they have earned this privilege through hard work – it would be very evil in their eyes for this to be taken away. On the other hand, the ‘leftie’ sees this privilege as something built by the masses of labourers who are the physical power behind all of these economic gains, therefore not one individual’s efforts can be attributed to these gains and they should be shared out for the benefit of the common good – for a small group to enjoy these gains is an evil act in this regard, or at the very least a horribly greedy and immoral act.
In reply to the Tory’s argument that you posted, I would say to him or her that wonderful capitalism causes more deaths, either directly or indirectly, every year than any kind of alternative ever has had the chance of causing and if pushed I would ask all of my leftie friends to help me dig out numbers to highlight this fair point.
Is a Tory evil? The Tory is just a person and his/her politics represent a certain set of interests that they may well find totally morally correct. With the definition you posted in mind, I will take one word: immoral – this will be the word for the basis of my determination of whether the Tory’s political and economic outlook on life is evil in relation to the interests I find morally correct.
Here’s one of the latest Tory policies that has made me feel sick to my stomach – is that immoral? Based on the false election pretenses alone, such as the ‘big society’, it is nothing short of immoral (unless we consider our homeless citizens outside of this ‘big society’).
Take your pick of other Tory policies implemented post-election – for me, it would be incredibly difficult to find a Con-Dem cut that could be morally justified. Perhaps we can justify these policies from an economic standing-point, from the perspective of business interests, but I would not accept the notion that the economic interests of those with a lot of money is a moral interest that has the majority of people in mind, from the single-mother who’s benefits are being cut, to the homeless man on the streets of London who’s soup kitchen has been closed down – what do these people care about what’s good for business? What’s good for business is almost always bad for these people.
So what can we say? Can the individual Tory, who really believes that what (s)he’s doing is morally correct, be called ‘evil’? I would say that they represent a political force which has a whole political and economic outlook that is immoral in a broad social sense, and I would argue that the policies they defend have met a majority of the population with significant misery and poverty – morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked are words I think are perfectly adequate in this regard. With my perspective on the table, we assume that the individual Tory is either politically evil or politically naive and therefore evil by proxy of his or her ignorance.
The same goes for all mainstream politicians with my perspective in mind, or rather, all of those who are conscious in maintaining a system that is inherently immoral, as it serves a minority’s interests over the majority’s and is responsible for war, famine, poverty and conflict all over the world (including at home). These people, whether Tory, Labour or Lib-Dem all have lied or will hide behind nice, morally correct terms like ‘the big society’ whilst continuing wars, taking away people’s services, selling off their healthcare to private interest, evicting them from their homes and taking away their soup kitchens. It is not the individual that matters entirely, but the system they represent which is fundamentally immoral and perhaps evil by the definition provided.
Individually, these politicians might be the nicest, most loving people you could ever meet, but we separate their politics and their person and judge them accordingly. People aren’t inherently evil I wouldn’t say, but their actions can be, and Tory politics are inherently immoral by my ‘leftie’ standards, so perhaps Tories are evil by proxy of ignorance or they are evil because they actually like making people’s lives a misery in order – who knows?
I was talking to an ultra-conservative the other day and we had great a great conversation when politics was aside – I still find his views fundamentally morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked though.
Now I don’t mean this to be offensive. No, really I don’t. Individually Tories are, as I mentioned, friendly. They can be caring and passionate. And the people that vote Tory are certainly not evil.
Except for any that you know who maybe are.
Wait. What do we even mean by evil?
Online Dictionary Definition: morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked
They have an incredible way to stick fast to what they believe, to phrase points and use information as if their answer was the only possible answer, in a way that Labour can only dream. Well, with the exception of ‘The Big Society’ which it seems can’t be got across at all. Well in any way other than, we want to cut everything and then expect you to do it for free Like the ‘well-unfair’ state.
“It would be good to have a genuinely valuable topic for such events one day, such as “Love Music, Hate Mass-Murder” – but that wouldn’t be comfortable for Lefties, who collectively the world over encompass virtually all those who have committed deliberate mass-murder down the years. Still, at least it would have some real signifiance rather than mere tokenism. It’s a thought!”
Its an interesting quote in that it makes you stop and go ‘WHAT?’, I find it so hard to respond to. I feel my brain shutting down trying to find a suitable response, a polite response. I just stare at it.
Lefties, who collectively the world over encompass virtually all those who have committed deliberate mass-murder.
Can somebody commit accidental mass-murder? is the best response I have so far come up with, and that’s just rubbish.
(2015 interjection: This sentence was written before Boris Island and before this)
I worry that we are not given enough training in the defence against these dark arts. It’s dangerous to dismiss them, they are after all are in power locally and nationally. Somebody – a lot of somebodies – have voted for them.
And it seems the power of rational thought might not be strong enough to save me from them.
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 DemocratIndependentLabour 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.
To publish online details of all of personal expenses incurred as a Member of Parliament.
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:
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.
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.
To appoint a local firm of auditors to approve expenses accounts at the end of every financial year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.