So, farewell then to no less than 20 Medway councillors.
Between councillors losing their seats, retirements, and deselections, over a third of councillors who were in office two weeks ago no longer are. I thought it’d be nice to take a look at those who will no longer be gracing the council chamber. Consider this like the ‘in memoriam’ section at the Oscars, just without the glitz, glamour, and likeable personalities.
The Stand Downs
This is the group that didn’t even try to fight their seat. Some quietly slipped into retirement, either through their own volition, or their party deciding for them. Others went on to better things.
Ted Baker (Rochester West, Con) – One of the longest serving members of the council, it’s been clear for some time that his reign has been coming to an end. He was giving a nice send off at his final council meeting, and will be awarded an honorary title on the council in recognition of his service.
Matt Bright (Princes Park, Con) – Cllr Bright not fighting his seat was a curious one. One of the younger members of the Conservative group, in a relatively safe seat, who never rebelled against his party in the chamber, he should have been a rising star. Alas, it was not to be.
David Colman (Gillingham South, Lab) – The Man Who Never Planned To Be A Councillor. The legend goes that at the last elections, Cllr Colman was merely a paper candidate, who was never supposed to win, but the collapse of the Lib Dem vote in Gillingham South saw him home. He served out his term, but seem to do very little during this time, and his replacements should be far more effective for the party.
Jane Etheridge (Strood North, Con) – Cllr Etheridge was widely liked but not necessarily the most forceful voice in the chamber. That all changed at her final council meeting though, where she made it adamantly clear to the discomfort of her colleagues that she was not stepping down of her own accord, and her party had deselected her.
Paul Harriott (Twydall, Lab) – Cllr Harriott has been a councillor in Medway for a couple more decades than I’ve been alive. After 52 years, he decided to call it a day, and he remained a force in the chamber right up to the end. Like Cllr Baker, he will be given an honorary title from the council to salute his remarkable council career.
Craig Mackinley (River, Con) – Left Medway, went to stand for Parliament in South Thanet, and became the almighty Farage slayer. (What’s a South Thanet? – Keevil)
Ray Maisey (Cuxton & Halling, Con) – I genuinely don’t think I know anything about Cllr Maisey. He rarely seemed to speak, and when he did, it was fairly unremarkable. (I never even heard him speak. – Keevil)
Tony Watson (Peninsula, Con) – One of the younger, more thoughtful members of the Conservative group. It’s unclear exactly why he didn’t stand again, but it’s worth noting that he was the only Conservative Councillor to vote against his group, standing up in favour of equal marriage, in a vote in the chamber some time back. Rebellions are so rare his is the only one I can remember during the past few years, and now he isn’t a Councillor. Not that I’m suggesting there’s a connection or anything. (Well done for clarifying that. – Keevil)
Slightly harsh perhaps (accurate – Keevil), but these are the Councillors that tried to maintain a seat, but couldn’t manage it. Some were unexpected, some less so. Interestingly, every Councillor who recently switched parties, or tried to change the seats they stood in, lost. So if you become a Councillor, you should never, ever take any risks apparently.
Christine Godwin (Luton & Wayfield, Lab, lost by 70 votes) – One of the upsets of the night, as the Tories managed to take a seat in Luton & Wayfield, nearly taking down parliamentary candidate Tristan Osborne at the same time. Instead though, Cllr Godwin ended up as the casualty, after only one term on the council.
Patricia Gulvin (Princes Park, tried to fight Chatham Central, Con) – It seems that Gulvin intended to stand down regardless, as she moved from the relatively safe seat of Princes Park to the Socialist Republic of Maple. She did fairly well in that seat, but still didn’t really trouble the counting agents.
Vaughan Hewett (Rainham North, UKIP, lost by 765 votes) – An unfortunate tactical error for Cllr Hewett, who after leaving the Conservative group last year, decided to throw his lot in with UKIP. I suspect that isn’t where his allegiances truly lay, and he didn’t get the support he needed, so he lost by a large margin. A shame as he was one of the more reasonable voices on the council.
Stephen Hubbard (Strood North, Lab, lost by 297 votes) – A decent local Councillor taken out by the rising Conservative tide. Hanging on in a split ward is always a challenge, and Cllr Hubbard bore the brunt of the national swings.
Isaac Igwe (Strood South, Lab, lost by 627 votes) – The man who famously hid in the toilet purely to avoid having to vote on equal marriage lost his seat. No tears will be shed.
Josie Iles (Strood South, Con, lost by 118 votes) – The UKIP march on Strood meant that while the Conservatives were able to win one seat in Strood South, they couldn’t win them all. Unfortunately for Cllr Iles, her record has a local councillor wasn’t strong enough to see her hang on.
Chris Irvine (Peninsula, tried to fight Rochester East, UKIP) – One of the more baffling decisions of the election was that of UKIP group leader Cllr Irvine to give up a safe seat in Peninsula to fight Rochester East. He attests that this was the right thing to do as it’s the ward he actually lives in, and that’s very noble, but it does mean the likely collapse of the UKIP group on the council, and a valuable, if antagonistic, voice being lost from the chamber.
Geoff Juby (Gillingham South, Lib Dem, lost by 1006 votes) – A crushing defeat for long time Lib Dem group leader Cllr Juby, who saw his party pushed into fourth place in the ward. While his meandering style in the chamber wasn’t the most exciting, it’s a shame to see all representation of the Lib Dems being lost from Medway Council.
Sheila Kearney (Gillingham South, tried to fight Twydall, Lib Dem) – Cllr Kearney has been in poor health for some time now, and it was clear to all observers that her candidacy in Twydall was purely to make up the (small) Lib Dem numbers.
Tom Mason (Strood Rural, UKIP, lost by 262 votes) – Another UKIP defector that almost hung on, but was pulled down by the Conservative surge. Mason only seemed to go UKIP after his Conservative association deselected him, and while he almost hung on, the Conservative surge pulled him down.
Peter Rodberg (Strood Rural, UKIP, lost by 443 votes) – See Tom Mason.
Diana Smith (Watling, Lib Dem, lost by 452 votes) – It’s previously been joked that Cllr Smith could stand under any party banner and easily win, such is her local popularity. While that did see her through previous elections, and she was still the best performing Medway Lib Dem by some margin, it wasn’t enough for her to hang on. Her abstaining on important issues will be sorely missed.
20 councillors gone means 20 new councillors in their place. What will they bring us? We’ll be finding out soon enough..