The Week

Reviewing the Boundary Review
On Tuesday, the Boundary Commission for England unveiled their proposed new constituency boundaries. There were no huge changes for Medway, but a fair number of little ones. Higham will be brought into the Rochester and Strood constituency, Lordswood and Capstone will move to Gillingham and Rainham, and Chatham and Aylesford is set to become Chatham and the Mallings. The proposed boundaries are now subject to a lengthy consultation period, so it’ll be next year before we hear any final plans.

Radicalised French Radicals
It’s been a whirlwind week for the internal machinations of the Labour Party. We reported earlier in the week on the suspension of long time member and Momentum activist Alan Higgins, who was planning to stand as the Labour candidate for Strood South. Since this, Medway Momentum endorsed a new candidate, Brian Kelly, but now Higgins has been reinstated by the party, so we’ve no idea what’s going on there now.

Cherry picked
In a rare bout of organisation, the Medway Lib Dems managed to be the first party to select their candidate for the Strood South by-election. In an even more unusual step, they’ve selected a new – and young – candidate, 18 year old activist Isabelle Cherry. Cherry’s campaign will apparently focus on issues like school improvement, litter, and public transport, so all fairly safe, but at the least the Medway Lib Dems are putting up a fight once again.

Return of the Iles
In perhaps the least surprising Strood South selection, the Conservatives have selected Josie Iles as their candidate for the Strood South by-election. Iles is a former mayor of Medway, and was the Councillor for Strood South up until losing her seat to UKIP last year. Going into the election, she remains the odds on favourite to retake the seat.

Other Strood South candidates
Not much else to report on the Strood South by-election front, despite the fact that the election is a mere 31 days until the election takes place. UKIP have two candidates to choose between (one being former local chairman Chris Spalding), Medway Labour have about 800 people putting themselves forward, and the Greens apparently have a candidate, but are busy filling out the paperwork to announce who it is.

Councillor allowances
As per their legal obligations, Medway Council recently published the details of councillor allowances paid for 2015-2016. The small problem with this is that they seemingly did a horrifically sloppy job with it, as Medway blogger Alan Collins covered in forensic detail. The sheer number of errors in the document raises serious concerns about the openness and transparency of Medway Council.

Cabinet reshuffle
Following last week’s sad passing of Councillor Mike O’Brien, a necessary reshuffle took this week within the Cabinet. Councillor Andrew Mackness will take over O’Brien’s education portfolio, with new Councillor Martin Potter taking on the new portfolio of educational improvement. The former corporate services portfolio of Councillor Mackness will be split amongst several other Cabinet members.

Medway MPs in Parliament
Remarkably, Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst raised concerns in Parliament about the consequences that the EU referendum that she voted for has had on small businesses in her constituency. Meanwhile, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti once again spent his time banging on about laser pens.

Reviewing the boundary review

This morning saw the Boundary Commission for England publish the first proposals for their 2018 boundary review. The aim of the review is to reduce the number of MPs in parliament to 600 from 650, as well as creating roughly equal size constituencies. As you can imagine, this has caused some quite dramatic changes to the electoral map to be proposed.

But what do the changes mean for Medway and it’s three parliamentary constituencies?

Rochester and Strood

RS

By and large, Rochester and Strood remains broadly unchanged from it’s current layout. Some of the bizarre quirks remain, such as Chatham town centre remaining part of Rochester and Strood. The only significant change is the addition of Higham to the west of the constituency. Higham is not part of Medway on a council level (it falls under Gravesham), so it’s curious to see it moved into a primarily Medway constituency.

Gillingham & Rainham

GR

Also remaining largely unchanged in Gillingham and Rainham, which sees the addition of Lordswood and Capstone from the Chatham and Aylesford constituency. While the Capstone part of the ward might be a logical fit, it’s a bit of a stretch to consider Lordswood as part of Gillingham and Rainham, but here we are.

Chatham and Aylesford

CA

Chatham and Aylesford has always been a sprawling constituency, but the new version, now dubbed Chatham and The Mallings takes things to new heights. The area within Medway is reduced yet further with the loss of Lordswood and Capstone, and yet large swathes of Walderslade still remain outside of any Medway constituency.

Conclusions

While some of these proposals are something of a mess and not hugely helpful for local identity, they do make more sense than the previous proposals, which saw such strange suggestions as Hempstead and Wigmore joining Chatham, and Luton and Wayfield joining Gillingham. We have not assessed the electoral consequences for our MPs here, and at first glance, we’d suggest they will face no major changes from these proposals.

The consultation period for the new boundaries runs until 5 December, and the public are invited to offer feedback on them via the Boundary Commission’s 2018 Review website.

Radicalised French Radicals

Last year I demonstrated how little I knew about the Labour Party when I wrote the article ‘The French Radicals’. I said that “Jeremy Corbyn will win the first round of the Labour leadership but I don’t expect him to win the leadership.” Which much like our predictions for the general and local elections in 2015, showed how bad we are at this. This time I expect Corbyn to win the leadership election by a considerable margin, I expect the PLP to react even less graciously then they did last time, and I expect positioning for Labour Leadership elections in 2017. Go #DavidMilli2020.

Last year’s piece postulated, via a clip from The West Wing that members of the Labour movement only stood against not winning. The current Leadership contest is a magnification of this, with those opposed to Corbyn’s leadership terrorising that Corbyn will cause Labour to be in opposition for a generation and that anybody speaks out against Owen Smith either wants May as PM, and or should enjoy the May premiership. Very little is given in the way to explain how Owen Smith will win a General Election, except Corbyn definitely won’t.

To be clear, neither Jennings or Keevil are endorsing either Labour candidates, readers will be happy/sad/apathetic to hear.

Having been wrong about Labour last year, I wanted to double down and be wrong again this year when discussing an ongoing situation within Medway, specifically Gillingham and Rainham CLP. When it came time for different CLPs to hold leadership nomination contests; Chatham and Aylesford CLP agreed not to nominate, Rochester and Strood nominated Corbyn, and Gillingham and Rainham decided – well, the exec committee decided – not to hold any nomination discussion at all.

I was informed I was wrong to question this, as they have never nominated a leadership contender. A tradition that goes way back to the origins of the Gillingham and Rainham CLP in 2010. Somebody else who vocally questioned the executive committee’s decision was Labour and Medway Momentum member Alan Higgins. Meanwhile, former MP and technically current Labour PPC for Gillingham and Rainham Paul Clark, didn’t join the Labour PPCs for Chatham & Aylesford and Rochester and Strood in signing a letter.

But he did host a pro-Owen Smith event organised by Labour’s Chatham and Aylesford PPC and former PCC candidate Tristan Osbourne. This raises a distinction that I clearly am unable to understand, something along the lines of; individuals have the right to support whomever they please, PPCs must represent the constituents who didn’t vote them in as MPs and/or PPCs don’t have to represent the CLP that elected them as candidates in pre-Corbyn era.

Meanwhile during #LabourLeadership2016 a series of events called #LabourPurge2 has occurred. In brief, members who are felt not to upheld the aims and values of the Labour Party have been informed they will not be allowed to vote for the leader. We at The Political Medway are concerned for members of Gillingham and Rainham CLP:
Firstly, former MP and current PPC Paul Clark, representing a candidate when his CLP exec does not, has had a complaint made against him to the Regional Director of the Party by member Alan Higgins, for behaviour during CLP meetings. No action has been taken on this complaint at this time.
Also Presumably, current Gillingham North councillor and former Liberal Democrat PPC for Gillingham and Rainham Andy Stamp will be allowed a vote, despite his previous allegiance.
We have been reassured however that 2015 Green Party PPC for Gillingham and Rainham, Neil Williams, seen here with Medway Labour group Leader Vince Maple joining Medway Labour, has been allowed to vote in the contest.

Meanwhile, Alan Higgins, a member of the Labour Party for 45 years, and a Labour candidate for Princes Park in 2015, previously mentioned as the member who criticised Gillingham and Rainham executive committees failure to hold an all members meeting to nominate a leadership candidate, contacted Vince Maple regarding his lack of election ballot.

Alan

Since then, Alan – who put his name forward to be the Labour candidate in the forthcoming Strood South by-election, a move The Political Medway believes was supported by Medway Momentum – has been suspended from the Labour Party for comments he made on a Medway Momentum Facebook group. Those comments were supposedly criticising the Gillingham and Rainham executive committee over their decision not to hold a vote on endorsing leadership candidates, but we have been unable to see the exact comments ourselves. Unsurprisingly, Medway Momentum have not taken this news well.

Of the party members mentioned, with all of their various allegiances, only one has had action against them, which to this uninformed observer seems questionable at least.

 

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

(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