A special 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.
“The first thing to say about the budget is that it is clear that having Lib Dems in government has made a difference over the past 5 years. It was OUR manifesto commitment to raise the threshold at which people start paying income tax, not the Conservatives. Thanks to us, over 25 million low and middle income earners have had income tax cuts of over £900. More than 50,000 of those people are in Rochester and Strood. Another thing that will help people locally is the Help to Buy ISA, which will give people who are saving to buy their first home up to £3000, which with property prices as they are must be useful. And of interest locally, there is the reduction in the bingo tax, which will be welcome to all those who play at the bingo hall in Strood. Less good are the Conservative and Labour plans for the future. Labour seems bent on going back to believing in the magic money tree, and the Conservatives are preparing their sharpest knives to cut public services to the bone. As for UKIP, who can say what they would do? The Lib Dems in the next government would borrow £70 billion less than Labour and cut £50 billion less than the Conservatives, sticking to the sensible middle ground. And that is what people should bear in mind when they think about who to vote for on May 7th.” Prue Bray, Liberal Democrat PPC for Rochester and Strood
“As most people noticed there was no mention of the NHS in the budget. I can only assume that was because the tories know they can’t say anything as the have cut funding to the NHS and will continue to do so and they know the electorate won’t accept that. Medway hospital is surrounded by constituencies which have Conservative MPs. Indeed the MP for Gillingham is an Ex Labour councillor now Conservative MP. During this current government Medway Hospital was put into special measures. This was all on the watch of the Medway tories. So when they start bleating on about supporting the NHS we all know it’s a complete lie. They as much as their leader want to see the NHS under increasing private control. Labour are no better. It was under them that the infamous “Private Funding Initiative” was bought in and we all know that was privatisation through the back door. There is only one group who would fully fight against ALL privatisation in the NHS and across ALL of our public services and that is TUSC. TUSC candidates are people who work in the NHS and other public services. We know the issues facing people of medway as we talk to them every day. Only TUSC candidates know what’s needed for our public services in Medway.” Dan Burns, TUSC PPC for Rochester and Strood
“On the positive side, the reduction in the duties levied on beer, cider and whiskey will be well received, as will the raising of the 40p tax threshold for the middle classes. The most significant thing for me was that the public outcry against public spending cuts has made Osbourne change his mind about creating a public surplus for 2020 from £23bn to £7bn. This is a huge result, especially for Medway Council and our public services, eg Medway Hospital. Although he still plans severe cuts for the next 2 years, another £12bn (from where? We are already down to bare bone!) it does seem that Cameron has finally listened to the public…..ever so slightly! Obviously this is all just tinkering for me, the establishment are still hell bent on robbing the poor to pay the rich, it’s just that they are a bit worried about triggering a revolution! The really interesting thing was listening to Ed Balls stating that he wouldn’t reverse any of the Budget measures. Just another shade of blue rather than red!” Neil Williams, Green Party PPC for Gillingham and Rainham
“See my previous tweet for comment on budget. All in 140 characters. #brevity” Jacqui Berry, TUSC PPC for Gillingham and Rainham
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
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?