Internal strife within Medway Labour as ex-UKIP councillor Mark Joy tries to join party

Did you hear the one about the Conservative activist turned UKIP councillor, who went independent, tried to rejoin the Tories, failed to do, tried to join Labour instead, and was turned down but still kind of managed to join anyway?

Allow us to introduce you to Strood South councillor, Mark Joy.

Mark Joy rose to prominence in Medway politics when he was part of Medway’s own gang of four, defecting to UKIP from the Conservatives in 2014 along with Mark Reckless, Chris Irvine, and Paul Monck. Medway UKIP was riding high at the time, winning by-elections for both parliament and the local council, but the good times came to a crashing halt on May 7 2015. Mark Reckless lost the Rochester & Strood constituency, while Chris Irvine lost his council seat, and Paul Monck failed to gain his. In the middle of this though, Mark Joy just about won a council seat in Strood South.

All of which left Joy in a slightly strange position. His ties always seemed closer to Reckless and Irvine personally rather than to the UKIP party, and now he sat with the three other untested UKIP councillors in the chamber. Within a month, Joy resigned from the UKIP group, choosing to sit as an independent in the chamber.

In the time since, he’s proved to be an interesting voice in the chamber. He often inserts himself into debates, sometimes to raise small issues, sometimes to ask questions. His voting record, untethered from party whips, sees him voting both with and against the ruling Conservative administration in roughly equal measure.

In the time since becoming an independent, Joy approached the Conservative group about the potential of rejoining their ranks, and was told in no uncertain terms that it would not be happening. Which meant the only options to Joy were to remain as an independent, or attempt to join the Labour group. Given Joy won his seat from a sitting Labour councillor, this would surely be impossible. At least it seemed so until this week, when Labour councillor Tristan Osborne tweeted the following:

Tristan Osborne tweet

The accompanying picture (as seen at the top of this article) shows Joy out campaigning for London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan with both Osborne and Medway Labour Deputy Leader Teresa Murray. Given how critical Medway Labour Leader Vince Maple was of Joy following his resignation from UKIP, the sudden about turn is all the more curious.

Requesting comment from Joy, he told us that he “decided to help with London Mayor elections, as I think that Sadiq Khan is the best candidate”, but declined to offer any further comment.

Our own investigation discovered that Joy approached Maple to join the party, but was turned down on the basis that no one can join who has stood against the party within the last 12 months. That period is up in June, which means there will be nothing to stop him joining the party then. Sources within the party told us of ferocious opposition to this, with more than one councillor threatening to quit the group if that happens.

By way of a compromise, Joy has since been told that he can campaign with Labour, and attend local meetings, but will not be able to become to officially join the party for now. As one angry activist put it to us though, “he’s joined without a card”.

Other activists have raised serious concerns about Joy within the party, arguing that there is “massive opposition to any move for him to join”. Some have cited his past views, his closeness to Mark Reckless et al, and how it would make the group “a laughing stock”. Others have raised questions over his opportunistic jumping between parties, and his conduct in parish council meetings. Despite this, Maple and Murray seem to be actively encouraging him to join the party, against the will of their own group.

The Political Medway asked Medway Labour group leader Vince Maple, but made it clear he had no comment to make on the issue.

The Week in Medway Politics: Campaigns, pensions, G4S

The big story

Medway Council budget smackdown ’16 – full story
On Thursday, Medway Council set it’s budget for the coming year with all of the associated political ding dongs. The meeting was a colourful event, lots of arguments about things like bulky waste collections rather than the bigger issues. It also included a formal investigation about the conduct of Cllr Michael Franklin being requested as a result of this blog.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Transitional pension arrangements
The ongoing battle to sort out state pensions for women hit Parliament this week following an epetition that triggered a debate on whether or not the government should help women of a certain age who are losing out. As if the way of these things, the government took a line not to change the arrangements, with Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst both voting to keep things as they are.

In/out/shake it all about
Despite nearly every Conservative MP declaring where they stand on the EU referendum, not one of our three Medway MPs have made their position clear. While Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch may have good reasons for this, Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst are still continuing the sham of pretending they don’t know where they stand, as if it’s something they’ve never considered before.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst actually asked a question to the Prime Minister, though it was about an individual child protection case rather than anything bigger, like letting us know where she stands on the EU. Elsewhere, Rehman Chishti demanded that only accurate information about the EU is spread, after a letter was supposedly signed by a member of his constituency association whom he hasn’t heard of.

Medway Council

Duress, G4S
A potentially explosive new revelation in the scandal over abuse carried out by G4S staff at the Rochester Secure Training Centre this week. While Medway Council has largely been able to keep itself away from the issue up until now, a story this week suggests the council could have been notified about the concerns at the facility in a letter as early as 2003. Medway Council, for their part, are claiming they are unfamiliar with the letter.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Matt Scott, the Conservative candidate for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner did some campaigning in Chatham. So there’s that.

Medway Labour
The party decamped to Chatham High Street on Saturday to launch their campaign to stay in the EU. So there’s that.

Medway UKIP
At this week’s budget meeting, Medway UKIP council group leader Roy Freshwater challenged the Tories on their by-election spending. As the main victims of the supposed overspending, it’s surprising that this has been the only way Medway UKIP have found to capitalise on it.

Medway Liberal Democrats
In a Christmas miracle, the Lib Dems have finally announced their candidate to be Kent Police and Crime Commissioner. Step forward, Dave Naghi! Dave has been the Lib Dem candidate in the constituency of Faversham and Mid Kent for many years, most recently coming 4th with 6.6% of the vote in 2015.
Additionally, in some actual local campaigning, they want a speed camera reinstalled in Strood. Easy now, guys.

Medway Green Party
The Medway Greens are the only party to take a position on Wetherspoons moving into Chatham – and they’re for it!
They’re also interested in what will happen to the old St. Bartholomew’s Hospital building, when it closes later this year.
Oh, and it turns out they’re still unhappy about the Lower Thames Crossing too!

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken with the Irish ambassador, the Greek ambassador, meeting this week’s solitary resident, with the blurry principal of Midkent College, and while looking far too relaxed on Sky News.

Medway Council Budget Smackdown ’16

Last night, Medway Council held it’s annual budget meeting, which aims to set out the council’s spending for the coming year. Not usually the most exciting affair, this year’s meeting managed to feature a lot of anger about bulky waste, an official investigation possibly being triggered by one of our blog posts, and an interesting revelation about the Leader of Medway Council and Sandra Bullock.
If you missed the full excitement of the meeting, you can catch up via this handy Storify collection:

The Week in Medway Politics: Referendum, meetings, pints

Medway MPs in Parliament: Recess edition

Spending allegations
Following serious allegations about the Conservatives possibly overspending in 2014’s Rochester and Strood by-election, Kent Police have said they will not be taking any action. The suggestion seems to be that this is due to a 12 month statutory limit in prosecutions in such cases, meaning it’s now too late to launch any action.

In/out/shake it all about
With the EU referendum being officially announced for June, we’re delighted that despite all three Medway MPs being Conservatives, we have a full set of differing opinions on the subject. According to this handy spreadsheet of MP positions from Guido Fawkes, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti will be voting to remain in, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch will be voting out, while Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst used to be out, but is now in. Which, frankly, we are shocked by.

Medway Council

Full council on Thursday
This Thursday sees a full council meeting, with the only thing on the agenda being the setting of the budget for the coming year. With a council tax rise of nearly 4% on the agenda, this is likely to be a contentious one. You can come along and watch the fireworks yourself at the St. George’s Centre, Chatham Maritime, this Thursday from 7pm. Medway Momentum are planning to protest the event under the guise of protecting Sure Start Centres from cuts, even though there are no plans to cut them in the budget itself.

Local Plan
Medway Council is continuing to develop it’s Local Plan, where it needs to find room for tens of thousands of new houses over the next two decades. All of the documents for this and the ability to respond to the consultation are available via this webpage. Alternatively, you can go along to a local event to see more detail and discuss it with council officers. We went last week and found a lonely council officer, a solitary information board, and some leaflets. This week’s events are:
Medway Innovation Centre, Rochester – Tuesday (10am – noon)
Strood Sports Centre – Wednesday (2pm – 4pm)
Halling Community Centre – Thursday (2pm – 4pm)
Pilkington Building, Universities at Medway, Chatham – Friday (11.30am – 2pm)

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
In a fairly unusual public move, Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett has, alongside 40 MPs and 150 other councillors, signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the liberalisation of archaic Sunday trading laws.

Medway Labour
The Rochester & Strood branch will be meeting this week to decide whether or not to endorse Tristan Osborne as Labour’s Kent Police & Crime Commissioner candidate. Given it’s his home constituency, this should just be a formality, but it would seem some vocal Corbyn supporters are encouraging members to turn up and vote against him, which was obviously be horribly embarrassing. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because there’s not much going on at the moment that would be relevant to them.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Fancy a fun night out? Medway Lib Dems are inviting all members and non-members alike to a ‘Lib Dem Pint’ this Saturday. In the Rochester Wetherspoons. So many lovely, independent pubs in Rochester, so they arrange a meetup for somewhere that resembles the seventh circle of hell on a Saturday night.

Medway Green Party
Constantly finding new angles to tackle the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, they have dug up an old plan for Shorne which will be somewhat decimated by a giant new road and a tunnel ploughing through the area. We await to see next week’s angle on the subject.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken running a marathon, meeting the King of Saudi Arabia (no word if he raised any pesky human rights issues), in his second home at Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre, with some cricket pals, meeting a solitary resident in Rainham, and letting a Gillingham resident decide his position on the EU.

The troubling tweets of Conservative councillor Michael Franklin

Over the past few years, more and more Medway councillors have taken to Twitter, with mixed results. Some take it up pretty naturally, while some come across as only opening an account because they think they need to. Others are in another category completely of being completely out of their depth. It’s this category where recently elected Conservative councillor for Luton and Wayfield Michael Franklin finds himself.

It was immediately clear that he perhaps wasn’t a natural to Twitter when he adopted the snappy moniker of @mikefra74161391 and this was his first tweet:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 09.17.15In the months after, his account was only occasionally used, ramping up significantly following his election in May. By and large, Cllr Franklin seems to spend most of his time tweeting anti-EU and anti-Corbyn content, which perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising for a Conservative.

In more recent weeks, it’s become clear that he’s definitely pro-monarchy (and pro-capitalisation):

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He’s definitely got some strong opinions on the criminal justice system:

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And he’s definitely not a fan of 16 and 17 year olds being given the vote:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 09.14.01All of which probably wouldn’t matter too much if he was effective at dealing from comments from constituents. Instead, he decides to interact with them in the form of insults and accusing them of deliberately not paying their council tax, even doing so by jumping into a conversation that doesn’t involve him:

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A spectacular moment came when he argued that high bus fares in Medway are absolutely fine because too many people on the bus “need to walk more” anyway, following it up by accusing a resident of being unable to read:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 09.05.45

Jennings highlighted this particular tweet, leading to a rather odd exchange, and resulted in his usual catchphrase of “COMMIE Corbyn strikes again” being busted out:

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Another surreal incident occurred a few days later, when the Medway Messenger reported an increase in council tax, and Cllr Franklin accused them of some underhanded news gathering practices. An accusation all the more bizarre given that his own council had already published a press release about the council tax rise.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.39.24

All of this wouldn’t really be that big of a deal – eccentric people on Twitter is hardly news – if it wasn’t for his rather troubling tendency to retweet increasingly racist and Islamophobic tweets, like this one where he suggests the Prime Minister of Canada in a mosque was “worshipping the devil”:

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.36.45

He has no qualms in condoning those on the left being laughed at, mocked, and most worryingly, referred to as “leftards”:
Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.39.52 He seems to think it’s cool for feminists against Islamophobia to be described as “kunts”, also referencing the anti-Muslim #Bluehand movement.
Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.40.16

He is absolutely happy to retweet this kind of anti-Muslim propaganda, even going so far as to ask if “anyone has any doubts” about the claims:

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.41.12 Cllr Franklin is more than comfortable on pinning a supposed increase in child sex abuse cases entirely on the Muslim community, with this kind of provocative imagery:
Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 17.42.35

When we showed some of this retweeting on Twitter by literally posting screenshots from his own account, he accused us of “editing”:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 08.59.21 It’s not our job to police what politicians can and can’t say on Twitter. Everyone is entitled to their views, and everyone is willing to express them. That said, Cllr Franklin represents one of the most diverse wards in Medway, and the fact Medway Conservatives feel comfortable selecting him and continue to stand by him suggests some worrying lack of judgement within the local party.

Note: Since Cllr Franklin’s tweets started gaining attention, many of the above tweets have since been deleted from his account. This is why we have presented them as screenshots. It’s also notable that his tweeting has been toned down considerably since this issue was initially raised.

The Week in Medway Politics: G4S, traffic, tax dodging

Medway MPs in Parliament

Medway G4S scandal reaches Parliament
A remarkable exchange in Parliament this week between Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst and Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Tolhurst decided to point her ire less at G4S themselves over the recent Medway abuse scandal, instead questioning why the BBC didn’t reveal the evidence earlier. In response, Gove helpfully explained exactly how journalism works.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst again popped up, this time to raise concerns about congestion at the Dartford Crossing in a debate on the subject.

Medway Council

That awkward moment
Medway Council had to slightly awkwardly announce this week that one of it’s own employees had been convicted of dodging council tax. The council doesn’t have a brilliant record of chasing outstanding council tax, so it’s nice to see them have something of a win here.

First meeting of 2016
The first full council meeting of Medway Council will take place this Thursday. Following the council’s changes to public questions, we’ve gone from around 20 being asked at the last meeting, to only 3 this time around. Highlights of the meeting this week include Cllr Shaw raising the #medwaybincrisis, Cllr Stamp wanting the noise team to clamp down even more, and Cllr Bowler’s attempt to allow public questions at planning meetings. You can read the full agenda here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The Kent Conservative Police & Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott popped up to campaign in both Rainham and Rochester this week. Cue several pictures of local Conservatives standing around in the cold next to a slightly lonely looking ‘six point plan’ sign.

Medway Labour
Missing, because they probably need to pump themselves up for the big council meeting this week.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, and if their website is anything to go by, I wouldn’t expect much out of them before March.

Medway Green Party
Helpfully, the Greens noticed and raised a consultation about improving the area around Chatham rail station that everyone else seemed to miss.
The party are also a bit wary of the environmental impact of the Lower Thames Crossing that may skim around the edge of Medway.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
Rehman still isn’t back up to full selfie power, but this week he was able to have his photo taken running in the rain, with a TV camera, literally off the TV, with a guy called Neil, with a sick child, and with the aforementioned Matthew Scott and his sign.

The Week in Medway Politics: Ofsted, Oldham, and alcohol

Medway MPs in Parliament

Out of a maximum of 4 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 3 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 3 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 2 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst asked a meaningless question about Syria, and asked about job losses at the Chatham HMRC site, while Rehman Chishti banged on yet again about what to call Islamic State. Meanwhile, Tracey Crouch ended up answering a lot of questions about the Big Lottery Fund.

Medway Council

OFSTED report
An Ofsted report into Children’s Services in Medway has ranked them as ‘requires improvement’. Medway Council post an article on this with the title ‘Ofsted report confirms Medway’s children’s services are improving‘. Impressive chutzpah.

Airport action
There’s an apparent “jobs boost” for Medway as Rochester Airport has been granted Enterprise Zone status. At least it kind of has. Along with half the other places in Kent.

Traffic fines
Some FOI digging has revealed that Medway Council has raised almost £1 million in traffic fines since 2013, a number all the more staggering given they only have 5 active cameras.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
The party responded to the Autumn Statement. You’ll be shocked to discover they weren’t happy about it. They’re also a bit grumpy about the Ofsted thing.
The Medway Labour away team also took a trip up to sunny Oldham this week to campaign for this coming week’s by-election.

Medway UKIP
Not specifically Medway related, but UKIP have now selected a candidate for next year’s Police & Crime Commissioner elections.

Medway Liberal Democrats
The party held their AGM this week, and apparently had a record turn out. They even needed extra chairs and plates. Bless.

Medway Green Party
The Green took the bold step of coming out in support of Chatham’s new distillery, and made a pretty good joke about a new council office that would make it even harder for the public to ask questions.

Medway TUSC
Medway TUSC reemerged this week to get a bit annoyed that they weren’t invited to a Young Person’s Question Time. As you do.

Other News

Rochester Town Council
The campaign for a Rochester Town Council held their ‘Making It Happen’ meeting this week. Jennings went along and live tweeted it, and left believing that it’s now more likely than not to happen.

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with a microphone, the Ambassador of Bahrain, the High Commissioner of Pakistan, the Chairman of Senate of Pakistan, some constituents in Parliament, Big Ben on BBC News, Big Ben on ITV News, some guide dogs at Dobbies, the local Conservatives ladies lunch, Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, the Managing Director of Southeastern, several pensioners advising him on how to bomb Syria, the Hempstead Christmas tree lighting, and some Gurdwara celebrations. He seems to take more pictures of himself every week.