Votes 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
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.
Recess Parliament was in recess this week, so our MPs haven’t been up to much there, but that didn’t stop Tracey Crouch getting herself into trouble (see below).
Bungalow Bonanza Medway Council has begun the ‘largest council-built bungalow development’ in the UK. The ‘largest’ being a grand total of 32 dwellings. Which is nice and all, but Medway has thousands on it’s housing waiting lists.
Local Plan Medway Council will soon beginning drawing up a new local plan, identifying development sites for the coming years. Which will definitely go well.
Medway Conservatives The Conservatives have announced their shortlist for their candidate to be Kent Police and Crime Commissioner next year. None of the names on the list are particularly relevant to Medway.
A fairly quiet week, but this is whats been happening in Medway politics in the last seven days..
Medway MPs in Parliament
Slow week Nothing much happened from a Medway perspective in Parliament this week. Tracey Crouch answered some questions, Kelly Tolhurst brought up immigration, and all three MPs voted in every vote they were able to.
Fireworks Seemingly the only thing Medway Council has been focusing on this week is blowing up a bit of the sky on Saturday. They did it pretty well though.
Medway Conservatives Missing, presumed hibernating until April 2019.
Medway Liberal Democrats
This week they’re outraged about roaming charges and Right to Buy.
They also confirmed that they will fight the 2016 Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, after not bothering in 2012.
Just time for a quick round-up of the week’s events in Medway politics..
Medway MPs in Parliament
Tampon tax All three Medway MPs voted to maintain sanitary products as “non-essential luxury items”. All three have since defended their vote, arguing it’s not as clear cut as it appears, and you can read their responses here: Rehman Chishti, Tracey Crouch, Kelly Tolhurst.
Rehman Chishti introduced a brief debate in the Commons on the nature of the UK’s support for Pakistan, which you can read in full here.
Cuxton by-election A parish by-election this week in Cuxton, where a straight two-way battle was fought between independent candidate Tracy Thorley and Conservative candidate (and former Mayor of Medway) Josie Iles. In the end, it wasn’t even remotely a close run contest, with Thorley defeating Iles with 434 votes to 90.
Medway Council is seeking volunteers to clear snow because they can’t manage it themselves.
All quiet – there’s no elections on for another four years now.
The Green Party candidate for Gillingham & Rainham at the last general election, Neil Williams, has defected to the Labour Party. Williams cited Jeremy Corbyn’s recent victory as the main motivation for his decision.
Still, it’s all happy families now, with Medway Labour leader Cllr Vince Maple saying “it is great to welcome Neil to the Labour Party”.
Medway Labour have apparently seen a surge in membership over the past few weeks, presumably inspired by Jeremy Corbyn. It’ll be interesting to see how well these new members manage to work with the more traditional members of the party, and if any other candidates from the Greens or TUSC decide to make the jump to the party.
I have started writing this piece several times, and played it over in my head several times. It’s about how I feel about the Labour party. My feelings have been confuzzled of late, not helped by the election result and the resulting leadership election.
It is about feelings of disappointment.
I don’t expect Medway Labour to care that I feel disappointment, or even if you care, but it’s how I feel, and I wanted to write it down before the result tomorrow, and my disappointment grows.
Disappointment = Expectation/Reality Jeremy Corbyn will win the first round of the Labour leadership but I don’t expect him to win the leadership.
As we discussed with the Political Compass, the conversation has moved so far right, that post New Labour the argument is over a relatively small piece of political real estate. Corbyn, who is largely left of centre, is seen as extreme left, purely because how far right the conversation has gone.
There have been a ridiculous number of hours spent analysisng why Labour lost the election. It would seem to be without question that it was the #EdStone. It wasn’t allowing Conservatives to control the economic narrative, which made a global economic crisis there fault; it wasn’t allowing UKIP to take socialist agenda with regards the NHS, ground they had abandoned; it wasn’t losing Scotland (presumably because Ed was too left); it wasn’t failing to stop the narrative being about letting SNP run England if Ed was PM.
It feels now that there are elements that are angry that anyone gives a negative view of Labour – or anything remotely ‘left’ – but instead that we should just being grateful that Labour are there for us. And we shouldn’t question that.
Standing for winning and against the others winning.
There are, or seem to be, elements with Medway Labour that seem obsessed with public opinion when actually what they mean is media opinion.
“It’s worth remembering that in the press, public opinion is often used interchangeably with media opinion, as if the public was somehow much the same as a group of radically rightwing billionaire sociopaths.” – Frankie Boyle
There is an obsession with polling numbers, despite the last general election showing that the polls were very, very wrong.
As this West wing clip shows, numbers lie, and some members of Medway Labour are like the French radicals:
Disclaimer: As a naive lefty who is clearly wrong about most things, Keevil has accepted a political life on the outside. Where it is easy to be dismissed, especially by those who are dismissive. Being in opposition to the administration isn’t about being anti-Tory or being contrary, it is about the need for a strong opposition in a strong democracy.
Rather than just accept that an election was won by a small percentage, or not by the majority of voters (the FPTP losers equivalent to the current government/administrations’s ‘Austerity is needed because of the last Labour government’ mantra), we need to ask;
What does it mean to be in opposition?
Is there any real power in opposition?
According to the freedictionary.com
A person or group of people opposing, criticising or protesting something, someone or another group.
Residents expect elected councillors to contribute to the development of policies and strategies, and for the councils policy’s to be signed off by full council, on which everybody sits. They expect concerns to be investigated and decisions to be communicated. They expect to be represented.
They expect those in opposition to question and hold those in power to account.
I’m going to try (I’ll fail) and sound non-partisan, when I say there are issues regarding the role of opposition in the Medway Towns.
Following the 2015 local election result, there was a new status quo, which heavily affected opposition and oppositional power in the Medway Unitary Authority.
Firstly; whilst I don’t think Medway Labour were expecting to lead the council, there was an expectation of increased group side, maybe even no overall control, a view held by this site at least. What resulted was in fact a strengthened and emboldened Conservative administration.
Secondly; whilst nobody expected the Medway Liberal Democrats to do well, their complete removal from council resulting in the loss of a Liberal/ liberal voice, should not be considered a good thing.
Thirdly; Chris Irvine’s foolishly noble decision to stand for election within the ward he lives. This meant the councillor for Penisula Ward and leader of UKIP Rochester/Medway UKIP group (delete as appropriate) left the council and the group lost it’s leader. UKIP have appeared rudderless in full council so far. They have already lost one member who become an independent and have made no meaningful contribution.
It’s the belief of this writer at least that Irvine’s absence is a bigger loss to ofpposition within council then that of Geoff Juby.
Fourthly; The Medway Green Party’s inabilty to build on its by-election profile and mount a credible challenge for a ward seat. Whilst they achieved a larger vote then Medway TUSC, TUSC have – angered by the Rainham North result – been more vocal in their opposition, at full council meetings at least.
Forgetting that members of council not part of the administration were also elected to do exactly that, and that the administration works for the public, and should answer to them. Frankly more then six times a year at full council and once every four years at the ballot box.
Critical feedback is not a negative experience and any opposition should have an opportunity to contribute to the creation of policy and legislation.
They should oppose proposals they legitimately disagree with, be given an opportunity to voice that disagreement and not have that voice dismissed as sour grapes.
Democracy thrives when there is a peaceful rivalry and a balance between a majority, winner of the election, who is in a position to govern, but not monopolising all the power.
Whilst we can be relieved that there is no likelihood of the police being called to remove minority parties from council (though we should wait for the results of Cllr Mackness’ constitutional review, to be fully sure), there is a concern held by this site about the monopolisation of power with cabinet and the charing of committees.
The oppositions role is to oppose and to do that they must be able to participate in the political process. They then must do this effectively and responsibly. It is this area looking forward that needs to be monitored over the course of the administration.
If there is to be any true power in opposition the Medway electorate and elected needs to accept that:
1) Medway Unitary Authority is not a two party system.
2) They should not be dismissive of any smaller group seaking to gain a ward seat at the table.
3) A Liberal/liberal voice is needed.
4) As is a Green one.
Saying that, the two party system providing 3 & 4 only works if they actually do.
As the largest group in opposition, Medway Labour needs to also be held accountable for the positions they take on issues. Not opposing for opposing sake and ensuring they offer credible alternatives.
UKIP Rochester/Medway UKIP (delete as appropriate) has a spokesperson woman and they need to find their voice with council and represent the people that voted for them and continue to oppose anti-xenophobia.
Mark Joy’s first council meeting, as a councillor and an Independent councillor, gave an interesting dynamic as he opposed one Labour motion and supported another. Ignoring for this piece the purpose of either motion, this is a positive of opposition, voting on a case by case basis, with or against the opposition. Not along party lines. This is easer when you dont have a party line to follow, obviously.
I understand there is a position of group whip to stop people voting against the party line, but until member and public opposition amounts to more, then any opposition is purely for the record – decisions will continue to be made behind closed doors and outside of democracy.