Election night in Medway

For the fourth time in a little over two years, Medway has again gone to the polls, this time for a surprise General Election.

Polling stations will close at 10pm, and after that we’ll be live tweeting from the count on @MedwayPolitics. We’ll post the results on this post as quickly as we can, but it’ll probably be very late before the Medway results come in, so we won’t hold it against you if you check back in the morning.

Chatham and Aylesford result – Con HOLD
Nicole Bushill (UKIP) – 2,225
Tracey Crouch (Con) – 25,587
John Gibson (CPA) – 260
Bernard Hyde (Green) – 573
Vince Maple (Lab) – 15,129
Thomas Quinton (Lib Dem) – 1,116

Gillingham and Rainham result – Con HOLD
Paul Chaplin (Lib Dem) – 1,372
Rehman Chishti (Con) – 27,091
Martin Cook (UKIP) – 2,097
Clive Gregory (Green) – 520
Roger Peacock (CPA) – 127
Andy Stamp (Lab) – 17,661

Rochester and Strood result – Con HOLD
David Allen (UKIP) – 2,893
Steve Benson (CPA) – 169
Primerose Chiguri (Ind) – 129
Sonia Hyner (Green) – 781
Teresa Murray (Lab) – 19,382
Bart Ricketts (Lib Dem) – 1189
Kelly Tolhurst (Con) – 29,232

The campaign for Rainham Central has begun

Following the sad death of Councillor Mike O’Brien, a by-election will take place in Rainham Central to elect his replacement on 3 November. We’ve taken a quick look at each of the candidates standing in the election:

Conservatives – Jan Aldous
We’d love to be able to tell you all about the Conservative candidate, but there seems to be very little information on Jan Aldous available, other than the fact she’s lived in Rainham for 40 years. So, er, good for her.

Mike Russell

English Democrats – Mike Russell
The English Democrats continue their slow march on Medway, as Mike Russell is standing in his second by-election in a fortnight, as he’s also standing in Strood South. Mike has stood for Medway Council several times in the past, has campaigned to be the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, and even had a run at the European Parliament. This campaign is likely to be about as successful as all of those.

Green Party – George Meegan
The Greens have selected Professor George Meegan as their candidate. Professor Meegan is a lifelong adventurer, and ran a somewhat baffling campaign to become an independent MP for Gillingham and Rainham in 2010. He intends to base his campaign around environmental issues and education. You can follow him on Twitter.

Labour – Simon Allen
Simon Allen is a freelance journalist and has previously worked for MPs and campaigned against fixed odd betting terminals. Beyond that, he apparently intends to campaign on the ‘issues that matter locally’. Rightio. You can follow him on Twitter.

Liberal Democrats – Paul Chaplin
Paul Chaplin was the parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems in 2015, coming in 4th place. Paul is a lifelong resident of Medway, and school governor, and intends to run a campaign on supporting students and their families. You can follow him on Twitter.

UKIP – Mark Mencattelli
We don’t really know much beyond Mark Mencattelli, other than that he stood in Gillingham North last year and came pretty close to taking one of the seats.

The battle for Strood South officially gets underway

Following the resignation of UKIP councillor Catriona Brown-Reckless, the battle to replace her in Strood South is underway. With the by-election being held on 20 October, less than four weeks away, we’ve put together this handy roundup of the six candidates for the seat.

josieilesConservatives – Josie Iles
The first of two former Strood South councillors trying to win the seat back, Josie Iles represented the ward between 2011 and 2015, when she narrowly lost her seat to UKIP. Josie is a former mayor of Medway, and has lived in the Strood South ward for 30 years. She voted leave in the EU referendum, and while it’s unclear exactly what platforms she’ll be standing on, she’s off to a great start in the ‘having serious photos taken in front of things’ competition.

Mike Russell

English Democrats – Mike Russell
The English Democrats continue their slow march on Medway, as once again Mike Russell is standing for the party. Mike has stood for Medway Council several times in the past, has campaigned to be the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, and even had a run at the European Parliament. This campaign is likely to be about as successful as all of those.

stevedykeGreen Party – Steve Dyke
Steve Dyke is the current leader of the Medway Green Party, and unsuccessfully stood for election in Strood North in 2015. Steve has lived in Strood for 50 years, and intends to run on a platform based around sustainable housing, transport improvements, and the environment. You can follow him on Twitter.

isaacigweLabour – Isaac Igwe
The second former Strood South councillor trying to win his seat back is Isaac Igwe, who represented the ward between 2011 and 2015. Despite coming 2nd in the ward in 2011, he dropped to 8th in 2015. Given Labour only selected him at the last possible minute, it’s unclear what he intends to campaign on. Notably, in 2013, Isaac once fled a council meeting and hid in a toilet to avoid having to cast a vote in favour of equal marriage. You can follow him on Twitter.

isabellecherryLiberal Democrats – Isabelle Cherry
By far the youngest candidate in the by-election, the Lib Dems have put forward Isabelle Cherry. Isabelle has lived in Medway all of her life, and is currently studying for her A-levels. Isabelle intends to run a campaign based around improving schools and public transport, and reducing litter. You can follow her on Twitter.

karlwellerUKIP – Karl Weller
Despite currently holding the seat, UKIP have put forward an unfamiliar face in Karl Weller. Karl has lived in the ward for 18 years, and beyond that, we know pretty much nothing about him. You can follow him on Twitter.

The Week

Return of the Igwe
After leaving their selection for the Strood South by-election to the last possible moment, Medway Labour picked former councillor in the ward, Isaac Igwe to contest the seat. Thanks to the archaic way Labour selects it’s candidates, it was left in the bizarre position of having six candidates, and barely more than that many members making the choice. Igwe is a curious choice though, not supported by the new left of the party, and plenty of others uncomfortable with his views on social issues like equal marriage.

Greens recycle candidate
The Green Party also selected their candidate for the Strood South by-election this week, announcing that local party leader Steve Dyke will fight the battle. The Greens didn’t stand in Strood South in 2015 (Dyke stood in Strood North), so the fact they’re putting forward a candidate indicates some improvement in local organisation.

UKIP? Uwhat?
Proving that Labour aren’t the only party wrapping themselves up in petty infighting, there seems to be a kerfuffle within UKIP locally over their Strood South candidate selection. Karl Weller announced himself as the candidate some time ago, while former local chairman Chris Spalding claimed no selection process had been followed and announced he also wanted to be the candidate. As it stands, Weller remains the candidate, but it seems unlikely the local party divisions will be healed anytime soon.

Regressive alliance
Huge news this week for the structure of Medway politics, as Medway TUSC announced that they will no longer field candidates against Labour. Aside from leaving a question of exactly what the point of a political party that doesn’t field candidates is, one has to wonder how much impact this will have on the upcoming Strood South and Rainham Central by-elections. Given they got a combined vote of about 300 in both seats, it would seem very little is the most likely.

Brace yourself, it’s good news from Kelly Tolhurst
It’s not often we write something positive about Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, but she’s putting forward a Private Member’s Bill that seems to be doing something genuinely positive. She’ll be moving a bill in Parliament that will enshrine a 12 months ‘breathing space’ window for those in debt to be able to get themselves back on their feet. You can find out more about the bill here.

Audit combo
An interesting story that hasn’t received a large amount of attention about how Medway and Gravesham Council have combined their audit services to save £230,000 between the two councils. This kind of thing is seemingly becoming more common, and when savings of that scale can be made relatively easily, I expect we’ll be covering plenty more such changes in the future.

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.

The Week

Cllr Brown-Reckless resigns from Medway Council
In a move that surprised absolutely no one, UKIP councillor for Strood South Catriona Brown-Reckless this week resigned from the council, having been elected only 16 months ago. This triggers a by-election in the Strood South ward, with a three way fight between UKIP, the Conservatives, and Labour for the seat taking place on October 20.

Remembering Mike O’Brien
Sad news this week as councillor Mike O’Brien, Conservative representative of Rainham Central and portfolio holder for Children’s Services, passed away. Mike had been a longstanding member of the local political scene, first being elected to Gillingham Borough Council in 1976 and Kent County Council in 1979.

Cabinet record
Not for the first time, the ruling Cabinet of Medway Council managed to conduct their business in record time this week. Despite having to discuss discretionary business rates relief for local charities and not for profit organisations, government proposals on the distribution of business rates, and a recruitment freeze, they managed to have everything wrapped up in 15 minutes. Because that’s how open and transparent democracy is done.

Boundary review
Plans that could quite literally change the shape of Medway politics will be unveiled on Tuesday, as the Boundary Commission release the first stage of their 2018 boundary review. The review is intended to reduce parliament to 600 seats from 650, and create constituencies of roughly equal size. Reasonable enough at first glance, but previous proposals have suggested moving Hempstead & Wigmore into Chatham and Aylesford, and Luton & Wayfield into Gillingham and Rainham. We’ll be pouring over the proposals in detail once they’re made available.

Local plan
The local plan stumbled forward slightly this week, with a meeting held in parliament to discuss it between Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst and, er, six other Conservative councillors. Given that the local plan is a vital document that will shape the direction of Medway over the coming years, it’s a shame that the direction is seemingly being directed by the Conservative benches and not a cross-party group.

Medway Labour website hackwatch, day 7182
After months and months of the Medway Labour website being hacked by someone dodgy, and the party doing nothing to fix or take down the site, councillor Tristan Osborne declared this week that something new is on the way! While we’re delighted to hear that something is actually happening, the Medway Labour group will have to excuse us if we don’t expect much this side of Christmas.

Cllr Brown-Reckless resigns from Medway Council

Medway Council is set for it’s first by-election in several years, following the resignation of Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless.

Cllr Brown-Reckless was elected to represent Strood South as a UKIP councillor last year, and was deputy leader of the UKIP group on the council.

As such, a by-election will now need to be held to fill the vacancy in the ward, on a date to be decided in the near future.

It also means that the UKIP group on Medway Council has now been reduced from 4 to 2 since their election last year, with Cllr Brown-Reckless’ resignation following Cllr Joy’s decision to sit as an independent.

Strood South has been a split ward for some time now, with Conservative, Labour, and UKIP councillors all representing the ward in recent years, so a fierce by-election battle looks likely for the vacant seat.

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Children, Chairmen, Conduct

The big stories

Matthew Scott is Kent’s new Police and Crime Commissioner – full story
Last week, after an uninspiring campaign period, voters of Kent went to the polls to select a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent after sitting Commissioner Ann Barnes decided to stand down. Matthew Scott for the Conservatives was victorious, beating second placed Henry Bolton of UKIP. We had full analysis of the results, including an awful lot of graphs.

The Medway Council April ding dong – full story
Medway Council held it’s April meeting, which featured such exciting events as a new mayor being selected, and some revelations on the EU referendum. As usual, we were there to livetweet the proceedings, and you can catch up with all of the highlights above.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Save Sod the children
In one of the most remarkable votes of this parliament so far, both Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst voted against allowing unaccompanied child refugees into the UK. Kelly Tolhurst even spoke at length in the parliamentary debate on why taking needy children in would be such a terrible thing to do. Of course, it’s all slightly moot now as it seems the government will u-turn and allow the children in after all, but it’s worth remembering that the first instinct of Medway MPs was to refuse to help children in need.

In, out, shake it all about
Six weeks out from the EU referendum, and our three Medway MPs are still declining to reveal where they stand on this incredibly important issue. It almost seems like they are all attempting to run out the clock and not tell their constituents where they stand, to avoid any awkward confrontations with their local party members.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length on energy generation on the Isle of Grain, while also acknowledging that some will be sad to see the chimney at Kingsnorth power station demolished.

Medway Council

All change
A sudden departure from Medway Council this week for it’s head of children and adult services, Barbara Peacock. Her time at the council can be described as rocky at best.

Curious conduct
A rare outing for Medway Council’s Councillor Conduct Committee this Wednesday. An interesting agenda that focuses on introducing social media guidelines for councillors, while also dealing with a complaint against a councillor. Whatever could it all be about?

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because after winning the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, they don’t really need to bother doing anything.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been ten weeks since the Medway Labour website was hacked, proving a security risk to user’s visiting, and they still haven’t managed to fix it. Yet they’d like the voters to hand them the keys to Gun Wharf.

Medway UKIP
Curious events within Rochester and Strood UKIP as chairman Chris Spalding stepped down from the role. No reason was given for this, but rumours of disharmony within the local party over the actions of Medway UKIP leader on Medway Council Roy Freshwater may well have played a part.
In a rare bout of local campaigning, the very same Cllr Freshwater was out and about in Chatham, encouraging people to leave the EU. Obviously.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Want to meet some local Lib Dems, if only to prove they exist? They’ll be in Strood High Street from 10am on Saturday!

Medway Green Party
As you might expect, the local Greens are a little concerned about Medway’s new local plan allowing housing development on green spaces, particularly after leader of the council Alan Jarrett stated that this would be necessary.

Other news

Reckless move
After being unceremoniously losing his Westminster seat in last year’s general election, Mark Reckless made his return to mainstream politics after being elected to – of all places – the Welsh Assembly. While we wish Mark well in his new venture, we are left wondering what will happen with his wife’s council seat in Strood South. Will she be resigning this to head to Wales, or will Mark be taking in one hell of a commute? Either way, it’s a question that Cllr Andrew Mackness is eager to get the bottom of.

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Planning, police, powerhouses

Medway MPs in Parliament

Lower Thames Crossing
The consultation on the Lower Thames Crossing closed at the end of March, so we thought we’d take a look at where our local MPs stand on an issue that has great relevance to the people of Medway. Somewhat surprisingly, most of them don’t really stand anywhere. Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch have made little public comment beyond sharing the consultation. Unusually, the only one to take a stand is Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst, who came out against it, presumably because she doesn’t have to sit in the queues at Dartford every day.

Elsewhere in Parliament
It won’t be all that surprising to discover that both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst both voted for George Osborne’s recent (and not entirely well received) budget. Additionally, in a slightly bizarre intervention following the Brussels attacks, Rehman Chishti demanded more “theological language” to fight terrorists.

Medway Council

Planning palaver
A baffling interlude courtesy of Medway Council’s planning policy this week. On Wednesday, councillors will vote on a range of planning applications, the most interesting being a proposed trampoline centre at Rainham Mark. Despite the proposed building having sat empty for a long time, the centre creating 45 jobs, consultation responses being 3 to 1 in favour, the recommendation is for the committee to refuse the application. The reason? It’s not in the right part of town, whereas the the KFC drive-thru right next door is perfectly fine. In the same week, the Cabinet looks set to wave through a plan to build a giant marina right outside of Gun Wharf.

The Kentish Powerhouse
Some curious comments from Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett, who told the KM that Medway is talking with other councils in Kent about powers and funding models that may be offered from central government. While there has been talk previously of other Kent County Council controlled boroughs forming larger groups, this is the first time Medway has been confirmed as taking part in such discussions.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Kent Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott campaigned in Rainham this weekend, but otherwise, the party seems to be keeping it’s head down.

Medway Labour
Incredibly, the Medway Labour website is still hacked, despite the party being aware of the issue weeks ago.
The party are also concerned by the seeming hypocrisy between the Leader of Medway Council Alan Jarrett opposing government plans to make all schools academies, while trying to make all Medway schools convert mere weeks earlier.
Labour also hit the streets of Strood South, ostensibly to campaign to remain in the European Union, and nothing to do with a likely by-election in the ward. Interestingly, there was no sign of Strood South Conservative UKIP Independent Labour councillor Mark Joy on the campaign trail.

Medway UKIP
Not to be outdone by Matthew Scott, Kent UKIP Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Henry Bolton campaigned in both Gillingham and Chatham this weekend.

Medway Liberal Democrats
They reported some dumped bin bags to the council. Jolly good.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, they’re still unhappy about the Lower Thames Crossing, and not really sure how to deal with Kelly Tolhurst ultimately being on the same side as them.
They’re unhappy that Medway Council have begun charging for all bulky waste collections too.
They’re also unhappy about a new retail development on Medway City Estate being built without road improvements. Though if the council proposed more roads, they’d probably be unhappy about that too.

Other News

Minor Police and Crime Commissioner candidate roundup
Previously announced Independent Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Tim Garbutt may be out of the race as he seemingly didn’t check how much it costs to stand before now.
No such problems for another Independent candidate, Gurvinder Sandher, who has been hitting the campaign trail all over Kent, including a stop in Rochester this week.
We’ve covered the baffling campaign of Fergus Wilson several times before, so we won’t again in detail here, but blogger Jon Patience has been staying on top of latest events.
..and in one of the most jaw dropping twists of the campaign, English Democrat candidate Steve Uncles successfully convinced a judge to delay his trial for election fraud so he could fight this election.

The Week in Medway Politics: Sunday trading, tents, football

The big stories

Internal strife within Medway Labour as ex-UKIP councillor Mark Joy tries to join party – full story
In which the Medway Labour leadership cause an almighty row by trying to bring a former UKIP councillor into the fold.

Rehman Chishti in breach of parliamentary rules – full story
In which the Gillingham and Rainham MP doesn’t declare his football freebies, and gets a new job.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Sunday Trading
This week, MPs voted on whether or not to extend Sunday trading hours, as it still seems strange that someone can’t do their shopping at 5pm on a Sunday in 2016. In a rare outbreak of good sense, all three Medway MPs – Rehman Chishti, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch, and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst – all voted for the changes, but alas, the vote was lost overall. So no shopping at 9am on a Sunday for you.

Elsewhere in Parliament
In one of the stranger speeches of the week, Kelly Tolhurst spoke at length in parliament about being unable to get a phone line installed in her office. After weeks of buildup, Rehman Chishti’s complaints about laser pens finally came to a head, as he introduced a bill to get them banned. Finally, after Channel 4 News pushing on the Rochester and Strood by-election spending issue for a while, the Daily Mail have stepped, all guns blazing, into the fray.

Medway Council

Rochester Riverside
Not for the first time, a new developer has been chosen to deliver the 1300 home Rochester Riverside project. Countryside Properties and Hyde Housing will now begin work on the project, with work due to complete in 2028, a mere 21 years after the process began. At least it’ll help solve Medway’s next decade housing crisis.

Cabinet decisions
This week, Medway Council’s ruling cabinet met. Amongst their decisions were to formally endorse the Southern Western variation of the Lower Thames Crossing proposals, and to rescind current arrangements for Business Rates Relief for next year. Both decisions will likely not be particularly popular. You can read the full minutes from the meeting here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, presumably trying to make excuses for Cllr Franklin’s tweets.

Medway Labour
As you’d expect, Medway Labour are crowing about the laws on Sunday trading not being relaxed, because they’d rather it was impossible to get hold of things after 5pm on a Sunday.

Medway UKIP
A remarkable stance from Medway UKIP this week, who requested the council prepare tents for migrants to live in on the Great Lines. The full story also features a superb bit of Photoshop work too.
Elsewhere, former UKIP Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless has been selected to stand for the Welsh Assembly in coming elections. If he takes up a seat in the Assembly, will his wife – Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless – give up her seat on Medway Council, or begin an almighty commute?

Medway Liberal Democrats
The Medway Lib Dems went on the attack this week, with a scathing statement from new chairman John Castle attacking the Tories, calling out the opposition parties on the council, and demanding a change to the scrutiny system. The fact they have no councillors to really do anything was sadly missed out.

Medway Green Party
Well, you probably won’t believe it, but they’re angry about the Lower Thames Crossing.

Other News

Ann Barnes out
After months of speculation, current Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes ruled herself out of the running for the upcoming elections, meaning Kent is assured a new Commissioner in May. Which makes the coming election slightly more interesting than the circus side show it had largely been up until now.

Rehman About Town
A strong photo week for Rehman, seeing him have his photo taken with some children, a giant tourism sign, Stewart from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a treadmill, an award, meeting his obligatory single resident, and despite the story above, we shit you not, a Gillingham player, and himself at the match. He also found time to highlight himself reading the local paper after they mentioned his tweets in a tiny column. We cover his whereabouts every single week and what do we get? Sheesh.

1 2