Once a month we will be offering the Leaders of both Medway Council and the official opposition the opportunity to talk unedited about.. well, Medway politics. Starting today with Vince Maple, leader of the Medway Labour Group.
I want to start by thanking Ed and Steve from the Political Medway for giving pieces of this nature a new home. Historically, the local KM paper had a weekly political column which residents would often talk about when speaking to them on the doorstep. Although I’m sure I’ll disagree with the vast majority of what Alan Jarrett will say when his pieces are published, it’s healthy for local democracy for the Leader of the Council and the Leader of the Opposition to have an accessible platform of this nature.
We are in the middle of December, a great opportunity to reflect on the positive actions Medway Labour Councillors have taken over the past year in the community we call home. It goes without saying that Labour Councillors deal with hundreds of pieces of casework to support residents in their ward on a wide variety of issues. Alongside that the Labour Group have shown true community leadership in a number of ways, working hard to deliver for the residents of Medway.
Just time for a quick roundup of the week, where we take a look at the big stories in local politics, what each political party has been up to, and a special Brexit debate special of Rehman About Town.
In which Keevil starts off with a funny title for a blog and then goes on an unexpected personal journey. In doing so, he meets the expectations of many right-wing readers of the blog by wondering what anarchism actually is rather than the pejorative and then goes looking for it online and in Medway!
A Brief Political Revision of Keevil
As mentioned before in the day’s of ‘The Centre and What’s Left’ Keevil has, in his electoral lifetime voted Labour, Lib Dem and Green. He even stood for the Green Party in Medway Council by-elections! But he never felt like he found his tribe.
At the top is the political compass, it shows where you stand on a four point axis, rather than a simple left/right. Keevil and Jennings have disagreed in the past about its validity. Above is the results of Keevil’s Votes for Policies test which show where you come out if you vote for policy rather than party. But it’s still based on party policy.
Keevil retook the political compass test below, going even further to the bottom left then ever before, to the surprise of few and the disgust of many.
What is an anarchist and is Keevil one?
A Brief Cultural History of Anarchy
For some, depending on your age, or your cultural reference points then your understanding or thoughts of anarchy are either:
“I’m a natural-born anarchist,” Lydon, Johnny Rotten to his fans, said to NPR. “I’ve never in my life supported any government anywhere, and I never will.” Lydon says “‘Anarchy in the UK’ is to be sung with love.”
Or for fans of movie comics adaptations:
But whilst arguably fun and exciting or dangerous and criminal, do they truly represent anarchy?
Definitions; Words to empower the disempowered
anarchy; – a social situation free of Government and coercive hierarchies.
anarchists; – identify themselves with a social movement or philosophy of anarchism.
Simply put anarchy works
Simple Politics explains it thusly:
Anarchism isn't just about chaos. It's not about people who just want to watch the world burn. Here's your 40 second guide to anarchist vibes. pic.twitter.com/01dO7oLpwm
”The aims of anarchy; to exist without domination, is easily understood in terms of violent destruction of the current order, rather than a creative reconstruction of it. Therefore the worst fears of people manifest when they hear anarchy in terms of the destruction of the status quo.”
Alan Moore, creator of many incredible comics including the original ‘V for Vendetta’, explains anarchy thus:
Anarchy would never work
Anarchism is a social movement against capitalism. It aims for a world free from all forms of domination and exploitation. Cynics claim that people do not know what is best for them, that they need Government to protect them and the Markets to decide for them. Anarchists counter that decision-making should not be centralised but instead power should be free to meet their needs in common with others. That we can live in a society free of masters, and no criminals, no rich or poor. Free of sexism, racism, misogyny, and transphobia. The only thing stopping us are prisons, programming and the paychecks of the powerful.
As well as our own lack of faith in ourselves.
There is no central committee giving out membership cards and no standard doctrine. Anarchy means different things to different people.
Basic principles of anarchism
Autonomy & Horizontality Anarchism opposes all coercive hierarchies, including capitalism, white nationalism and the patriarchy.
Mutual Aid People should give voluntarily. Generousity forms a stronger social bond than fear. This is neither charity or an exchange, since neither holds power. They increase collective opportunities
Voluntary Association People free to co-operate and free to refuse anything not in their interest. Freedom of movement, both physically and socially. Anarchists oppose borders of all kinds and involuntary categorisations by citizenship, gender or race.
Direct Action More empowering and effective to accomplish goals then to rely on authorities or representatives. Free people do not request changes, they want to see in the world; they make those changes.
Revolution Entrenched systems of repression cannot be reformed away. Those who hold power in hierarchical systems utilise reforms in ways that preserve or even amplify power. Anarchist revolution means fighting to overthrow elites in order to create a free society.
Self-Liberation ‘The liberation of the workers is the duty of the workers themselves.‘ People must be at the forefront of their own liberation. Freedom cannot be given, it must be taken.
A Brief History of the Culture of Anarchism
The historical examples of anarchy do not have to be explicitly anarchist. Most societies free of government have not called themselves ‘anarchist.’ That term originated in the 19th Century. Many examples were ultimately crushed by the state. It is in large part due to this systematic repression of alternatives that there have not been more examples of anarchy working.
Isolation Many anarchist projects work quite well, but only make an impact in the lives of a tiny number of people.
Alliances In a number of examples anarchists are betrayed by supposed allies who sabotage liberation.
Repression Autonomous communities and revolutionary activities have been stopped by repression. With people intimidated, arrested, tortured and killed.
Collaboration Some radical projects participate in the present system to overcome isolation, be accessible and avoid repression.
Temporary Gain Many examples no longer exist. Anarchists are not trying to create permanent institutions. Specific organisations should come to an end when they are no longer helpful.
An anarchist society is it’s own reward
In Gloucestershire, the Whiteway Colony was founded in 1898. Setup by Tolstoyans private property was rejected and personal property shared. There were 120 colonists and over sixty homes. Mohandas Gandhi called it a failed experience that as today the homes are privately owned and sold at market value. Sometimes the best thing a community or organisation can do for it’s participants is permit them to move on.
In an anarchist society, we would have to invent entirely new solutions for wholly unpredictable problems. To be free, we need to regain control over every aspect of our lives: – Culture – Entertainment – Relationships – Housing – Education – Healthcare – Protection – Food Production An anarchist doesn’t need permission, anarchy thrives in the struggle against domination.
Anti-authoritarians expressly want to live in a society without coercive hierarchies, but do not, identify as anarchists. Anarchism as a self-conscious social movement is not nearly as universal as the desire for freedom. It is presumptuous to label people anarchist if they have not chosen it.
As a clear anarcho-feminist-communist Keevil is a danger to society and his access to this blog and the Twitter account will shortly be revoked.
Does he have a tribe?
Are there anarchists in Medway?
So the response on the above forum from 2011 it wasn’t looking likely but it did suggest check out the ‘AF’.
So did the AF have members in Medway?
There are hidden stories all around us, growing in abandoned villages in the mountains or vacant lots in the city, petrifying beneath our feet in the remains of societies like nothing we’ve known, whispering to us that things could be different.
But the politician you know is lying to you, the manager who hires and fires you, the landlord who evicts you, the president of the bank that owns your house, the professor who grades your papers, the cop who rolls your street, the reporter who informs you, the doctor who medicates you, the husband who beats you, the mother who spanks you, the soldier who kills for you, and the social worker who fits your past and future into a folder in a filing cabinet all ask
“WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT US? It would be anarchy.”
And the daughter who runs away from home, the bus driver on the picket line, the veteran who threw back his medal but holds on to his rifle, the boy saved from suicide by the love of his friends, the maid who must bow to those who can’t even cook for themselves, the immigrant hiking across a desert to find her family on the other side, the kid on his way to prison because he burned down a shopping mall they were building over his childhood dreams, the neighbor who cleans up syringes from the vacant lot, hoping someone will turn it into a garden, the hitchhiker on the open road, the college dropout who gave up on career and health insurance and sometimes even food so he could write revolutionary poetry for the world, maybe all of us can feel it:
our bosses and tormentors are afraid of what they would do without us, and their threat is a promise–
Medway Council’s ruling Conservative Cabinet have rejected calls to investigate the effect of Brexit on The Medway Towns. So Keevil set out to find answers, bestowed with the knowledge that everything is available online, including knowledge. Keevil went armed with a search engine and the words ‘Medway Brexit’. We present to you almost everything we found in all it’s visual (and helpful?) glory.
After the results of the EU referendum last year, two things were immediately clear: The UK had voted to leave the EU, and Medway had done so by a considerably larger margin than the 52-48 result nationally. In Medway, the figure was 64-36, but we lacked any more precise detail than that. How did each area vote? Could patterns be found across Medway, or was it broadly the same across the board?
Following an investigation by the BBC, we now have far more local data than before, with results from all 22 wards across Medway. But what does it show us?
First off, leave won in all 22 Medway wards, though there is considerable variation in this, from a dominating 72-28 victory in Peninsula down to a modest 54-46 win in Rochester West.
The results show the areas of Medway with the highest income and the highest levels of education had a higher remain vote, which is in line with the national trends.
Less clear are any political patterns, other than the two wards that have elected UKIP councillors having the highest leave votes. Beyond those, the remaining mix of Conservative and Labour wards are fairly mixed across the board.
The full table of how each Medway ward voted is below:
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.
As part of the Vote for Policies test, Jennings held to type the Liberal Democrat, whilst Keevil showed support for Labour’s policies on democracy.
So what Democracy do the residents of the Medway Towns have?
As you should be aware, there are 3 Members of Parliament representing Chatham & Aylesford, Gillingham & Rainham, and Rochester & Strood. But it wasn’t always this way!
We have mostly stuck with 1997 as the line in the sand date for this blog, but not anymore..
Chatham & Aylesford An electorate in 2010 of over 68,000. Half of the constituency is based in Medway and the other half in Kent.
Stay with me..
The Chatham & Aylesford constituency was created in 1997 from parts of the Mid-Kent and Tonbridge & Malling seats. The first incumbent of the newly formed seat was Labour’s Jonathan Shaw who was returned to the seat in the subsequent 2001 and 2005 elections, before the aforementioned boundary changes and Conservative’s Tracey Crouch win in 2010. Tonbridge & Malling, like Aylesford, is outside of Medway, and therefore outside of our understanding. The Mid-Kent seat was created in 1983 from parts of the Rochester & Chatham and Maidstone seats. The only winner of the seat was the Conservative’s Andrew Rowe from 1983 to 1992. Rowe won the newly formed Mid-Kent and Faversham seat in 1997, showing that Conservative’s could win seats in 1997. However the seat doesn’t represent Medway, and so like Maidstone, we don’t care.Rochester & Chatham was a parliamentary seat created in the 1950’s from the Chatham Constituency.
The 1950’s and 60’s saw several elections, except for 1959, return the Labour candidate, before 1970 when the constituency was won for the Conservatives by Peggy Fenner, the first polititian, outside of the Prime Minister, that Keevil remembers, which is impressive considering he wasn’t born until 1979. Anyways.. Fenner held the seat, with the exception of the snap election in Oct 84, winning it back in 1979, until the seat was abolished in 1983. Fenner won the newly formed Medway seat in 1983, and we’ll come back to that. Because as the name suggests, it represented Medway. The Chatham Constituency was created in for the 1832 general election. I think we’ve gone back far enough there! But a clear record of Chatham going back and forth between Labour and the Conservatives doesn’t look like changing, though there’s a good chance that the constituency will.
Rehman Chishti voted very strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
Tracey Crouch voted very strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
Mark Reckless voted strongly for an equal number of electors per parliamentary constituency.
So should boundary changes come back up, theres a good chance, should they get re-elected, they would be in favour.
Where were we?
Gillingham & Rainham Formed in 2010 with an electorate of over 71,000.
The Gillingham & Rainham constituency was formed in 2010 from the Gillingham constituency.
As far as I can tell there were little actual boundary changes. It’s just nice that Rainham got added to the title. It has only had one MP, the Labour Conservative councillor Rehman Chishti, who beat the Labour incumbent Paul Clark.
The Gillingham constituency goes back to the turn of the 20th century. It was mainly Conservative held until, with the exception of the 1945 election, Paul Clark won and held the seat in 1997. Well, that was simple.
Dagenham & Rainham is a constituency that is somewhere else and so shouldn’t be confused.
Rochester & Strood Created in 2010, with an electorate of over 75,000.
The Rochester & Strood constituency was created from the Medway Constituency in 2010. The seat has been won by Mark Reckless twice, first for the Conservatives in 2010 and again for UKIP in 2014. As if you didn’t know that..
As Naushabah Khan rightly said on the Sunday Politics South East, there have been boundary changes from when Labour held the Medway seat, with Bob Marshall Andrews since 1997. Andrews won the seat from incumbent and previously mentioned, but now Dame, Peggy Fenner, see how this all comes full circle! Here at least there was at least a reason for the name change as it was found to be confusing with the recently formed Medway Unitary Authority, when the constituency covered only part of the authority.
For History bores, the Medway seat previously existed 1885-1918 when it was held by the Conservatives and Rochester has been sending a member to parliament since the 14th Century and the Medway Lib Dems should take heart they held the seat in 1910 so they are due a comeback.
Which seems a slightly mean joke to finish on, but there you go.
This is because in the British electoral system, not every vote is equal. And the three Medway seats were hotly contested as they had a high chance of switching parties. They were, and had been since 1997, held by Labour.
The 2010 General Election saw the Conservatives sweep the parliamentary seats in Medway, when; Tracey Crouch beat Jonathan Shaw for the Chatham and Aylesford seat, former Labour councillor Rehman Chishti, now Conservative PPC, won the Gillingham and Rainham seat from Paul Clark, and Mark Reckless beat Teresa Murray for the Rochester and Strood seat after Bob Marshall-Andrews chose not to defend his seat.
In 2011, all 22 of Medway’s council wards were contested as part of the four yearly cycle of local elections and resulted in the Conservative group maintaining control as they had done since 2003. Things continued uneventfully in a theatrical ‘they said this, they said that’ style of minimal scrutiny and maximum point scoring that the Council leaders expected and accepted. Issues like Rochester airport expansion and the moving of Strood library are endlessly discussed, with little meaningful progress ever really made.
Will the Medway constituencies be visited by national leaders during the 2015 election? At this stage it seems likely, if only because the good folks of Rochester and Strood haven’t suffered enough in recent months.