New social media code of conduct for Medway councillors

At this week’s full Medway Council meeting, Medway councillors will agree to add a new section to their Code of Conduct, specifically around councillor’s use of social media.

The process of introducing this code began a year ago, when we published a story on the controversial tweeting of Conservative councillor for Luton and Wayfield, Michael Franklin. The Medway Labour group lodged a formal complaint over the matter, and while no direct action against Franklin was taken, the council have drawn up a new section to the Code of Conduct (above) to emphasise how seriously such matters are taken.

While many councillors maintain rather boring accounts, and others avoid it altogether, there are some who are ‘colourful’ in their use of social media, and we look forward to seeing how they react to the new rules.

An indication might come from the aforementioned Councillor Franklin, who has spent recent days calling celebrities ‘silly cows’ and demanding black people thank him for ending slavery. With the change in policy, it’s probably best he gets it all out of his system now.

The Week in Medway Politics: Trains, tunnels, lasers

The big stories

Cllr Tristan Osborne to be Labour Kent Police and Crime Commissioner candiate
This week, we exclusively revealed that Luton and Wayfield councillor Tristan Osborne will be the Labour candidate for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner in May.

The troubling tweets of Conservative councillor Michael Franklin
We also uncovered the worrying Twitter history of the Conservative councillor for Luton and Wayfield.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Quiet week in Parliament
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch now away on maternity leave, and Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst didn’t speak in any debates this week. That left Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti as the only Medway MP to speak this week, where he only asked questions – six of them no less – on laser pointers.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, presumably because trying to keep Cllr Franklin off Twitter is taking up too much of their time.

Medway Labour
This week, Medway Labour have mostly spent the week moaning about the trains. Because you can’t go wrong moaning about the trains.

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

Medway Liberal Democrats
Not much happening within the Medway Lib Dems this week, but they’re holding a Ladies Social next week, because apparently it’s 1956.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, the Greens have an opinion on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing that will link from the M2 west of Medway across to Essex.

Medway TUSC
Missing, as they’ve probably all signed up to Labour by this point.

Other News

Lower Thames Crossing kerfuffle
After months of indecisiveness, it was formally announced that the preferred option for a new crossing of the Thames would be the one that had most impact upon Medway. The planned route, involving a tunnel and new high speed road connection between the west of Strood and Essex, will now undergo a full consultation. Various councils are now forming their positions on the plan – Kent and Dartford are in favour, while Gravesham is opposed. The Medway Council cabinet don’t seem to want to commit to a position, with Regeneration lead Cllr Chitty saying she’d need to see proper detail of the infrastructure and junctions before commenting. She apparently missed that these details, and much more, were published in full on the Lower Thames Crossing website.

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman saw selfie opportunities while he was signing the Holocaust Book of Commitment, while laying on a radiotherapy machine, while meeting a parliamentary delegation from Pakistan, and while talking to a solitary resident.

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:

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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.

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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”:

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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.
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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:
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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.