inFrequently Answered Surveys: I’m Still Standing

One of our popular features on The Political Medway is inFrequently Answered Questions, where we send questions to relevant political figures and hope that we might occasionally get a reply.

It’s time to do our first (Keevil) / last (Jennings) survey!

Following developments last week with Cllr Pendergast leaving Medway UKIP, Cllr Howard leaving Medway Tories and further afield in Dover, Cllr Eddy, the former leader of the Labour Opposition leaving the Labour Group to join the Greens, we (just Keevil) decided to ask the other 53 councillors to select one statement that best represented them for #LocalElection2019:
– I will be standing in the same ward with the same party.
– I will be standing in the same ward with a different party.
– I will be standing in a different ward with the same party.
– I will be standing in a different ward with a different party.
– I will be standing as an Independent.
– I will be standing as a member of The ‘Medway’s Voice Party’.
– I have decided to stand down.
– I have been deselected.
– I do not know if I will be standing or be deselected.
– I did not know there was a Local Election in 2019.
Continue reading “inFrequently Answered Surveys: I’m Still Standing”

iFAQs: Min Attendance / Max Council

One of our popular features that we used to have on The Political Medway was inFrequently Answered Questions, where we’d send off questions to relevant political figures and hope that we might occasionally get a reply. As we get going on this project again, we’ve decided to start asking some questions of our esteemed councillors once again.

To get us going, we started with an easy one, and sent all 55 Medway councillors the following question:

What should be the minimum attendance percentage of full council meetings for a councillor to retain their position?

We told every councillor that they had a week to respond, and that we would publish their responses entirely unedited. All responses are published below, in the order that they were received by us.

Continue reading “iFAQs: Min Attendance / Max Council”

Dickensian Medway, Hard Times: Homelessness

In which Keevil publishes the first in a series of indubitably jolly pieces looking at hardship within Medway.

Click this link if you are at risk of homelessness

(Leave the comment ‘Hard Times’ on any Ko-fi donation in relation to this article and a hot drink will be given to a homeless person.)

In 2017, Shelter estimated that Medway had 1,059 total homeless people and 14 long term rough sleepers.
Medway Council’s Rough Sleeper Estimate, in October 2017, verified by Homeless Link, had a figure of 44 rough sleepers in Medway. Continue reading “Dickensian Medway, Hard Times: Homelessness”

The Fortnight in Medway Politics: Referendum Special

Well.

That was something, wasn’t it?

We haven’t written an actual post about the referendum, because what can you say, really? We try and remain impartial with this site, yet this was a decision we cared greatly about, and impacts our futures in a big way.

In the next couple of days, we’ll get something up on the exact results from Medway and what it might mean, but for now, let’s do what we always do: snark mercilessly about what each of the parties have been up to in the past couple of weeks.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Neverendum
When it all came down it, our three Medway MPs managed to provide three different stances for where they stood on the referendum. Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst decided to focus on her career by endorsing remain, which will have seemed like a horrible mistake by Friday. Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti went for leave, which probably sets himself up nicely for this post-Brexit world. Finally, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch decided to vote, but not tell us how. Which is absolutely her right, but we wonder how that might go down with her constituents down the line.

Also in Parliament
Unusually, Kelly Tolhurst asked a half arsed question about the balance of privacy and security in the Investigatory Powers Bill, and asked what turned out to be her final question to David Cameron in Prime Minister’s Questions.

Medway Council

Oh, the humanity
The EU referendum saw a Medway turnout of 72.1%, and a split of 64.1% for leave to 35.9% for remain. Special shout out to the 27 Medway voters that managed to vote to both leave and remain in the EU. Various councillors and other folks weighed in on the referendum results here.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The referendum bitterness reached the local Conservatives with Cllr Andrew Mackness, who acted as the election agent for Kelly Tolhurst, questioning the mandate of any MPs that supported remain. MPs like Kelly Tolhurst, for example.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been 17 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. And yes, we are going to mention this every single time until they do something about it.
It’s hard to keep track of all of the animosity between Labour councillors and activists on Twitter at this point, but it’s worth noting that three councillors – Tristan Osborne, Naushabah Khan, and Andy Stamp – all called for Corbyn to step down this week. Which went down with certain activists like a cup of warm sick.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, because.. wait, why the hell would they be missing at this point?

Medway Liberal Democrats
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t thrilled about the referendum result, and dealt with it the best way they know how: a 60,000 word essay about it on their website.

Medway Green Party
The Greens are now jumpy about what the consequences are for the environment once the EU is out of the picture.
They’re also focussing on trivial issues like local homelessness too. We don’t know what’s got into them.

The Week in Medway Politics: Momentum, refugees, rubbish

Medway MPs in Parliament

“This government is doing enough”
A remarkable speech from Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst in parliament during a debate on immigration this week. Sticking solidly by her commitment to refuse to help unaccompanied child refugees, and that anyone arguing for the opposite is using “simplistic arguments”. After that, she managed to go off on a UKIP type rant about how we aren’t doing enough to help our own children before foreign ones, before concluding that the government is doing enough to help refugees. Her constituents can make up their mind on that. The following day, she demanded assurances that Medway wouldn’t have to take any more refugees, even if the government agreed to accept more into the country.

Chishti cleared
Following the revelations that Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti broke parliamentary rules by not declaring hospitality from Gillingham Football Club, he has now been cleared by parliamentary authorities. The authorities accepted that a genuine error was made, and no further action will be taken.

Elsewhere in Parliament
This week, Kelly Tolhurst seemed to be in favour of all schools becoming academies once again, just in time for the government to do a u-turn on it.

Medway Council

What the Dickens?
A huge tourism push from Medway Council this week for their highly original programme of Dickens based events this summer, as part of the imaginatively named Summer of Dickens. Because this is Dickens Country damnit, and Medway Council won’t stop until everything in these towns is connected to the bloody guy in some way.

Housebuilding horrors
In a fantastic example of getting their excuses in early, Medway Council are already preemptively blaming developers for the council’s housing needs being met. This is after the council has refused thousands of new build housing starts within Medway under pressure from local NIMBYs.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because after winning the Police and Crime Commissioner election, there’s not much for them to do until 2019.

Medway Labour
Utterly incredibly, it’s now been eleven 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.
After being quiet on the issue for a while, the party are now once again moaning about bulky waste collection, because it’s an issue that really resonates with voters.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because there’s nothing coming up that UKIP might be interested in, is there?

Medway Liberal Democrats
A rare public sighting of the Medway Lib Dems in the wild this weekend, with them campaigning in Strood. Want to catch up with them yourself? They’ll be in Chatham High Street from 10am on Saturday.

Medway Green Party
The Medway Greens have no opinion on Rehman Chishti being cleared about his parliamentary expenses. None at all.

Other News

No We Khan’t (or won’t)
Former Rochester and Strood Labour parliamentary candidate Naushabah Khan put herself forward to replace Sadiq Khan in Tooting, making it to the final stage of selection, before ultimately losing out. She was well regarded through the short campaign, and it’s a clear signal of her ambitions for the future that will likely see her go far within the party. Unless Medway Momentum have their way at least, who made it very clear that they would not support her as a candidate, before another activist threatened to have her deselected from her Medway Council seat. Between this, open warfare between an activist and a sitting councillor, and a day spent posting conspiracy theories about the media, the original, rather restrained, iteration of Medway Momentum seems to be very quickly falling by the wayside.

..and due to popular demand, a return of Rehman about town
This week, Rehman Chishti managed to have his photo taken with several sets of constituents, a set of Medway Council officers, in the living room of some homeowners, some children, headteacher Colin, some soccerball man, a single resident in Rainham, and a bouncy castle.

The Week in Medway Politics: Spending allegations, cuts, litter

The big story

Serious allegations raised about Kelly Tolhurst’s campaign spending
Channel 4 News crunched the numbers of the Rochester & Strood by-election in November 2014, noting that the Conservatives may have exceeded the spending limit by over £50,000. Notts Police have begun an investigation following similar claims over the Newark by-election, but so far, Kent Police have said nothing on the matter. Kelly Tolhurst has, for her part, managed to keep her head down and not make any comment on the issue.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Police cuts
This week, MPs voted to reduce the Police Grant for 2016-17 by 2.7%. Amongst those voting for the cut in funding were Gillingham & Rainham MP Rehman Chishti, and Rochester & Strood MP, Kelly Tolhurst.

Council cuts
Also this week, MPs voted to reduce the Revenue Support Grant, the main grant for funding local councils, by 24.6%. Unsurprisingly, both Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst voted for the cut. Given both are also councillors on Medway Council, this may put them at odds with certain council colleagues who are unhappy with the reductions.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst received a remarkable telling off for incorrect use of parliamentary language in the House of Commons, with the speaker at the time describing the situation as “we are back to year 3 again”. Rehman Chishti raised the issues at Medway Hospital, and asked what more the government can do to improve it’s situation.

Medway Council

Tough on litter, tough on the causes of litter
Medway Council made a big deal this week – as in it was the only news on their website – about catching a woman who dropped a cigarette butt. You’d think this might be a fairly regular event for a council with a civil enforcement team, but no, catching one woman dropping a cigarette butt is headline news.

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. This week’s events are:
Medway Park, Gillingham – Tuesday (10am – noon)
Riverside Country Park – Thursday (11am – 2pm)
Capstone Country Park – Friday (11am – 2pm)
Rochester Farmers Market – Sunday (10am – noon)

Other council news
Councillor Mackness is rather angry about a reduction in the rent costs for those in social housing, while a public enquiry about the Lodge Hill development has been delayed, yet again.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, presumably keeping their heads down until this little spending kerfuffle blows over.

Medway Labour
Unsurprisingly, the party aren’t too happy about the Conservative spending claims, with their candidate in that by-election, Cllr Naushabah Khan, formally requesting that Kent Police investigate the allegations.

Medway UKIP
It’s not much, but Rochester & Strood UKIP started a new Twitter account, seemingly after losing the keys to their old one.

Medway Liberal Democrats
The party aren’t pulling any punches about the Conservative spending allegations, using the term “election fraud” on several occasions.

Medway Green Party
Unsurprisingly, the impending Lower Thames Crossing is still the focus of the Medway Greens, with the party highlighting exactly the impact it would have on Strood and it’s surrounding area.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken with the High Commissioner to Pakistan, staff at the NSPCC centre in Gillingham, off the TV with some odd contrast issues, before a half marathon, and after a half marathon.

The Rochester and Strood by-election: A Reckless Legacy

Rochester sweets

Wandering along Rochester High Street one Saturday afternoon last year, someone stopped me in the street and asked “had I heard about Mark Reckless?”. This kind of question isn’t wholly unusual, as years of tweeting council meetings and tackling evasive politicians tends to lead to this kind of thing. Still, in this case, I hadn’t heard anything, and was told that the Rochester and Strood had MP had just defected to UKIP. I scrambled to my phone for more details, and found he’d appeared at the UKIP conference and announced his intention to fight a by-election, in the same way Douglas Carswell had recently done.

In retrospect, perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Reckless had always been in the awkward end of his party, and a Eurosceptic so staunch that UKIP wouldn’t even stand against him in 2010. The writing was likely on the wall once Carswell made his decision. Both were always close with each other, allies on a number of issues. Where one led, the other was likely to follow. Constitutionally, there was no requirement for Reckless to trigger a by-election – he would have been well within his rights to defect to UKIP and remain in office until May 2015. Whether or not triggering a costly by-election is the right thing to do is up for debate, but it gives his choice more of a democratic mandate.

So began a fraught by-election campaign for Rochester and Strood. Of the 2010 candidates, only Reckless and Lib Dem Geoff (or Goeff) Juby stood again. Labour selected Naushabah Khan, who works in public affairs, from the Progress wing of the party. The Green Party put forward one of their rare Medway members not named Marchant, and the Conservatives went with Kelly Tolhurst, a Rochester councillor with a local portfolio in improving educational standards (spoiler alert: she didn’t).

Then, as is natural for a by-election, the side show of minor candidates were rolled out. The Monster Raving Loony Party rolled into town, offering perhaps a more credible alternative than many of the major parties. Independent sex workers stood, and then more worryingly, Britain First stood.

Standing on a platform of opposing a mosque two constituencies away, Britain First attempted to hold two marches in Rochester before the election, which they were perfectly entitled to do. Thankfully though, the usual apathy of the masses was washed away as local residents blocked their path, and refused to let them through. They just had to settle with getting some photos with UKIP activists instead.

The election quickly settled into being a two-horse race between UKIP and the Conservatives, giving voters a choice between right and righter. Quite how this happened is slightly baffling as Labour held the seat until 2010, but didn’t seem particularly interested in trying to win it back this time around. In the end, UKIP managed to win it, albeit with a less than expected margin, but what was the state of each party following the campaign:

UKIP

Mark Reckless won the seat for UKIP with 42% of the vote. This was lower than the 49% he achieved as a Conservative in 2010, but still a respectable number for a seat they hadn’t even competed in in that election. There was some basis for this – UKIP did win Medway in the European elections earlier on this year – but this was their first parliamentary success in the area.

Conservatives

The Conservatives ended on 35% of the vote, higher than predicted by the polling in the run up to the election. Some of this number was likely made up of people who aren’t traditionally Conservative voters lending them their vote purely to keep UKIP out. Which means the party are still in a very difficult position for the repeat in May: If they can’t win when throwing every resource available to them at it, what more can they do while also fighting 631 other seats at the same time? In the meantime, they’ve decided to launch legal action against Mark Reckless, which definitely won’t backfire at all.

Labour

In the early days of the campaign, it felt like Labour might actually have a serious attempt at the seat. Ed Miliband even turned up and talked really awkwardly about immigration. After that, everything seemed to fall away. The party seemed to decline pouring resources in, which for a seat they held until 2010, seems like quite a strange choice. As such, they fell back to a final result of 17%, making the seat almost impossible for them to win in the coming elections.

Green Party

Other than UKIP, the Greens were the only party to increase their share of the vote from 2010. They nearly tripled their share of the vote to 4%, which doesn’t sound like much, but is their best electoral result in Medway. Their candidate, Clive Gregory, came across well whenever he got the opportunity to speak, and leaves the party well placed to pick up more of the traditional left vote as Labour back away from the seat.

Lib Dems

Recording the worst result for the Lib Dems in pretty much forever, the party received less than 1% of the vote. To put that into more pure numbers, they received 349 of the more than 40,000 votes cast. Showing that the Lib Dems are retreating back to their limited Gillingham heartlands in Medway, they didn’t seem to bother campaigning at all in this. In short, they put less effort into their campaign than I put into this paragraph.

The 2015 rerun

This year will see almost an exact repeat of the by-election, with UKIP, the Conservatives, Labour, and the Greens all fielding the same candidates. With the more limited resources of a general election, it’s likely the result won’t be all that different. Isn’t democracy grand?

Jennings