The first in a series of posts, ‘inFrequently Answered Questions’ all Medway; parties, MPs and candidates, have been invited to answer and we will update should further answers be presented. The answers are presented here unedited. If you have an iFAQ then leave it as a comment and we will attempt to get it answered for you.
“Our MP Mark Reckless became increasingly disillusioned with the failed promises which had been made by David Cameron and his Conservative Party to the point where felt he had no other choice but to change parties.
Mark could have simply changed parties and continued on, but he felt it was imperative to seek a fresh mandate from the Rochester and Strood electorate so triggered the by-election. The rest is history.”
Cllr Chris Irvine – Leader of the Medway UKIP Group
“A by-election was triggered by the resignation of Mark Reckless MP on his defection to UKIP from the Conservatives in September 2014.”
Cllr Tristan Osborne – Labour PPC for Chatham and Aylesford
Because rats leave sinking ships.”
Jacqui Berry – TUSC PPC Gillingham and Rainham
“Mark Reckless wanted to guarantee he was the people’s choice and for ‘a referendum’ on Lodgehill” Chris Sams – Liberal Democrat Candidate for Medway Council
“There was a by-election in Rochester because the sitting MP decided to resign the Conservative Party whip and join UKIP.
He didn’t need to force a by-election but he was right to do so given that he was elected as a Conservative and therefore sought a mandate in his new party. It was unfortunate however that as a consequence it cost the Medway taxpayer a significant amount of money which could have been put to better use.”
Tracey Crouch – Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford
In politics, making a pledge to help you get elected is a fairly standard thing. Particularly for the challenging upstart trying to separate themselves from the tired incumbent. Some are fairly minor, some are fairly major, others (if you’re Liberal DemocratIndependentLabour councillors) are made to be broken.
Going into the 2010 General Election, distrust in politicians was rife following the expenses scandal. This offered those candidates vying to become new MPs a great opportunity to make themselves seem like better, more open candidates. So it was, that all three Medway Conservative candidates signed up to Tracey Crouch’s Clean Campaign Pledge. Much of this was centred around fighting a good, clean campaign, but it also included a whole section on what all three (Crouch, along with Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless) would do if elected to make themselves more transparent.
Well, all three were elected, so let’s see how they have done.
To publish online details of all of personal expenses incurred as a Member of Parliament.
To publish online details of all office expenses incurred as a Member of Parliament.
These should be the easiest ones for any candidate to comply with – all each of them had to do was publish their expenses. Not one of the candidates has managed to do this is in full. Tracey Crouch comes the closest, having an ‘Expenses’ page on her website, with some information on things she has claimed, along with her full expenses for the current financial year. It’s unfortunate that the data for the previous years isn’t also listed, but it’s better than nothing.
Nothing being exactly what we get from Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless. Indeed, when you search for the word ‘expenses’ on Chishti’s website, this is what happens:
Now, if we could play devil’s advocate for a moment, the full expenses of all three MPs are available via IPSA – but that’s a bit of a pain in the balls, and not exactly meeting the pledge to publish their expenses online.
To publish online details of all donations in line with Electoral Commission rules.
None of the three have seemingly met this particular target, at least not in terms of publishing the data themselves. Again, most like the expenses pledge above, the information is online, as the data is taken from the Register of Member’s Interests where they are published, and placed online by websites like They Work For You. These websites do a great job, but we’d suggest the average constituent probably wouldn’t know where to look to find this data, and would struggle to understand parts of it even if they found it.
To appoint a local firm of auditors to approve expenses accounts at the end of every financial year.
To open up the unedited expenses claims to local newspapers at the end of every financial year.
We have no idea if these pledges have been met or not. We couldn’t find any references to these local auditors on the websites for any of the MPs, nor anywhere else. The pledge regarding opening up expenses claims to local newspapers may or may not have been done, but those newspapers should have the sense to throughly trawl from the IPSA records regardless, so it doesn’t really matter.
Never to claim for food, furniture or household goods.
This pledge has been absolutely met by Tracey Crouch – she has never claimed for any of these things during her nearly five years in office. Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless haven’t claimed for furniture or households goods, but they have claimed for food, albeit to feed their interns. Which given they seem to be unpaid (Chishti for one advertises this fact), it seems fairly hard to begrudge.
To meet all tax liabilities – such as stamp duty – without claiming them from the taxpayer.
This pledge has been met in full by Tracey Crouch and Rehman Chishti – neither of them have ever claimed any kind of tax liability from the taxpayer.
The same can’t be said of Mark Reckless though, who has claimed £4,799.89 in council tax in his time in Parliament. Now, to be clear, he is perfectly entitled to do so, but it’s fairly difficult to square this with the above pledge.
Overall, none of our current MPs have done exceptionally well with their pledges – Tracey Crouch is definitely the closest, and if she had the full five years on her website, we’d basically be there. Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless have come out of this less well. True, most of the information they promised to publish is publicly available in some way, but only if you know how to find it – they certainly haven’t made it easy for their constituents to find the information.