Voice of the Opposition: August

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.

Today we hear from Vince Maple, leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition on Medway Council.

So the man who wanted to build an airport in our community has now got the keys to number ten.  There are many alarming things about Boris Johnson’s election to the role of Prime Minister. His obsession with the estuary airport, a vanity project of the highest order – considering the wide variety of evidence from environmental to economic all pointed to it being a flawed concept – but it’s not just us here in North Kent he managed to dismay.  

His repeated lies have historically cost him both political and journalism roles.  He manages to deeply offend entire communities, whether that is Liverpool which in one article Boris Johnson managed to smear the entire city of Liverpool, the Hillsborough victims and their families and Ken Bigley, the Liverpool engineer murdered in Iraq in 2004 in one go to the country of Papua New Guinea when he referred to “Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.” Papua New Guinea’s High Commissioner in London, Jean L Kekedo, branded the remarks “an insult” to her nation’s “integrity and intelligence”.

As has been well documented his comments have put Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in a greater level of danger because of his mistakes and recently on LBC Boris Johnson referred to spending money on investigating historic child abuse as “£60 million being spaffed up a wall”.  

That is without his blatant repeated racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Islamic comments which time and time again show that Boris Johnson is not fit for the highest political office.  

While Boris Johnson moved into number ten, Medway saw huge financial losses in two council areas.  

Firstly, the Castle Concerts which for the second year running have lost in the region of £300,000.  Now I recognise there is nothing that the council could do about Jess Glynne’s health, but even if she had performed it’s likely that over the two years half a million pounds would have been lost.  

The review which is now being carried out (which should have happened after last year’s loss) will examine whether the Castle Concerts are viable moving forward. The Labour & Co-op Group have consistently argued that greater levels of corporate sponsorship, from the appropriate business, would have increased the likelihood of balanced books.  There is no doubt that the introduction of the new alcohol policy, seen by many as being somewhat snobbish and class driven (you can take a bottle of Champagne to the proms, but not for the soul night) has had an impact on ticket sales too.

We have also seen a recent report estimating that MCG will lose more than one million pounds over the past two years. The Labour & Co-op Group’s position on MCG has been strong and consistent – in our manifesto we were clear on our pledge to take back control of those services.  As there is an ongoing police investigation the Labour & Co-op  Group have had no access to the internal review but we are clear when that process has concluded and justice has been done, we must urgently learn lessons as to what went wrong at MCG and what safeguards must be put in place in other organisations like Medway Development Company.  

We believe that may mean going back to ask the fundamental question, should MCG continue to exist? At this stage the answer is almost certainly no.

At the recent full council meeting there was a positive moment of unanimity.  I was pleased to move a motion calling on the government to have bank holidays on both Monday 4th and Friday 8th May 2020.  As most Political Medway readers will be aware, next May sees the 75th Anniversary of VE Day – arguably one of the most important dates which bought about peace following years of warfare leading to the death of millions.  

It is absolutely right we have this anniversary recognised with a national holiday but the Government is currently planning that is will replace the May Day Bank Holiday. This is a particular challenge here in Medway as it will have a huge impact on the much loved Sweeps Festival.  It isn’t a binary choice of either the 4th or 8th – we should have both and I hope the government listens carefully and reinstates the 4th May bank holiday.  I’d encourage readers to contact their local MP to show their support on this matter – you might want to remind them that the government created an additional bank holiday for the Royal Wedding, so it’s common sense to do the same here.

As most readers will be aware Medway is going to bid to be the City of Culture 2025. Medway is a fantastic place that nearly 300,000 people call home – it’s important this bid for City of Culture involves as many of them as possible.

Across the five towns and the Peninsula the wide variety of culture is there for all to see. What sets Medway apart from other communities looking to bid for this is our unique combination of our shared history along with our grit, determination and never say never attitude.

Medway is full of active citizens who contribute to our social, cultural, and economic landscape, and has much to offer as a City of Culture. If this bid is to be successful everyone must play their part – communities across Medway’s five towns need to truly own this bid. It will be important for everyone to get involved and ensure that a Medway City of Culture in 2025 reflects what they love about Medway.

This bid has the potential to bring not only a year-long programme of fun events highlighting everything positive about Medway, but also the huge economic and social benefits seen in Cities of Culture like Hull.

In its year of being a City of Culture, Hull had more than 5 million visitors and has benefitted from over £3 billion worth of investment since being awarded the honour in 2017 – this legacy continues today.

From a historic dockyard to acid jazz, thriving local comedy and music scenes to an art gallery in a motorcycle shop, amazing local poets to traffic cone wearing innovators, from beating the retreat to calling the midwife – Medway has all of this and so much more, nearly 300,000 individual stories which make one amazing place, that’s why I’m backing the Medway 2025 bid.

Vince Maple is the leader of Medway Labour, the official opposition party on Medway Council, and a councillor for Chatham Central.

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