The Week in Medway Politics: Alarms, schools, votes

Medway MPs in Parliament

Votes at 16
In an ongoing battle between the House of Commons and the House of Lords on whether or not 16 or 17 year olds should be allowed to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, all 3 Medway MPs voted against extending the franchise. Despite it recently working well in the Scottish referendum, and complaints that the young are too disinterested in politics, Medway MPs decided that things are just fine how they are. This issue will likely return for another round in the near future.

Votes

Out of a maximum of 3 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 3 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 3 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 3 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Rehman Chishti apparently had a pretty grim week as he discovered the existence of Boko Haram in Nigeria. In brighter news, he also raised questions in Parliament about introducing automatic compensation for delayed Southeastern trains, a definite vote winner in Medway. Tracey Crouch got to speak at length on the effects of incidents like the recent Paris terrorist attacks on tourism, and Kelly Tolhurst didn’t say anything in Parliament all week.

Medway Council

Apocashit
The council created a bit of a panic on the Isle of Grain this week, by accidentally sending everyone an emergency warning message about the gas terminal located there. Seeing as an actual incident at the terminal could be catastrophic for those leaving in the area, it’s unsurprisingly that they weren’t exactly amused by the error.

Edukation standards
It’s hardly even a surprise at this point, but Medway primary schools are once again rated as the worst in the country. Maybe this report will be the one to spur change in the administration, but we expect we’ll be writing the same thing again next year.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t too happy about the state of Medway’s primary schools, and have called for the portfolio holder, Cllr Mike O’Brien, to resign over the report.
Fun times ahead as Medway Momentum have popped up on Twitter, and are organising their first meeting for January.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Sad news this week as former councillor and Deputy Mayor for the party, Steve Kearney, passed away.

Medway Green Party
The party raised an interesting question about where Medway Council might have funds invested. We’d quite like to know the answer to that too.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken with students from Rainham Mark Grammar School, Reverend Ann from Twydall, the Chief Constable of Kent Police, an exercise bike, a possibly angry resident named Steve, a band, some shitty crafts, Santa, another Santa, some young Tories bowling, some babies, some students from Midkent College, and the Daily fucking Mail.

The Week in Medway Politics: Dickens, bombs, and broadband

Medway MPs in Parliament

Syria Vote
The biggest issue in Parliament this week was the polarising vote on whether or not to launch airstrikes against IS in Syria. All 3 Medway MPs voted in favour of launching airstrikes. Tracey Crouch wrote a detailed explanation for her vote on her Facebook page, while Rehman Chishti and Kelly Tolhurst have offered comment via the Medway Messenger.

Votes

Out of a maximum of 8 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 7 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 7 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 2 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst claimed that after knocking on thousands of doors (presumably in Rochester and Strood) in the past year, immigration nearly always comes up. Apparently the broadband in Rochester is pretty shit too. Rehman Chishti also won his battle against Islamic State, but in the most pointless of ways.

Medway Council

Dickensian Christmas
This weekend saw the usual tatfest that is the council organised Dickensian Christmas festival in Rochester. The council seemed to think it went well, with just some “minor traffic issues”, which is hardly how most drivers in Rochester and Strood would likely describe things.

Rochester Town Council campaign
Medway Council this week rejected the initial petition for a Rochester Town Council on the rather tenuous reason that collected electronic signatures are not okay, despite previously implying they were. This definitely not a delaying tactic will not deter the campaign though, who now need to collect the signatures on paper and submit them again in the new year.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Still missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
Not a busy week for Medway Labour, as they’ve managed to come up with 8 paragraphs on the subject of whether shops should be allowed to put signs on the pavement.
The national strife of Labour may be heading to Medway, as Momentum Medway is holding their first meeting in January, featuring a range of Labour and non-Labour faces.

Medway UKIP
Missing, because it’s Medway UKIP.

Medway Liberal Democrats
The party this week called for more support for small businesses in Medway. All of which is very noble. The party even had some nice quotes on the subject:
Lib Dems

While the Lib Dem leader on Norwich City Council said the following:
Lib Dems

The moral of this story? If you’re going to take a national campaign and make it local, at least vary the words a bit to something vaguely resembling your own.

Medway Green Party
The Greens made a strong play for the local arts/culture community this week, by supporting the crowdfunding campaign for the fantastic WOW magazine.
Unsurprisingly, they aren’t too happy about bombs being dropped on Syria either.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably filling in their Momentum membership forms.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Rehman managed to have his photo taken with Eileen from Medway Hospital Radio, the Ambassador of Kuwait, some shipping containers with an invisible George Osborne, a professor in Parliament, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, the Daily Politics green-screen, a Tesco manager in a giant Christmas jumper, some residents all from a similar demographic, former council leader Rodney Chambers in his card shop, a bipolar focus group, some guys from the Bahraini embassy, some windswept residents, Dorris and Dave, some kids at a Christmas fair, the team from a remembrance service, and a squash racquet and a lot of sweat. Imagine what he’d be like if there was an election campaign on.

The Week in Medway Politics: Ofsted, Oldham, and alcohol

Medway MPs in Parliament

Votes
Out of a maximum of 4 votes in Parliament this week, the Medway MP vote tally was as follows:
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham) – 3 votes
Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester & Strood) – 3 votes
Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford) – 2 votes

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst asked a meaningless question about Syria, and asked about job losses at the Chatham HMRC site, while Rehman Chishti banged on yet again about what to call Islamic State. Meanwhile, Tracey Crouch ended up answering a lot of questions about the Big Lottery Fund.

Medway Council

OFSTED report
An Ofsted report into Children’s Services in Medway has ranked them as ‘requires improvement’. Medway Council post an article on this with the title ‘Ofsted report confirms Medway’s children’s services are improving‘. Impressive chutzpah.

Airport action
There’s an apparent “jobs boost” for Medway as Rochester Airport has been granted Enterprise Zone status. At least it kind of has. Along with half the other places in Kent.

Traffic fines
Some FOI digging has revealed that Medway Council has raised almost £1 million in traffic fines since 2013, a number all the more staggering given they only have 5 active cameras.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, because why do they need to actively do anything given the state of the Labour Party?

Medway Labour
The party responded to the Autumn Statement. You’ll be shocked to discover they weren’t happy about it. They’re also a bit grumpy about the Ofsted thing.
The Medway Labour away team also took a trip up to sunny Oldham this week to campaign for this coming week’s by-election.

Medway UKIP
Not specifically Medway related, but UKIP have now selected a candidate for next year’s Police & Crime Commissioner elections.

Medway Liberal Democrats
The party held their AGM this week, and apparently had a record turn out. They even needed extra chairs and plates. Bless.

Medway Green Party
The Green took the bold step of coming out in support of Chatham’s new distillery, and made a pretty good joke about a new council office that would make it even harder for the public to ask questions.

Medway TUSC
Medway TUSC reemerged this week to get a bit annoyed that they weren’t invited to a Young Person’s Question Time. As you do.

Other News

Rochester Town Council
The campaign for a Rochester Town Council held their ‘Making It Happen’ meeting this week. Jennings went along and live tweeted it, and left believing that it’s now more likely than not to happen.

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with a microphone, the Ambassador of Bahrain, the High Commissioner of Pakistan, the Chairman of Senate of Pakistan, some constituents in Parliament, Big Ben on BBC News, Big Ben on ITV News, some guide dogs at Dobbies, the local Conservatives ladies lunch, Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, the Managing Director of Southeastern, several pensioners advising him on how to bomb Syria, the Hempstead Christmas tree lighting, and some Gurdwara celebrations. He seems to take more pictures of himself every week.

The Week in Medway Politics: Candidates, housing, and buffets.

Medway MPs in Parliament

Votes
Out of the 7 votes in Parliament this week, Rehman Chishti voted in 4 of them, Tracey Crouch in 5 of them, and Kelly Tolhurst in 5 of them.

Elsewhere in Parliament
Kelly Tolhurst asked a meaningless question about policing, and Rehman Chishti banged on about calling Islamic State ‘Daesh’ again. Tracey Crouch, in her role as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Culture, Media, and Sport answered lots of questions about betting and gave some fantastic statistics about how many people visit the seaside.

Medway Council

Vaping violators
This week, the council sent trading standards officers to visit 8 vaping shops around Medway, and found 7 of them sold items they shouldn’t to children. They’ll be sorting this out by sending them each a sternly worded letter.

Housing headaches
Medway Council agreed planning permission for 131 new houses near Chattenden, despite the usual NIMBY opposition. Given Medway needs to build tens of thousands of houses in the coming years, expect lots more of these battles in the future.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The Conservatives have selected Matthew Scott as their candidate for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner. His experience of policing seems to consist of the fact his family have been police officers.

Medway Labour
After weeks of mysteriously talking about policing issues and holding various policing related meetings, Luton and Wayfield Councillor Tristan Osborne announced he was indeed running to be the Labour candidate for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner. He at least has experience of being a Special Constable, which makes him marginally more qualified than Matthew Scott.

Medway UKIP
Still missing, presumably still not entirely sure what they should be doing.

Medway Liberal Democrats
This week Medway Lib Dem anger is focussed on cuts to policing.
If you fancy a party and a half, members are invited to their AGM at the swanky Roffen Club on Thursday, where there will be (brace yourself) both a buffet and a social. Phew!

Medway Green Party
The Greens seem to be the only Medway party taking a position on a potential lower Thames Crossing. Of course, they’re opposed.

Medway TUSC
Still missing, presumably still hunting for their missing votes.

Other News

Rochester Town Council
The campaign to create a Town Council for Rochester rolls on. The petition signatures have been collected and handed in, so what’s next? The organisers are holding an open meeting tomorrow (Monday) night for anyone wanting to find out more, suggest ideas, or get involved with the campaign.

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with someone from the Howard School, a microphone, the Daily Politics green screen, some rather baffling framed photos, some folks at a charity reception, some quality desks, a bunch of young Tories, someone from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, a present as big as himself, and new Police & Crime Commissioner candidate Matthew Scott. Crikey.

The Curious Case of Fergus Wilson

You may or may not have heard of Fergus Wilson. He’s one of the biggest buy-to-let landlords in Kent, and has a reputation for doing lovely things like selling as many properties to foreign investors as he can and bumping up rents on those in his properties by large sums. Then, a few months ago, he decided to announce that he was running to be Kent’s elected Police & Crime Commissioner. In it’s own right, that isn’t the most exciting news we’ve covered, but he did so like this:

Fergus Wilson

There’s just so many competing elements here that it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. An announcement of candidacy? Check! Something vaguely resembling a policy on Operation Stack? Check! Wishing England well in the Rugby World Cup? Sure! A photo with a former rugby player? Why the hell not?

The thing is, it didn’t really stop there. Ads like this kept appearing in the Medway Messenger (and presumably other local Kent titles). The next ad went back to Operation Stack again and for some reason a picture of Geoff Hurst and a frankly baffling policy to use sports stars to solve Kent’s problems:
Fergus Wilson

Things really hit a crescendo with this incredible piece of work that demanding people stop hitting women and Frank Bruno. On top of this, we’re treated to an offer that Fergus would let you touch his championship belt if you promise not to hit women. What the hell is going on?

And then, just as suddenly, the ads stopped appearing. Surely nothing could stop this incredible individual from his campaign to take control of Kent’s police? Well, an unfortunate spot of legal bother could. You’re not allowed to be a Police & Crime Commissioner if you’ve been convicted of an imprisonable offence, and as Fergus punched an estate agent in 2013, he’s unable to hold the post.

Which should have been the end of the saga…

And Yet…

This happened:

Fergus Wilson

Given this ad talks about the Police & Crime Commissioner election, goes through the Operation Stack routine again, and proclaiming “back me or sack me”, the impression is given that Fergus Wilson has given himself the role of Police & Crime Commissioner without any silly election.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at the current state of Kent’s Police & Crime Commissioner candidates, because Fergus Wilson somehow isn’t the most bizarre.

The Week in Medway Politics: Bungalows, commissioners, apologies

Medway MPs in Parliament

Recess
Parliament was in recess this week, so our MPs haven’t been up to much there, but that didn’t stop Tracey Crouch getting herself into trouble (see below).

Medway Council

Bungalow Bonanza
Medway Council has begun the ‘largest council-built bungalow development’ in the UK. The ‘largest’ being a grand total of 32 dwellings. Which is nice and all, but Medway has thousands on it’s housing waiting lists.

Local Plan
Medway Council will soon beginning drawing up a new local plan, identifying development sites for the coming years. Which will definitely go well.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
The Conservatives have announced their shortlist for their candidate to be Kent Police and Crime Commissioner next year. None of the names on the list are particularly relevant to Medway.

Medway Labour
The party have taken the opportunity to crow that changes to Sunday trading rules have been delayed. Despite the fact Scotland has more relaxed Sunday trading, the SNP have decided to block such moves for the rest of us. Ain’t democracy grand?

Medway UKIP
Missing, presumably not entirely sure what they should be doing.

Medway Liberal Democrats
Missing, presumed ignored.

Medway Green Party
The Greens have called for a Medway cabinet portfolio holder to be dedicated to rural areas, wildlife, biodiversity, and all that kind of stuff.
Apparently they’ve also been canvassing in Rochester. Has anyone actually spotted ’em?

Medway TUSC
Still missing, presumably still hunting for their missing votes.

Other News

Crouchrage
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch gave a fairly wide ranging and interesting interview to the Spectator, and in one fairly throwaway section, suggesting that certain constituents who are struggling financially should perhaps give up things like Sky TV. Cue the usual outrage machine going into overdrive, followed by the inevitable apology.

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with constituents Colin and Carol, the High Commissioner of Bruneiradiographers from Kent Oncology Centre, a distillery with Kelly Tolhurst, stuffed toys at the Women’s Institute, a church Santa, some men at a football match, and folks at the Medway Hindu Temple. Even on his week off, Rehman doesn’t fail to get around.

The Week in Medway Politics: Fireworks, anger, and beer

A fairly quiet week, but this is whats been happening in Medway politics in the last seven days..

Medway MPs in Parliament

Slow week
Nothing much happened from a Medway perspective in Parliament this week. Tracey Crouch answered some questions, Kelly Tolhurst brought up immigration, and all three MPs voted in every vote they were able to.

Medway Council

Fireworks
Seemingly the only thing Medway Council has been focusing on this week is blowing up a bit of the sky on Saturday. They did it pretty well though.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
Missing, presumed hibernating until April 2019.

Medway Labour
Medway Labour want some payday lenders hung, drawn, and quartered.
They also decided Remembrance Sunday would be a good time to make a political point about police cuts.

Medway UKIP
Former Medway UKIP candidate created a Twitter account just to tell us Medway UKIP are still active, but we still haven’t seen much proof of that.

Medway Liberal Democrats
This week they’re outraged about roaming charges and Right to Buy.
They also confirmed that they will fight the 2016 Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election, after not bothering in 2012.

Medway Green Party
After moaning at us last week for not checking their Facebook page, we’ve now learnt they’re unhappy about development in the Capstone Valley, and excited about a beer festival. Fair enough.

Medway TUSC
Still missing, presumably still hunting for their missing votes.

Other News

Rehman About Town
This week, Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with Admiral Lord West, the team at St. Matthews Church, Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, Speaker John Bercow, staff and pupils at The Howard School, staff at Medway NHS Trust, the CEO of MHS Homes, a solitary constituent in Rainham, and Santa. Say what you want about Rehman, the man gets around.

Return of the Mackness

We kind of thought we’d be done writing about the restriction of public questions at Medway Council. We did our little experiment, published our thoughts more than once, and the whole thing was inevitably waved through at last month’s council meeting. So imagine our surprise when Cllr Andrew Mackness, the portfolio holder behind the changes, got in touch following the vote to comment on our approach. His statement is presented below, unedited:

I can appreciate the frustration of running a political blog and only getting a limited response from members, I really can. I would also note that any resident committing time to blogging about local government should be commended. Not least the commitment to still be at full council going into the 5th day of Local Democracy week!
However, it is disingenuous to infer that because members haven’t responded to an overtly political blog that they are not responding to constituents. I am sure that my colleagues from across the chamber won’t mind me saying that the great majority of ward work is apolitical and that as a ward councillor you don’t assess a case for its political volatility or opportunity to score points. Having just given evidence to the Independent Remuneration Panel, when their report comes out, I understand it will have an analysis of the time commitments made by ward councillors. I hope that this will be a more concrete form of evidence than a round robin email. When it comes out, I would be happy to bring the report to your attention, if this would be of help.

We appreciate the fact that Cllr Mackness has taken time to respond to us on this issue, but unfortunately, we also feel we must take issue with some points he raises.

We accept that a “round robin” email isn’t a good way to assess how well councillors are doing their jobs, nor was it necessarily supposed to prove that one way or the other. The intent behind our experiment was to simply see how likely one was to get a response, as email has often been cited as an alternative option given the removal of questions in the chamber.

The problem here is the removal of the public record. Of course this kind of email isn’t an ideal way to see how well a councillor does their job, and nor should it be, but when the on the record options in the chamber was severely restricted, exactly how else are we supposed to judge how responsive a councillor is? We know a good number of councillors from all parties go considerably above and beyond their duties, just as we know there are some that don’t. The issue is that as each aspect of public scrutiny is removed, it becomes increasingly difficult for the average member of the public to gauge how much their councillor is doing.

It’s also disappointing that we’re being painted as an “overtly political blog”, though we’re not entirely sure how to be a covertly political blog. We have stances, but we have gone to great lengths to engage and give a platform to parties and politicians of all stripes. Even if Cllr Mackness feels we don’t deserve to be regarded as press when it comes to politics in Medway, it’s unfortunate that we weren’t seen as deserving as answers as residents either.

We’ll be very happy to look at (and cover) the findings of the Independent Renumeration Panel on how much councillors are doing, in the same way we’re happy to look at anything that gives us a glimpse into how councillors are or are not performing. Until then though, we’ll go on the evidence we’ve managed to collect so far.

Unless something changes in the coming months, this will likely be the last gasp of the public questions issue for now.

The Week in Medway Politics: By-election, snow, and tampons

Just time for a quick round-up of the week’s events in Medway politics..

Medway MPs in Parliament

Tampon tax
All three Medway MPs voted to maintain sanitary products as “non-essential luxury items”. All three have since defended their vote, arguing it’s not as clear cut as it appears, and you can read their responses here: Rehman Chishti, Tracey Crouch, Kelly Tolhurst.

Pakistan
Rehman Chishti introduced a brief debate in the Commons on the nature of the UK’s support for Pakistan, which you can read in full here.

Medway Council

Cuxton by-election
A parish by-election this week in Cuxton, where a straight two-way battle was fought between independent candidate Tracy Thorley and Conservative candidate (and former Mayor of Medway) Josie Iles. In the end, it wasn’t even remotely a close run contest, with Thorley defeating Iles with 434 votes to 90.

Snow wardens
Medway Council is seeking volunteers to clear snow because they can’t manage it themselves.

Political Parties

Medway Conservatives
All quiet – there’s no elections on for another four years now.

Medway Labour
This week they have they threatened to hold the Conservative cabinet to account. Somehow.
They’ve written to Sajid Javid to demand it remains impossible to get a pint of milk or a prescription on a Sunday evening.
They apparently support the council’s Cycling Action Plan. The council has a Cycling Action Plan?
Former parliamentary candidate Tristan Osborne is very unhappy about Police & Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes, which is nothing to do with the position being up for election next year. Certainly not.

Medway UKIP
Missing, presumed confused.

Medway Liberal Democrats
They’re outraged about some rubbish that wasn’t collected until they reported and then it was. Alrighty then.
They’re also outraged about the changes to public questions, but then who isn’t?

Medway Green Party
Missing, presumed defected to Labour.

Medway TUSC
Missing, presumably searching for missing votes.

Other News

Rehman’s About Town
This week, Rehman Chishti has managed to have his photo taken with scouts in Hempstead, students at MidKent College, poppy sellers in Gillingham, his own face, the team from Kings Treasure Church, more poppy sellers, and, er, Lembit Opik. Phew!