We’re saddened to hear that Councillor Mike O’Brien has passed away. Mike was always a thoroughly decent man, and his presence on the council will be missed.
Mark Templeton, the former Senior Press Officer at Medway Council, shares his memories of his friend:
Mike O’Brien was a truly wonderful man. Yes, that’s the sort of thing you always hear at these sad and difficult times but he really was.
On my first day at work at Medway Council he made a bee-line for me – and hardly a day went past in the two years I was there that we didn’t talk.
Mike loved his work with the media and he always believed he should be held to account being in such a high-profile role. He never wanted to hide or dodge the tough questions, in fact he wanted to face those difficult times head-on because he knew being a politician meant taking the rough with the smooth.
He thrived on his cabinet education post. He wanted to make a difference to the young people of Medway and he did. Many children will have seen him at their school. When we used to go to schools for media interviews he would always spend time – away from the media glare – talking to pupils about their hopes and aspirations.
Whatever subject we were talking about he always turned it back to his family. He was a proud family man, forever talking to me about wife Sheila, his children and, more than anything else, his grandchildren who he doted on.
There was nothing unusual about Mike texting me at all hours of the day if he had something on his mind. 5.30 in the morning ahead of a live radio interview would be his favourite time to text – I once made the mistake of telling him I got up early and from then on I was fair game to him.
One Sunday afternoon, a text message alert flashed up from Mike. My first thought was what’s the problem? It read: “That was a fantastic goal by Rooney”. From then on in, hardly a match passed when we didn’t comment on it either by text or through social media, which he also loved.
Mike stood out for me as a politician with his integrity and desire to be completely transparent and the fact he truly had young people at his heart. He wanted them to do well and was always telling them how important education was to their future. But it was as a family man I admired him most because of that smile he had every time he talked about them.
I last saw him six months ago at my leaving do when he came with wife Sheila. I would have thought there was something wrong if he had not asked me for that selfie which he put up on social media. We kept in touch after I left and although I’ve lost friends through this awful illness before, he’s the one that never once lost that smile.
Myself and a colleague had a nickname for him. We called him Granddad Mike. That was because he wasn’t just a work colleague to us, he felt like a member of our family.
I never told him that nickname. I wish I had now. He’d have loved it.
Medway Council is set for it’s first by-election in several years, following the resignation of Cllr Catriona Brown-Reckless.
Cllr Brown-Reckless was elected to represent Strood South as a UKIP councillor last year, and was deputy leader of the UKIP group on the council.
As such, a by-election will now need to be held to fill the vacancy in the ward, on a date to be decided in the near future.
It also means that the UKIP group on Medway Council has now been reduced from 4 to 2 since their election last year, with Cllr Brown-Reckless’ resignation following Cllr Joy’s decision to sit as an independent.
Strood South has been a split ward for some time now, with Conservative, Labour, and UKIP councillors all representing the ward in recent years, so a fierce by-election battle looks likely for the vacant seat.
After months of flirting with the electorate, we now have a formal list of candidates for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, as published today.
The formal list of candidates nominated:
Henry Bolton (UKIP)
Dave Naghi (Liberal Democrat)
Tristan Osborne (Labour)
Gurvinder Sandher (Independent)
Matthew Scott (Conservative)
Steve Uncles (English Democrat)
We’ll be looking at each of the candidates in more detail between now and the election.
In the meantime, it’s time to say goodbye to the following declared candidates that didn’t make it onto the ballot paper:
Fergus Wilson (Independent) seemingly didn’t submit his nomination papers properly, so wasn’t allowed to stand. It was unlikely he’d be able to take up the position regardless following his assault conviction.
Tim Garbutt (Independent Green) discovered last week that the £5000 deposit required to stand was quite a lot of money.
The Green Party declared that they would be standing a candidate, but one never made it onto the ballot paper.
With current commissioner Ann Barnes not standing again, we now know that one of the six names above will be Kent’s next Police and Crime Commissioner.
Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham Rehman Chishti has breached parliamentary rules, the Sun reports.
The paper reports that Chishti received multiple hospitality tickets – worth £900 – to see Gillingham Football Club, but despite being obliged to report such gifts within 28 days, didn’t do so for over a year:
The Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham got a £100 VIP ticket to the Priestfield Stadium to watch League One “Gills” in February 2015.
And another in May and August that year, and further three hospitality tickets in September that year — all as a guest of club boss Paul Scally.
However — in a breach of the rules — the freebies were not logged in the Commons registers until this month.
Mr Chishti refused to comment or explain the delay.
It’s unclear to what action Chishti may face for this error, but that he’s declining to comment or even explain why he didn’t declare the tickets is troubling.
Perhaps more interestingly though is the news within the article that Chishti has secured a new job, earning £24,000 working for a think tank in Saudi Arabia:
The rule breach came as Mr Chishti announced he has secured a plum £24,000 advisory role with the King Faisal Center for Research — a think tank in Saudi Arabia.
The appointment came after Mr Chishti enjoyed on a £2,888 all expenses paid trip as a guest of the controversial Middle Eastern kingdom last month.
It’s unclear exactly how spare time Chishti has for his new role, as he is both the MP for Gillingham Rainham and a local councillor for Rainham Central. He might need to cut back on some of those football matches.