So following months of campaigns getting underway, two days ago the final list of candidates was released for our upcoming local elections in Medway. 199 candidates spread across seven different parties and a record number of independents will compete for 55 council seats on May 2. Let’s take a look at the options in each of our 22 wards.
It’s hard to find a safer ward for Labour in Medway than Chatham Central, and even two of their longstanding councillors – Julie Shaw and Paul Godwin – standing down shouldn’t present them with much of a problem. Group leader Vince Maple leads the charge here, with Harinder Mahil, who ran a solid but ultimately unsuccessful campaign in Strood South in 2015, and new addition Siju Adeoye. Other candidates of note include a full slate of Conservatives who are family members of existing councillors, suggesting they aren’t taking the ward particularly seriously. Finally we have Nicole Bushill, who is delightfully featured by Hope Not Hate for her openly Islamophobic social media content.
Cuxton and Halling
This should be a straightforward win for the Tories, having held the ward by a comfortable margin since approximately 45 BC. There’s little to suggest this will change this time around, but rumblings abound of current councillor Matt Fearn’s unpopularity. Combined with Labour’s canny selection of Katherine Porter, whose family is well known in those parts, things might be a little closer than in the past.
It’s hard to imagine this as anything other than a Labour hold, so embedded Andy Stamp, Pat Cooper, and Adam Price are within the ward. As a former Lib Dem ward, the party is fielding a full slate of candidates here, but given their dismal efforts in the previous two elections, it’s unlikely they’ll make much of an impact. UKIP candidate Robert Oakley is a perennial also ran for the party, having stood in Rainham North over several elections and parliamentary elections a couple of times.
Gillingham South has always been an odd little ward. A long time Lib Dem stronghold, a Labour candidate won by accident there in 2011, ahead of the party taking all three seats in 2015, while nearly being beaten by UKIP. The three Labour councillors in the ward – Naushabah Khan, Dan McDonald, and Clive Johnson – are pushing hard on the ground while no one else really appears to be. It’s interesting to see Les Wicks, a true Medway journeyman of Medway politics, being put forward by the Conservatives. Previously a councillor in Rochester, Strood, and Rainham, he’s trying to get Gillingham ticked off on his checklist. The Lib Dems have made a last minute decision to stand former councillor in the ward Geoff Juby, and former Rainham councillor Alan Jefferies, in the ward, but it’s hard to see them making much of an impact. The wildcard is Terry Allen, friend of Tommy Robinson and the UKIP candidate who came within 100 votes of winning the ward in 2015.
Hempstead and Wigmore
Rodney and Diane Chambers have held this ward for the Conservatives since Medway was created, and will long after it’s gone. No other party is fielding any serious candidates in this ward as they don’t see the point.
Lordswood and Capstone
The seat of leader of the council Alan Jarrett and David Wildey, both of whom have held their seats since the ward was created. No other serious candidates here, but interesting to note that the Greens have put forward Simon Marchant, previously a prominent figure in local Green politics, in this ward for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
Luton and Wayfield
Where do you even start with this shit show? Two of the current councillors, elected under party banners last time around, are running as independents. Michael Franklin was famously kicked out of the Conservatives three years after he was exposed for Islamophobic tweeting, so is having a run as an independent. Sam Craven dramatically quit the Labour group last year and also fancies her chances as an independent. Labour councillor Tristan Osborne will be joined by new candidates Simon Curry and Joanne Howcroft-Scott, who aren’t even the first candidates for the party after previous candidate Matthew Broadley was removed following an.. incident at Labour party conference. Not that the Tories have things any more together in the ward. They initially reselected Michael Franklin despite knowing exactly what he’d been up to, only to suddenly remove him following some national press attention, replacing him with turbo-Brexiteer Alex McDermott. His fellow candidates Robbie Lammas and Ade Kosoko are making a good hash of the ward, but it’s unlikely to be enough to do any good. Throw in regular UKIP loser Keith Fletcher and a random person for the Lib Dems, and you get quite possibly the messiest ward in Medway.
The ‘hold my beer’ to Luton and Wayfield, Peninsula has always been a bit of an odd ward, being the first to elect a UKIP councillor and then electing a couple more in 2015. Of course, since then it’s all gone a bit.. well, Peninsula. Medway UKIP leader Roy Freshwater is the only candidate the party is fielding in a ward they won two seats in last time around. It’s also home to ‘Medway People’s Voice’, a political party you won’t find on any ballot paper because they couldn’t sort the paperwork in time. Councillor Mick Pendergast, alongside the mastermind of the venture Chris Spalding, are both standing here. After spending several months flirting with perennial Peninsula candidate Ron Sands in a ‘will they, won’t they’ routine that made the seven years years it took Lorelei and Luke to get together on Gilmore Girls look like nothing, they went with Julie Wallace instead. Just to ensure the voters are adequately confused though, Ron Sands is still standing, just as his own independent, not with the other independents. Obviously in all this the Tories are fielding three candidates – sitting councillor Phil Filmer, Harold Ogunfemi, and Tower Hamlets enthusiast Gloria Thienel. Labour have their three too, not that you’d be able to tell within the ward itself. Then there’s the Greens who have some reason thrown all of their resources and a full slate into a ward they didn’t even bother standing in last time around because why the hell not?
On paper, everything should be there to play for between Labour and the Tories in Princes Park. The ward has been controlled by the Tories for years, with Labour often running them close but never quite getting the win. Sitting councillors Gloria Opara and Tashi Bhutia seem to be running their campaign with little support, while Labour candidates Rav Jassal and Olu Obadare seem to have a bit more of a ground operation. Whether it’s enough remains to be seen.
Another safe Tory ward that no other party seems to be taking particularly seriously. The most interesting thing here is that Rehman Chishti is finally standing down as a local councillor, but in case the public miss him too much, the Tories have selected his sister Nusrat Ahmed to replace him. Sitting councillors Jan Aldous and Barry Kemp are both restanding, with no serious opposition. The only other name of note is Mark Mencattelli, a former UKIP candidate in the 2016 by-election in the ward, who has chosen to stand independently this time around.
A bit of a mystery in Rainham North where the Conservatives originally selected Ian Hookway to replace the late David Carr in the ward. Then suddenly, mere days before formal nominations, David’s wife Kirstine confirmed that she had been approached to become the candidate. Suddenly her name and face is everywhere, while Ian Hookway has been completely erased. We have no idea what happened, but Ian, if you’re reading this, or you need someone to send help, please get in touch and let us know. No other serious candidates in the ward, but curious to see Labour’s Ben Pranczke end up here after running a solid campaign in Watling in 2015.
Usually a fairly safe Tory ward, the feeling is that it’s a little more in play this time around. Two longstanding councillors will not be standing again, with David Royale standing down and Les Wicks being shuffled off to Gillingham South. This leaves deputy council leader Howard Doe with two new candidates, Roger Barrett and Gary Hackwell, who are about as exciting as their names suggest. On the other hand, Labour are giving the ward a bit of a push unlike in the past, selecting Alex Chatfield, Dave Carman, and Eddie Peake as their candidates. Whether or not it’s enough remains to be seen, but the Tories seem to be on the ground here more than in the past, suggesting they could be a little concerned. Jean Appleton is standing again for UKIP after being the runner up there in 2015, Tom Davis, an independent whose GIF game is on point, regular parliamentary independent candidate Roger Peacock (this time under a Christian People’s Alliance banner), and everyone’s favourite, Mike ‘The One Man Rainbow Coalition’ Walters, who has decided to stand for the Lib Dems this time around.
Probably the most switchable ward in Medway, both the Tories and Labour have won seats here more times than we can keep track of. Local favourite councillor Andrew Mackness is standing down, leaving his ward colleague Habib Tejan to stand again with new candidate Piers Thompson, who is definitely a real person and not Andrew Mackness in a new human suit. Labour are pushing hard here, putting forward decent candidates in Tony Scudder and Lia Mandaracas, and if they can squeeze their vote enough, they could pull it off. Also standing are John Castle and Alan Wells for the Lib Dems, who confusingly have seemingly chosen this as a target ward, as well as the Greens and UKIP.
This has always been the Labour part of Rochester and will almost certainly remain that way. Councillors Teresa Murray and Nick Bowler face little challenge here, with every other party fielding first time candidates in the ward, and no one putting a great deal of effort in.
Rochester South and Horsted
This has always been the Conservative part of Rochester will almost certainly remain that way. Councillors Trevor Clarke, Rupert Turpin, and Sylvia Griffin face little challenge here, even though other parties are fielding some interesting candidates. Labour are making a token effort in the ward with a lineup that includes former councillor Mark Jones, and Green candidate Bernard Hyde put in a solid effort in the ward last time around. The Lib Dems have chosen to field a full slate of candidates here – interestingly the only three person slate in Medway made up entirely of women – that includes former councillor Cathy Sutton, and Viv Parker, who will standing for the eighth time in the area.
This was always a Conservative part of Medway but a by-election last year means it’s now a split ward with Labour, making this election all to play for. Labour’s Alex Paterson won the former seat of Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst last year and the party is fighting hard to ensure he can hold the seat as well as turn the other one red. That other seat is held by councillor Stuart Tranter, a popular figure locally, so it’s entirely possible that the voters will retain this as a split ward. The Tories selecting turbo-Brexiteer Rebecca Ryan as their second candidate in the most remain friendly ward in Medway seems like a curious choice, and with the Lib Dems, UKIP, Greens, and the only Medway candidate for the Animal Welfare Party all making a run, who knows where this one will go?
If Labour want any chance of winning control of the council, it’s wards like Strood North where they need to be doing it. Previously a split ward, but now controlled by the Tories, it’s quite possible that it could return back to split status. Former Labour councillor Stephen Hubbard is a popular figure in the area and restanding, alongside new candidates James Braithwaite and Zoe Van Dyke. Sitting Tory councillors Steve Iles and Jane Chitty are joined by Fatima Mitchell, though how much effort both parties are putting in is up for debate. The so-called ‘Medway People’s Voice’ group are standing candidates here, including Kevin Nutter, who according to his nomination papers lives in Dartford. Clearly the true voice of Medway right there.
This is one of the main targets where ‘Medway People’s Voice’ think they have a chance. They don’t. Three Tories will be comfortably returned here.
This was one of the wards to go UKIP in 2015, with the party winning two seats here, even if one resigned quickly after and another soon defected to the Tories. As it stands, the ward currently has three Tory councillors, though only Josie Iles is restanding this time around. She’ll be joined by former councillor Chris Buckwell, and Richard Thorne, a UKIP candidate who came incredibly close to winning in 2015. Labour are making a bit of an effort here, putting forward noted toilet enthusiast Isaac Igwe along with solid candidates Lindsey Burke and Anthony Hill. Interestingly, this is the only ward to feature more than one UKIP candidate, though it’s unlikely they can reach the heady heights of 2015.
Previously one of the safer Labour seats in Medway, one of the seats here fell to the Tories in 2015. Labour are pushing hard to win all three seats this time, but face a disadvantage in longstanding and popular councillors Dorte Gilry and Glyn Griffiths deciding to stand down. Candidates Hazel Browne, John Lloyd, and Mark Prenter are making a good push of it, and are helped by the Tories offering new candidates themselves, with Mark Joy being exiled from Strood South to Twydall along with new candidates Natalie Jarvis and Jim Gilbourne. Other parties are all nominally fielding candidates, with regular candidate Rob McCulloch Martin popping up for UKIP, former councillor Maureen Ruparel and the Lib Dems, and Kate Belmonte for the Greens. Local campaigner Christine Barnacle was recruited at the last possible minute as a candidate for ‘Medway People’s Voice’ for some reason.
A safe Tory ward with sitting councillors David Brake and Adrian Gulvin standing again, so don’t expect any surprises here. Labour have relegated Rob Heathfield here following a decent effort in Strood South in 2015, while UKIP are putting forward regular candidate Steve Newton.
Another messy ward. Currently held by the Tories, but only councillor Wendy Purdy is standing again after Asha Saroy decided to bail out. She’s been replaced with Andrew Lawrence, a man so popular someone has paid to put out an anonymous leaflet criticising him throughout the ward. The Lib Dems, who previously held the ward, are treating it as their main target, though previous candidate Paul Chaplin stormed out following a Twitter meltdown last year. That means the other candidate Martin Rose has been joined by Alan Collins, quite possibly the only candidate anywhere who stood for UKIP in 2015 and the Lib Dems this year. Labour seemed to be treating this ward seriously, selecting Chrissy Stamp and Jordan Hartley, whose papers helpfully established that he actually lives in Swale. Their activity in the ward seems to have tailed off in recent weeks, which is interesting for a ward the party beat expectations in last time round.