Much ado about UKIP

This week we are interrupting our regular schedule to bring you an examination of how each local political party appears to be preparing for the May 2019 elections. 
Today we are looking at Medway UKIP.

The four years since the 2015 local elections have not been kind to Medway UKIP. Riding high on Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless’ defection to the party and subsequent by-election victory, the omens looked fairly good heading into the last set of elections. Yet, despite the results not being as strong as some faces within the party were expecting, they won a solid four seats on the council, immediately placing themselves as the third party in local politics.

This success lasted a matter of weeks, given two tactical errors that undercut them from day one. The leader of the group, Chris Irvine, a sitting councillor in Peninsula, decided to fight for a seat in Rochester East instead and lost. More devastating was the loss of Mark Reckless as an MP. These two issues immediately destroyed any momentum Medway UKIP had, and others in the party quickly began to fall away. One of their councillors, Mark Joy, declared independence from the party in no time at all, before eventually joining the Tories. A second, Catriona Brown-Reckless, resigned and moved to Wales. Most recently, Cllr Mick Pendergast resigned to sit as an independent, and has since formed his own group to fight the 2019 elections.

Ostensibly, this leaves only Cllr Roy Freshwater as both the leader and the entire membership of the Medway UKIP group.

Where can the party realistically go from here in Medway?

Continue reading “Much ado about UKIP”

The Week

Cllr Brown-Reckless resigns from Medway Council
In a move that surprised absolutely no one, UKIP councillor for Strood South Catriona Brown-Reckless this week resigned from the council, having been elected only 16 months ago. This triggers a by-election in the Strood South ward, with a three way fight between UKIP, the Conservatives, and Labour for the seat taking place on October 20.

Remembering Mike O’Brien
Sad news this week as councillor Mike O’Brien, Conservative representative of Rainham Central and portfolio holder for Children’s Services, passed away. Mike had been a longstanding member of the local political scene, first being elected to Gillingham Borough Council in 1976 and Kent County Council in 1979.

Cabinet record
Not for the first time, the ruling Cabinet of Medway Council managed to conduct their business in record time this week. Despite having¬†to discuss discretionary business rates relief for local charities and not for profit organisations, government proposals on the distribution of business rates, and a recruitment freeze, they managed to have everything wrapped up in 15 minutes. Because that’s how open and transparent democracy is done.

Boundary review
Plans that could quite literally change the shape of Medway politics will be unveiled on Tuesday, as the Boundary Commission release the first stage of their 2018 boundary review. The review is intended to reduce parliament to 600 seats from 650, and create constituencies of roughly equal size. Reasonable enough at first glance, but previous proposals have suggested moving Hempstead & Wigmore into Chatham and Aylesford, and Luton & Wayfield into Gillingham and Rainham. We’ll be pouring over the proposals in detail once they’re made available.

Local plan
The local plan stumbled forward slightly this week, with a meeting held in parliament to discuss it between Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst and, er, six other Conservative councillors. Given that the local plan is a vital document that will shape the direction of Medway over the coming years, it’s a shame that the direction is seemingly being directed by the Conservative benches and not a cross-party group.

Medway Labour website hackwatch, day 7182
After months and months of the Medway Labour website being hacked by someone dodgy, and the party doing nothing to fix or take down the site, councillor Tristan Osborne declared this week that something new is on the way! While we’re delighted to hear that something is actually happening, the Medway Labour group will have to excuse us if we don’t expect much this side of Christmas.

Cllr Brown-Reckless resigns from Medway Council

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.