Monday, 18 May 2015

My post election introspective

On the 7th May as we all sat down to the count in the usual venue I hurriedly began sorting out a problem I had forgotten about - my membership to the Liberal Democrats had lapsed a couple of weeks previously. I'd been meaning to renew but the election had eaten up so much of my time I forgot.

At 11PM all seemed right with the world and none of us believed the exit poll and although expecting losses never in our darkest moments imagined the levels that were to pass. The Local election just added to the woe as we were wiped out.

After 19 years of service Cllr Geoff Juby fell and 21 years Diana Smith. Even in Gillingham South a ward where a Conservative vote was considered a wasted vote the blues scored high, not as high as UKIP and Labour but higher than us.

I looked at my rosette and began to wonder if my renewal was a little premature.

Though I pride myself on a near Teutonic rigidness to follow orders mixed with the Pullen stubbornness and Sams pigheadedness of not admitting I'm wrong I, like rational human beings have to question my course from time to time.

Maybe signing up was a little premature and the party was dead. Suddenly the family motto of Dum Sperro Spirro (Whilst I breathe I hope.) wasn't enough.

Whilst at the Local count I was offered a Labour membership form twice which I politely turned down, mainly because of who asked me, had it been someone else I may not have been so polite(!). There are many things that could attract me to Labour but the parliamentary group really put me off, they had no policies, no direction and no charisma and failed to provide a credible opposition.

As for locally... Well what really got under my skin was a leaflet put through my door the night before the election calling on people to oust Clegg and his acolytes who had voted for tuition and bedroom tax before urging them to vote for the Gillingham South team. That poisoned the well for me. Geoff, Tony and I had absolutely bugger and all to do with those issues and neither did Medway Council. If anything I almost quit the party in the wake of tuition but after much soul searching I thought I should invest in our work locally.

Then I looked right. As the saying goes; If you can't beat 'em...

It is true that I am a big fan of Tracey Crouch's work and the idea of a new caring Liberal Tory party was quite alluring. The grey lines of the Coalition had got very confusing...

Problem was that as I looked around the room there was a lot of smugness and self congratulation and if there is one thing worse than a bad loser it is a bad winner (this includes you Cllr Bowler (Lab) strutting onto the stage and air punching is a tad undignified). It is enough to put me off, I can be quite shallow sometimes, but ultimately though with the direction this new Conservative government is taking... It is probably a "nah, you're alright" from me.

My beliefs and membership is not up for grabs sand despite the pros (and cons) of the other parties I cannot abandon my principles, there are more important things than being elected.

The Liberal Democrats are where my heart lies and where my beliefs are strong. I have been a member for six years through quite literally the best of times and worst of times and will still be knocking on doors and delivering Focuses for years to come even if I'm the last LibDem standing in Gillingham. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The LibDems' Titanic revival

Five years ago I made a prediction about the fate of the party in the General election in 2015.

Sadly, I was right.

Early last week I made a prediction about the fate of the Medway LibDems in the local elections which drew heavily on a metaphor of von Spee's fleet with the two Councillors leading the three candidates and despite wild inaccuracies from our opponants we were out gunned despite a valiant show went down with all hands.

Sadly I was right again.

Last Friday night as we sat waiting for the Local vote mulling over the General election the Titanic soundtrack came onto my I-pod and I pictured the scene where Thomas Andrews, Titanic's
designer  was explaining to Captain Smith, Bruce Ismay and collected deck officers how the vessel would sink.

She would go down by the head with water flowing over the water tight bulkheads - There would be no stopping it.

This got me thinking about the National party. Clearly we have hit a big 'burg and after the loss of a swathe of very talented MPs we were going down by the head and it would only be a matter of time before people were abandoning ship enmasse and only a few loyal members would go down with the ship still tirelessly working in the Engine room.

This prediction is looking, thankfully, to be unfounded.
Greg Mulholland MP - Fighting back

Over the weekend whilst I was mulling things over and having these dark thoughts the strangest thing happened.

Out of nowhere thousands of supporters rose up and joined the party, including my friend Caz and I'm working on my wife still. These people are angry at the treatment of a party who had given so much in government and was being punished for Tuition fees and for putting party before country and joining the Tories in a Coalition to reverse a horrendous financial deficit. They were also the compassionate side of the Coalition for the most part having passed many reforms and measures (such as 20 free nursery hours, free school dinners, income tax threshold etc) to help working families.

The big question of who to lead us is also hanging over us. With so much talent lost to the parliamentary
party there was an inherent fear that there would be a vacuum but this is not the case. Tim Farron, former president and one of the leading lights is being touted as a serious leadership challenger as is Norman Lamb who has worked closely with Nick Clegg over the years. Behind the scenes as well is Greg Mulholland who is tweeting frantically about change within the party and getting leaner, keener and meaner as well as getting up out of the dust immediately and pushing forward with all its might - a sentiment shared by many of us!

This party is not deceased, nor is it mortally wounded. It has escaped the fate of Titanic and is looking like the engineering crew will get her back afloat and going again and I am very excited to be a part of this!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Bye-Bye Liberal Democrat dreams


I reworded Don McLean's "American Pie" a few years ago so that it would be about the possible dissolution of the party in the 2015 election.

Last week I tweaked it in case of... Well... What happened on Thursday night.

Any way, here it is...


A long long time ago

I can still remember how Nick Clegg made me feel,
An' I knew that if I had my chance,
That He could make a difference 
An' maybe we'd be happy for a while.

But 2015 made me shiver
With every Focus I deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step

I can't remember if I cried 
When I read of the rise of Nige,
But something touched me deep inside,
The day our party died.

So bye-bye Liberal Democrat dreams
Got the party into power 
But it all got messed up
And Labour lords were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that you'll die.

This will be the die that you'll die.

Did you read the Orange book?
And do you have faith in Clegg and co?
If Libdemvoice tells you so.
And do you believe in liberalism
Can Gladstone save the country's soul?
And do you still lament Lloyd George?
Well I know that we all agreed with Nick,
Because I saw it on your Twitter feed,
We wanted him to win,
Cos' we're not sure of Cameron's blues!
I was a lonely Liberal Democrat
With a yellow rosette and orange book,
But I know I was outta luck in May in 2015,
I started singing,

So bye-bye Liberal Democrat dreams
Got the party into power 
But it all got messed up
And Labour lords were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that you'll die.

This'll be the day that you'll die.

Now for five years we've been on our own,
And Labour have been throwing lots of stones
But that's not how it used to be,
When Nick Clegg was on our TV
With a speech he borrowed from Paddy
And a voice which came from you and me,
And while Gordon Brown was left to frown,
Nick Clegg stole Cameron's thorny crown,
The country was adjourned,
No Government was returned!
And while Liam Bryne wrote that note
The Tories gave us a ruling part
We started cheering for Clegg
The day, the Coal'tion came

But they were singing

So bye-bye Liberal Democrat dreams
Got the party into power 
But it all got messed up
And Labour lords were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that you'll die.

This'll be the day that they die.

Helter-skelter 
in that summer swelter 
Some of us fled to a fall out shelter
The deficit was high and raising fast
We pulled unemployment to the grass
The Tories tried for a tuition rise
With Nick Clegg on the sidelines in a gag
The outside world held its breath
Surely we'd uphold our pledge?
We all got up to shout
But the MPs never threw it out
As the students tried to take the field
The Tories & Clegg refused to yield,
Do you recall how you felt,
The day that Cleggo lied?
Labour were singing;

bye-bye Liberal Democrat dreams
Got the party into power 
But it all got messed up
And Labour lords were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that you'll die.

This'll be the day that they die

And there we all were in one place
Liberal Democrats lost in space,
With no time left to start again,
So come on Clegg be nimble,
Clegg be quick,
Nick Clegg lost out to Nige's UKIP
'Coz of the whole student thing
An' as I watched Nige on the stage,
My fists were clenched in balls of rage,
No angel forged in hell,
Could break Farrage's spell,
An' as their polls rose high on the night,
Our party was a sacrificial lamb,
I saw Labour laughing with delight,
The day, our party died
They were singing;

bye-bye Liberal Democrat dreams
Got the party into power 
But it all got messed up
And Labour lords were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that you'll die.

This'll be the day that they die

I met a girl who ran for the Blues,
And I asked her for some happy news,
But she just smiled and turned away,
I went down to the Gunwharf count,
Where we would see if we'd got in,
But the council result was already out,
In the street the children played
Whilst the Liberals cried and tried to dream,
Not a word was spoken,
They say our pledge was broken,
And the three men I admire the most,
Clegg, Danny and Doctor Vince
They found themselves outta luck
The day, the party died,

And they were singing

So bye-bye Liberal Democrat dreams
Got the party into power 
But it all got messed up
And Labour lords were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that you'll die.

This'll be the day that they die

And we were singing;

So bye-bye Liberal Democrat dreams
Got the party into power 
But it all got messed up
And Labour lords were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that you'll die.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Two more local Tories defect to UKIP


Today the Medway UKIP were proud to announce that they are now the third biggest party in the Council having leapfrogged us (LibDems) having gained two new councillors via defection.

Yep, Councillors Vaughn Hewett and Tom Mason, both former mayors, have joined UKIP. No one seems too surprised at Mason but Hewett has raised a few eyebrows.

The big question is; Is this a prologue for May’s elections?

Hard to say at this point, all that can be said is that two people have swapped party, they were not selected by the people and their constituents in their wards will not get a choice until the May local elections.

The other thing is that these two former Conservatives have been close to the cabinet and the failings of the Conservative administration in Medway over the last God knows how many years. UKIP like the rest of us opposition parties is to defeat this incompetence with fresh voices and faces not bring those same faces back under another label.

Some might say that they have swapped sides because they saw which way the winds were blowing but that is just probably the ramblings of a bitter cynic isn’t it? After all if you are going to defect you should do so for your convictions and beliefs and that the new party represents our outlook more than your old party right? I’m sure that was for that reason, there has been quite a bit of desquite in the Local Conservative party with a long running split between the Rainham and Rochester branch and definitely between backbenchers and the cabinet.

It also makes me wonder about the disinterest and/or distrust of traditional parties that has grown to the point that people will vote UKIP even if they stood a pot of lard.

All that I can say is that Medway’s political landscape is going to change, maybe not the personnel but the colour of their ties and rosettes.

Enough of this Tories are bad with railfare BS

With my book deadline pushed ack to the end of the month and still a lot of work to do but I have taken ten minutes (odd) to question this latest Labour Tweet, the second of which I've seen in the last two weeks:

Rail season tickets in Chatham have gone up by 100% since 95. Tory complacency on economy as real pplfeel sting >> http://t.co/fkBTzUDAd2

— TrisOsborne (@cllrtrisosborne) March 18, 2015

Firstly I should state when it comes to rail fare I am completely neutral as I have been commuting for the last seven years and have watched my monthly Season ticket raise exponentially to the point that I am losing 33% of my wage which is somewhat unsupportable. It is something I have written about at length over the last five years feel free to browse.

I, like many commuters (the people that the tweet is aimed at in the hope of garnering support) know the history of the rising railfare.
The good ol' days of Cheap travel only 20 years ago!

Yes - the Tories privatised the railway. Was that a good move? Debateable. The people of Kent have had some bad franchises - Connex were awful and Southeastern, although debatably  *improving*, are still not a British company and a lot of their profits are being ploughed into the German railways and seemingly not into ours. Other franchises have been more successful on other networks. The reason for privatisation are at this exact moment beyond my memory and as mentioned earlier if it involves reading something that doesn't have a vessel sailing under a flag with an Iron Cross and Eagle on it then it is a waste of my time until the 2nd April.

The big point is that yes since 1994 the fare rise has gone up a significant rate but is it the Tories fault?

Let's consider who was running the country between 1995-2015. So John Major was Prime Minister up until 1997 (2 years) and the Coalition from 2010-2015 (5 years) which comes to 7 years of Conservative rule. From 1997-2010 we had 13 years of Labour Government in which the fares really started to go up with the introduction of RPI+3

Now when the government decided to construct HS1 from Ashford to St Pancras, you know that really expensive way to get to the wrong side of London that wasn't quicker than the other services from Medway (that's why the fast service to Victoria now stops at Meopham), you know the one that you can always get a seat on as it is too pricey? Anyway, they decided to spread the costs and so Labour came up with the escalator of RPI+3 (like they did for petrol) which ultimately is the Rate of inflation plus 3% so roughly your train fare would come up by 8% a year and they wrote it into the franchise contract so it could not be easily removed.

There was a fare freeze in 2010 (election year) I grant them. What did the Gillingham-Rainham MP do about it? Bugger and all as Paul Clarke (their candidate for 2015 for the same seat by the way) was a junior transport minister at the time. Thanks.

I'm not saying this government has been perfect either. Despite the remonstrations of Mark Reckless, Tracey Crouch and Rehman Chishti the government has done not much to improve it. Indeed the letter I received form the minister at the time Theresa Villiers basically was the written version of a shrug and a meh.

Yes prices have still gone up (though not always at the full RPI+3) this government but it hasn't been as bad. In fact for a percentage break down of 2004-12 which is telling check this out.

Basically to effect a movie/Star Wars metaphor ->

John Major's government came up with the idea of making Prequels to the popular Star Wars trilogy an arguably good/bad idea but sadly we got Phantom Menace.

Tony Blair/Gordon Brown's regime came up with the idea to make Phantom Menace that bit more appealing and make more money to fund episode II so they came up with the idea of the highly marketable Jar Jar Binks which ultimately made everybody's life gradually more unbearable.

Cameron's government have basically said Well it is made now  and we're releasing this but we'll throw in some more R2D2 will that make it better? No ah well....


So what are the solutions? I have no answers the only thing I can say is that;

1. This is a problem that ALL governments, both Labour and Tory, are responsible for this mess and something needs to be done and agreed on by Parliament as a whole before everyone but the rich are priced off the railways.

2. This kind of patronising political comment not only insults commuters, who are painfully aware of how we've got to this level of pricing, and is so opportunistic it actually stings my eyes to read it.

I had responded to a similar tweet a week ago asking about RPI but got no response. There is no need for this kind of BS and it is why people are turning away from blame the others style of politics of the big parties and turning to *Shudder* UKIP...

Right back to work, I have 6000 words on SMS Konigsberg to write before Saturday.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Poor economic recovery in Medway???

Today the Medway Labour twitter feed posted the following tweet and graph.



Now I'm not an economist, nor am I a mathematical whizz especially as it took me 3 attempts to get a C at GCSE having wracked up two Ds on the higher paper. One thing I did learn was graphs, in fact I love graphs and they can be used to show anything without resorting to dull tables.

What I see when I look at this graph is falling unemployment in the Medway towns across 2014. See the Orange line slowly descending? 

When we get to January '15 it does raise, I'll give them that, but only a small amount considering the number from which it fell in January last year.

What can we tell from this? Not much. 

We don't know if this is a continuing trend as February's figures aren't out yet. It could be a case of seasonal workers who were employed in retail expressly for the Christmas period, which now apparently starts in August or September, have been let go. I certainly would not say that this was a true indicator of a poor economic recovery in fact looking at this graph alone all you can say for certain is that unemployment is still down on what it was last year.

Is Labour trying to find a cloud on a silver lining? 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Letter to the Messenger about Policing in Gillingham South

My letter to today's Medway Messenger regarding the anti-social behaviour and policing in Gillingham. This is the letter in its original format.


There is growing anger in the Residential areas of Gillingham where residents are feeling abandoned by the local police. Time and again there is antisocial behaviour on Sturdee Avenue, Valley road, Franklin road and on the High street. Alleyways are haunted by youths smoking and under aged drinking and sometimes worse.The Forrester's hall on Sturdee Avenue was broken into and vandalised regularly and this has been reported to the Police on more than one occasion including by myself on 5th January.

However it took the neighbourhood watch meeting, which I attended as a resident, and the pressure of LibDem councillors Diana Smith and Geoff Juby that the council has acted. More importantly a WPC and PCSO were spotted securing the property on the 28th January the day after the meeting!
I tend to agree with one of the residents that if we were living Rochester then the Police and indeed Council officers would have acted more swiftly and attended the neighbourhood watch meeting in the first place!

The people of Gillingham South ward deserve better from both the council and police.

Chris Sams, Sturdee Avenue