Friday, 21 November 2014

Rochester and Strood by-election results

Well, after a very long night and a couple of hours snatched sleep I thought I’d write about what the heck happened yesterday.

Firstly the UKIP victory in the Parliamentary By-election. To be honest it was no big surprise. A month ago when it was announced there was a belief that it was all flash in the pan and that Mark Reckless would be handed an embarrassing defeat at the hands of his former masters or even Labour.

As the time has gone on the amount of UKIP activists, doners and support has grown (or been bussed in) and Rochester has been worked hard. This was met by the Tories and Labour who have had MP after MP down and even the Prime Minister. This was never going to be a normal election.

Ultimately the majority attained was nothing to significant. With a turnout of over 50% Mark only managed to get a majority of 3000 over Kelly Tolhurst (his majority back in 2010 was 10,000). The Tories were celebrating this last night. They know that come May when UKIP will be spreading their activists and money over a larger area of North Kent, especially if Farage is going to stand in Thanet, that Mark will see this lead eroded.

What does this mean for Medway politics in the local election (held on the same day as the General)? Well it could lead to one of two outcomes.

The first is that this victory may buoy up the local party and they will make a valiant charge snapping up council seats drastically altering the shape of the local authority. This is their aim.

The second is that with the removal of resources could force them to make tough decisions. As Mark’s lead is fairly tenuous they may be forced to through what resources they have available to keep him at the cost of local councillors.

This of course is fairly hypothetical we’d have to see.

Needless to say that the Tories are stung and will be coming for them.

As will the Labour party. Naushaba Kahn fought a tough campaign with a lot of support from the local party and Westminster elect. If anything there was a belief that this was Labour's chance to regain the swing seat with the usual right of centre voters torn between UKIP and Tories.

Although they worked hard and attracted a lot of support they failed to make much of a media imprint and ultimately ended well shy of Mark scoring only 6.713 votes.

This has massive ramifications for Ed Miliband and the Labour party, not necessarily the hard working local party.

Labour's main definition at the moment is not the Coalition and let's face it the Tories (and we've signed off on them or are guilty by association) have pushed through some really nasty stuff - badger culls, ATOS, cuts to services, tuition fees... the list is exhaustive and all along, week after week we have to suffer Ed saying he and Labour would never agree to any of this and Ed Balls promising that Labour's economic plan (whatever it is) was much better.

With the extreme views of UKIP and the unpopularity of the  Conservative Government you would have thought the swing seat may have swung back to Labour. The fact it didn't suggests another two things.

The first that voters saw the Conservatives with Kelly Tolhurst's Local girl, local issues campaign as the best alternative and didn't want to split the anti UKIP vote or, and perhaps more alarmingly for Labour, that there is a serious problem with their message.

The whole situation must be even more concerning for the Conservatives. They threw the Kitchen sink at UKIP and although performed really well coming short by a small margin in both the parliamentary and the Hoo Peninsula ward by-election (Ron Sands (CON)  got 1965 against Chris Irvine's (UKIP) 2850) they still failed, despite the resources flung, to make it closer.

As I've said, this could be a temporary blip or it could be the opening of the flood gates. Already some of the old stalwart supporters of the Medway Conservatives have already jumped ship and it might be the beginning of a landslide. There is also a general malaise against the local Tories and should UKIP erupt like a tumour with a handful of Tory Councillors going purple between now and May it could change the face of Medway's Council.

Now with heavy heart I turn to the Libdem result.  It looks awful. Geoff Juby got under 1% in the parliamentary and I gained just over 1% in the Hoo by-election. Geoff's share of the vote collapsed by 15% of its 2010 share. It is being hailed as the worse performance of the Liberal Democrats in a By-election ever...

Now this will sound like a lot of excuses but here is the truth.

Geoff worked hard, and I mean damn hard with a dedicated team of local activists with a few visits from Westminster but this was not Eastleigh. This was not to be our battle ground, not a target seat this time around and Clegg et al did not appear with armies of Libdems busing in from across the country bank rolled by HQ and shadowy donors. This was a local battle led by a local candidate backed up by local activists.

This was always going to be a battle between the Tories and UKIP.

As for me. I am ecstatic about my 1% after all I did absolutely no canvassing or campaigning. Hoo was never a seat we could have won, nor did we have any presence out there. As many regular readers know my son was born on 10th October, had his first operation on 13th and I have been busy with my family settling in George. I'm amazed I got that many votes by doing nothing and I would like to thank everyone who did vote for me, next time will be definitely different.

The two great stories to come out of this election was firstly -

Britain first only got 56 votes. This, although depressing that they got more votes than some of the Independents is uplifting (I got more votes than them in one ward by election!!!) because even the Monster raving loony party did better than them! Truly a laughing stock.

The other is the results of the Green party. They fought a good campaign with a good candidate and scored a respectable fourth place with (1692 votes) in the parliamentary and local (314 votes). This was a great result for them and I've already sent my congratulations via Twitter.

Not to take anything away from them but the rise in support may be because they are now the non-UKIP protest party.  Ten years ago that was the Libdem party (though my Mum always voted Green!) but with the Coalition we've become part of the establishment so people tend to vote for a non-governmental party. If you don't want UKIP then the next best choice is Green. We could see some serious gains by the Greens next year if UKIP continue to develop in the towns.

I know a lot of this is all speculation bolstered with educated guesses but there is so much that could happen that at this moment in time (with four hours sleep) I'm not prepared to tie my colours to the mast until February or even April.

I will however close with a warning however to the other parties. The results of last night belay how strong we are in our wards, getting rid of the Libdems in Medway is going to be a tough proposition.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Imperial War Museum to close its library and sell collection

A story lost?
I may have mentioned in previous posts that this year is the Centenary of the start of World War One.

 This was a conflict that changed the world in many ways politically and socially but most of all it was responsible for the deaths of millions of young men across Europe.

The Imperial War Museum was established to tell the story of those who were sacrificed on the alter of Nationalism and in a fight against a perceived evil. This was done with exhibits and collecting a library of books, documents, photographs and sound recordings which have combined into a great resource.

I fear this blogpost might cost me my job or at least find me in a disciplinary but sometimes, just sometimes you should stand up for what you believe in and this is one of those times.

The Museum has been caught up in the cuts issued by Government and had to try and make savings where they can and have brought in someone to evaluate the operation and cut away dead wood.

Recently the Library has been identified as dead wood. As I understand it (I missed the meeting as I was on Paternity leave) the Library will be closed, the librarians let go and the books (not the documents, photos or Sound recordings) will be sold to other libraries and institutions. Basically scattered to the winds though this is under review as some books were donations.

For me, a historian and lover of books, this is an atrocity. The average person probably thinks; what's the big deal?

The big deal is that the collection is there to augment the galleries. In fact many people are now being directed to the new (Only a three or four years old) open library to look up answers to queries. It is also very popular (especially this year) and the amount of telephone enquires per day and walk in enquires is phenomenal. In the last year the museum was closed for six months whilst the refit carried on but the Library was open and attracted a roaring trade.

By closing the library and getting rid of this vital resource in favour of a website service is a massive disservice to the founding belief and purpose of the museum. 

Former Director General Dr Sir Alan Borg wrote;

As a former Director General of the Museum I am horrified by the suggestion that the Library might be closed and dispersed.

If you agree with him, and me please sign this petition to make them rethink.

Thank you.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Local business woman nominated for Active Training Awards!

Now for a slight oddity for this blog....

In local sports and fitness news, local dance and fitness instructor Gemma Quinnell of Gemma Quinnell's Health, Fitness and dance ltd has got through to the final four in the finals of the Active Training Awards Small training provider of the year.

This is a massive achievement for the Gillingham girl who has worked for years as a fitness instructor, choreographer and dancer here and abroad and also offers courses in dance and fitness for anyone who wants to pursue a career in these fields.

My courses are aimed at anyone who is serious about a career in the fitness or dance industries - whether they want to be a studio instructor, dance teacher, personal trainer to Pilates teacher or run sessions for children and more. I tailor my programmes for each individual or group and help with everything from business skills to marketing, social media, confidence building, breaking barriers, innovation and choreography.

I teach my learners the tools to be self-sufficient and start their own businesses or grow their business so they can be at the level they want to be at.

Having done this very successful locally herself Gemma knows what she is talking about and is passing her knowledge back and obviously very successfully. She first established her company a mere four months ago with start up money from Medway Council (£500) and moved her focus from dance classes to training.

With just over a fortnight to go I really wish Gemma all the luck and hope that all her hard work pays off.

If you're interested in Gemma's courses then do check out her website at

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Britain First are Toxic and blight Rochester

I fear the days of Mosley are returning, at least to Rochester
As a liberal, and an opened minded person I firmly believe in the freedom of speech for all. This is tempered with the addendum that you can say what you want as long as it does not interfere with another person’s freedoms.

This said, I am horrified that Britain First have come to Rochester yet again.

Reports say 50 Britain First “activists” in uniformed dress arrived at Rochester railway station attempting to march up the High Street with Union Jacks unfurled but we’re held off by 100 odd locals chanting and the Kent Police line that was trying to defuse violence. As I write this, I understand the BF are back on the train to where ever they have come from and that Rochester is attempting to return to some semblance of order.

I am against any such “organisation” on so many principles.

Firstly the very name is prejudice. Britain First.

Britain is an artificially constructed country spurned on by English military might and economic superiority and based on genocide of the clans and forced assimilation. Britain is in the process of devolution and almost broke itself apart this year and only hung on by a small margin in Scotland.

The other thing is; define a Briton. How long must your family have lived on this island before you are classed as a Briton? Do you have to be a Christian (or non Muslim)? A similar situation grew up in 20s Germany with a certain party saying that Germany was for the Germans and that non-Germans should be expelled or if they remained had rights withdrawn from them and well… we all know how that ended!

Britain is no longer an Imperial power that can dictate world policy, nor is it a homogenously (or majority) white Christian nation of Britons. As the Empire collapsed we have attracted former subjects who wanted to come to the mother land. As we became one with the post War Europe we attracted migrants to our shores, not just as “benefit tourists” but as people who wanted to flee oppression from the Soviets or dictators or came to forge a better life in a land of opportunity for them and their families much as many did to America. Some of them served in the British armed forces to defeat the Nazis but did not or could not return to the Eastern bloc as they had been over run by the Russians – what more do they need to do to be accepted? They are part of us now, second and third generations living in Britain as part of our society.

I thought I may have been overly judgemental so I checked out their Twitter and Facebook page and immediately wished I hadn’t.

Just check out this post….

It made my blood run cold.

The labels being thrown around, Liberals, Transsexuals, Communists...  I mean what the hell?

This is truly the voice of hate and mistrust. A voice I had hoped had been consigned to the waste paper bin of history or consigned to thugs like the EDL not an actual "political party" that is running for a Parliamentary seat - in MY neighbourhood!

This is the hate and prejudice that tore the world apart, cost the lives of so many people and should have died in Berlin in '45. I thought we were better than this, I thought we had evolved past this, the BUF and Mosley are a dark spot on the history of this nation and should have been forgotten and not replayed on the streets of Rochester. What gives them the right to dictate what lifestyle is right? Tell people how to live their lives? This is prejudice of the highest order.

In this Centenary year of the First World War, where nationalistic belief in ones own superiority caused the slaughter of innocence, where young men flocked to the flags of their nations and marched towards their deaths singing patriotic songs. Only 75 years after another nationalistic government that believed in Germany for the Germans and in ubermenschen (Teutons) and Untermenschen (Jews, Muslims, foreigners, Homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses, Communists etc etc...) reopened the same wounds let us remember that we are better than this.

We have evolved past these notions and hate.  

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Baby George and Pulmonary Atresia

George Peter Sams
George Peter Sams was born at 10:22 am on the 10th October 2014 at St Thomas’ hospital, London. He has had the most amazing support from the medical staff there and is currently under care in the Intensive care ward. For those of you who don’t know my son (my third child) has Pulmonary Atresia, a rare heart defect that ultimately leaves half of his heart, the half that pumps de-oxygenated blood to the lungs to bring back vital Oxygen for the rest of the body, non functioning. We had the option to terminate early on but…

On Monday he goes in to have his first of three operations . This one is to put a plastic pipe or shunt into the closing hole in-between the ventricles that keeps the heart as a two (rather than 4) chambered pump giving him the shot at life. More will follow and his is not an easy road. He will have limited tolerance to exercise, complications to diet, digestion, renal function etc caused by the future ops and above him the spectre of early death on the operating table, or if his weak half a heart should give out. All the while we have agreed to give him this shot.

It just seems so bitterly unfair that this little bundle of innocence has already been given this massive handicap that could and probably will kill him eventually and we his parents have to make choices as to how long he gets to live or try and guess at what may or may not happen. I keep wishing our roles were reversed but to no avail.

Every hour I panic and worry that we’ve done the right thing, that he is going to be alright and that he has the best shot at life as he possibly can. I’m terrified of leaving the hospital on Monday unless I’m not there and…

I’m not a religious man, far from it, but for the first time in a log while I have offered up a silent prayer to my ancestors (especially my Grandparents) to watch over him and to take care of him. His fate is in the hands of the Doctors and in nature and all manner of things. If there is a higher reason or force controlling everything then I hope that George is dealt a better hand.

A good friend of mine said to me this weekend that I was tough, and I could get through the heart ache, pain and stress to come. The truth is – I’m not tough, I’ll get through this because I have to but in reality I’m terrified. I'm maintaining a steely façade and the "I'm good with this" stance to cover up the little boy inside who just wants to curl up into a ball and beg this to stop. This past year hasn't been the best for me or my family and more bad things are being pushed below the surface with the other repressed feelings. It is so repressed that the other day I started sobbing uncontrollably when I read that a German Cruiser sank with all hands a century ago! I mean really?

The raft I cling to is that he was a good weight, a healthy colour and alert and focused so should be strong enough to fight through the surgery and make a full recovery. He is one of us and my forebears were hardy and resilient. So should he be. He WILL be ok!

This whole blog post probably doesn't make sense. It is more an attempt to get my thoughts and feelings onto paper and definitely not a cry for help.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Mark Reckless' defection

Defector: Mark Reckless.
The news broke yesterday, whilst I was at a wedding, that Mark Reckless had defected to UKIP from the Conservative party. This was somewhat of a surprise to me but I really guess it shouldn't have

For sometime I had believed that although stridently anti-EU and having rebelled against Coalition line time and again, Mark Reckless was Conservative through and through but his position would have meant that UKIP would be unlikely to win in Rochester and Strood in 2015 and would do very little to dent his voter base.

I totally hadn't considered that he would defect.

Apparently I wasn't the only one.

I've exceptionally mixed views about defection. Although it is noble to follow one's belief to whatever end it can have some pretty nasty ramifications. A long while ago I wrote:

It is a decision that no one should take lightly, a decision that should be thought through thoroughly and not rushed. After all... like [Benedict] Arnold, once you've left you can never go back and some bridges can never be unburnt, for you will always be a turncoat.

According to Mark's website he has thought this through extensively, something I can well believe (I had a similar experience once) and ultimately came to this decision. He lists these reasons in depth in his article but ultimately it boils down to electoral promises and frustrations that he could not represent the people of Rochester and Strood as a Conservative anymore.

My previous prediction for the General Election in Medway was for UKIP not to bother standing a candidate as Mark was pretty much in that ground anyway... However this defection is going to shift the dynamic a whole lot more.

Earlier today I saw statistics that suggested that Mark will get re-elected easily based on the percentage of people in the Medway Council area who voted UKIP. If I remember correctly that despite being true across the region it was not the case in the Rochester & Strood wards. These wards mostly voted Conservative.

So we could see the return of a Conservative MP rather than Mark's re-election?

Not necessarily.

The Conservatives in Medway have been divided between the Rainhams and the Rochesters for quite some time and this defection could be the tumbling of small stones that sets of an avalanche. Already Councillor Chris Irvine, who is exceptionally close to Mark and works for him at Westminster, has quit the Conservative party and according to his twitter stream, will be consulting the residents of his ward as to what they would like him to do. If more were to follow...

We could see a larger UKIP powerbase with vast local experience than expected in the old Cathedral city.

This could also be Labour's big chance. The Medway towns have been swing seats for some time and although I had postulated that Mark would come through unscathed that was before the right vote was completely bisected. Naushabah Kahn, the Labour candidate for Rochester and Strood, has been making ground recently. Feelings against the Coalition do run high across Medway and they may be enough for her to capitalise on it, especially for a local girl who is talking about the things that matter to the working person who doesn't care as much about the EU as they do the NHS or Immigration as much as they do cut services. According to Medway Labour's Press release Ms Kahn stated;

With such division in the Medway Tory party, it’s clear that there is only one choice in Medway for the progressive, fair vote and that is Labour. We have a 10 year plan to save the NHS, including the extra resource of 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and 5,000 more careworkers. In Rochester and Strood, we have a choice between a Labour party that will save the NHS or a Tory party that is in a race with UKIP to the far-right

Usual Party stuff but it is a sentiment that will draw people in.

Who knows, all I can say is that Medway is about to become really interesting politically over the next few months and part of me really laments my retirement which starts as of tomorrow.

I hope someone is going to cover this properly.

Just as a postscript and returning to the Benedict Arnold post and burned bridges, there is a sense of betrayal among some locals, be it electorate that voted Conservative and suddenly find a UKIP foothold in their constituency, local Conservatives who have seen all their hard work in supporting Mark thrown away, and also colleagues.

Indeed Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham & Aylesford was quoted as saying (and sums up the feeling for local Conservatives);

He looked me in the eye and promised me he wasn't going to defect. I feel very angry and let down.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Labour bluster over Medway LibDems

Some years ago I saw the last Deutsche wöchenschau, the Third Reich's newsreel dated March 1945. Whilst Messerschmitt fighters took off from waterlogged agricultural fields and streams of exhausted boys and old men in a mixture of uniforms marched past the camera the narrator pronounced ultimate victory would be theres. The Luftwaffe were blasting American planes from the air and the Russians were being turned back at the Oder. Whether the German people took anything from it is debatable but we know it was just noise.

Medway Labour have a lot riding on this election. The Coalition has not always been popular in low income areas where Tory led cuts have injured local services. The normally unassailable Medway Conservatives suddenly look vulnerable, especially as the locals are on the same day as the General election. These marginal seats could swing red again and I believe Gillingham & Rainham will.

Ever since tuition fees Medway Labour have been predicting the death of the Medway Libdems with an alarming frequency but I can assure you that there is still life in them. There are regular Focus deliveries, canvassing, street letters and campaigning just in a smaller area than Labour. Our membership is up and hardly flocking to Labour as they have suggested - I'm aware of only one in the last two years.

That is their weakness. They are pressing on all fronts to get the Tories out locally and in Westminster. Across Gillingham & Rainham, Rochester & Strood and Chatham & Aylesford. Even with Union funding their resources are not endless and they are stretching themselves thin. Although an all out offensive in Gillingham South may turn it red (I'll be moving) they will not get Watling ward. An all out offensive in Gillingham south would come at a cost of taking other fronts like Chatham & Aylesford where a strong MP might do enoug on personal performance over the popularity of Coalition policy.

The other problem Labour are facing is UKIP.

The common opinion is that UKIP are the bane electoral bane of the Tories but we've found that Labour are losing just as much support where as LibDem supporters are less likely to go Purple. Farrage is seen to be more in touch with the common person and their concerns rather than the Tory lite esq Milibamd led Labour. Seats in urban areas like Chatham central, Luton and Wayfield and even Gillingham North are fairly undecided and require shoring up before the election - further blunting their offensive capability. They also have to worry about their own seats from the weirdly popular Medway Tories. Rumour has it that Chris Irvine is on the offensive to take Labour's bulwark Cllr Murray's seat!

Labour, although set to gain ground along with UKIP who are becoming rapid favourites following unparalleled support across the estuary but it may be tempered and not the sure victory they are hoping and predicting. They'll also find the last bastions of LibDem seats a hard nut to crack and the red tide may be halted.

Let's just hope that come May I don't look like King Canute!!!