Saturday, 17 September 2011

Medway Liberal Democrats - Have they given up the ghost?

Councillor Geoff Juby
An accusation that was levelled at the local party this week for failing to attend an emergency council meeting about more problems with the new Bus station development. No one from the Liberal Democrat group attended. This does look bad, especially over a subject that has caught the Conservative led council with its pants down with an overspend on its pet project and continued poor planning.

I agree that Councillor Juby should have been present, however it is conceivable that due to outside life getting in the way that none of our three councillors (out of 55 possible seats) could make it.

Councillor Juby is also reputed to have said that there was no point in us being there as we are such a small group that our say doesn't really matter. Again true.

Personally I think it is worth us saying it anyway but I am not in a position to, nor will I criticise Councillor Juby, especially when I don't know the true facts. Councillor Juby is a solid veteran campaigner and Councillor who is admired by colleagues of all parties. If Geoff said No then I'm positive it was for a good reason.

The Bus station is mainly a Chatham based issue. Yes the Medway Council has overspent and this is for a number of reasons, which I shall adress in the coming days elsewhere, but it is a major blow for Chatham and its infrastructure not Gillingham, our last redoubt, and although it affects the people of Gillingham it does so to a much smaller extent than other things that are keeping our councillors busy. We aren't a city yet and it is not our bus station.

It is true that the local elections hit us hard, nationally and here in Medway. Our vote collapsed  and we lost some good councillors, including Stephen Kearney, a veteran of some 11 years. I ran too, not seriously but as a token gesture and paperless, and I watched us fall apart that night. I was unable to attend the debrief that weekend but I know what was said. We addressed it again at our meeting in August and a new direction was decided on. We cannot get caught up in the gloss and shine of being councillors and get back to doing what we as a party do best. Solving local issues for local people. The vast majority of people in Gillingham south aren't interested in the new bus station.
They want pavements straightened, pot holes filled in, graffiti removed, improvements to the parks and council services and that's what we are going to do. After all isn't that what the meat and veg of politics is about?
Yes planning for the borough is important and these issues need to be addressed but let the big boys of Labour and Conservative play around with that, we're not big enough to really have much of a clout either way. We are going to work for the more pressing needs of the people in our wards.

We are in a transitional phase, we're trying to find our feet and reassert ourselves but we are not beaten. To say that the Liberal Democrats have given up the ghost is in similar to Hitler decreeing the British were defeated after Dunkirk - What next an "Appeal to reason" from Labour to our members and voters? Our time will come and we will reassert ourselves but not by headline grabbing and shouting and waving but through hard work, representation and doing what the people want.


  1. Although I appreciate the small remaining number of Lib Dem councillors at Medway, being small never stopped (for example) the Independent Ian Burt attending meetings, contributing to debates and voting.

    All councillors take on a borough-wide responsibility as well as a ward responsibility, so the comment about their "say not really mattering" is not the right attitude. Circumstances are one thing, but attitude is another. That needs to be watched!

    I could relate many anecdotes about my own attendance at various kinds of events & activities, such as the time I was frozen into my (high-altitude!) home, and it took two colleagues and a 4x4 vehicle to come and get me to that meeting, at which I made a useful contribution, by the way.

    A complete absence from the Council Chamber does look bad, and it gives scope to those who like to have a go at those from other parties to do precisely that, as we have already seen in this specific case.

    An experienced cllr should have been able to find a way to have at least one of the three there, and should have realised what would happen if he didn't.

  2. Hi John,

    To be brutally honest I agree. I think someone should have been present at the meeting. I was trying to play devils advocate and defend the indefensible - even Martin Borman got a defence council!

    I don't believe that we are dead and burried yet though, and for us I think the key is the hard ward work that we are known for rather than the headline grabbing that seems to be the path of the other party.

    I shall edit and readress a couple of bits.