Conservative veterans are dumped – but mystery surrounds why

In the week in which Prime Minister David Cameron ruthlessly swung an axe through his cabinet, culling his closest friends and colleagues, it is, perhaps, fitting that the public is now allowed to know what has happened here in Medway.

Rochester and Strood Conservatives have selected their candidates for next May’s election to Medway Council, in which list two well-known (and well-loved) councillors are surprisingly absent. Have they, in their senior years, decided that the time is now right to stand down and make way for the next generation of Conservative councillors?

In a word, no. In fact, good people of Medway, they were unceremoniously shafted before even party members in their wards could decide whether they should seek re-election by their constituents – by a behind-closed-doors selection panel. Democracy in action, eh?

I have made no secret of my admiration for Councillor Ted Baker, who has served the Towns with great dedication for many years (two of which were as Mayor), and it is with great sadness that I report that he will no longer grace the council chamber with his presence come next May. Such is his humility, he has decided to accept the decision of the Association, however it was arrived at, although he did admit to the Medway Messenger that he “wasn’t happy when I was turned down”.

Association Chairman Cllr Andrew Mackness’ original claim that the pair were retiring was blown out of the water by a disgruntled Cllr Tom Mason, who said that he would have no qualms about standing against his former colleagues, saying “I shall be standing again but I don’t think I’ll be standing as a Conservative”. Another former Mayor of Medway, Cllr Mason told the Messenger that he was not happy either, adding “I’m quite upset really. It’s an unfortunate internal matter. I don’t know what their idea is. It’s entirely up to them. They seem to think they know better.”

Another intriguing turn of events has seen Matt Fearn, a former Conservative councillor in Rainham Central until he resigned from the party in disgust over their treatment of ward colleague – and friend – Paul Foster, return to stand in Cuxton and Halling (in place of Deputy Mayor Cllr Ray Maisey). Matt Fearn stood in the 2007 local elections as an independent, where he polled over 1,000 votes, alongside another former (and now current) Conservative, Peter Rodberg (a Strood Rural councillor since 2011, but not standing in 2015 – keeping up?).

Far be it for me to comment on the internal workings of an association I was, until 18 months ago, closely involved with, but it seems to me as though there have been many strange goings on within the Rochester and Strood Conservatives in recent months – and it is difficult for this external observer to argue that many of the changes are for the better. Whilst this is not intended to be a poor reflection on any individual, it may be worthwhile for interested parties to keep a close eye on the Association into May 2015 and beyond. I believe this is one story which is, most definitely, developing.

How they line up

Cuxton and Halling
Candidates: Matt Fearn
Out: Cllr Ray Maisey

Candidates: Michael Dale, Cllr Phil Filmer, Harold Ogunfemi
Out: Cllr Chris Irvine (standing in Rochester East), Cllr Tony Watson

Candidates: Cllr Andrew Mackness, 1 to be chosen
Out: Cllr Craig Mackinlay (resigning to fight general election in Thanet South)

Rochester East
Candidates: Rizvi Rawoff, Sean Varnham

Rochester South and Horsted
Candidates: Cllr Trevor Clarke, Cllr Sylvia Griffin, Cllr Rupert Turpin

Rochester West
Candidates: Chris Irvine, Cllr Kelly Tolhurst
Out: Cllr Ted Baker

Strood North
Candidates: Cllr Jane Chitty, Steve Iles, Paul Monck
Out: Cllr Jane Etheridge

Strood Rural
Candidates: Gary Etheridge, Cllr Peter Hicks, John Williams
Out: Cllr Tom Mason, Cllr Peter Rodberg

Strood South
Candidates: Cllr John Avey, Cllr Josie Iles, Mark Joy

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