Medway’s last UKIP councillor vows not to represent Peninsula residents

UKIP’s last remaining councillor in Medway has vowed not to turn up to any more council meetings, as he was stripped of his committee memberships by the Conservatives and Labour.

Cllr Roy Freshwater, who sat on the Business Support and Children & Young People overview and scrutiny committees, stormed out of this evening’s full council meeting in protest at the council giving the nod to a report recommending that he and the council’s three independent members lose their seats on the council’s committees. He has said he will not turn up to any more council meetings, denying his constituents in Peninsula ward a voice from one of their three councillors.

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Councillor Mick Pendergast resigns from UKIP, leaving party with one councillor in Medway

Peninsula Councillor Mick Pendergast has today resigned from UKIP, according to Medway Elects:

Although there has not yet been an official comment from Cllr Pendergast, it is understood he has already communicated his decision to council officials. His reasons for resigning from UKIP are not yet known.

Cllr Pendergast will see out the rest of his term as an independent councillor.

Analysis: Decline of Medway UKIP

Cllr Pendergast’s resignation is the latest in a series of blows for the local party, which just four years ago held the accolade of being home to one of only two members of parliament to be elected for UKIP.

What started as a fairytale coming top in a nationwide poll and beginning to take seats away from Labour and the Conservatives on Medway Council soon began to crumble and descend into farce, as their vote share disintegrated and attention turned to their increasingly unhealthy obsession with Islam and stories of former party officers suing them for unpaid expenses (including cream crackers).

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Moving forward with life

Yesterday, I went to the rally for Catalonia in London.

And I’m not entirely sure why.

I didn’t speak to anyone. I didn’t join in with the singing or the chanting. I only stood quietly in the background, taking several photos (and a couple of videos).

Of course, I enjoy taking photos on any occasion and political protests are very unique events to take photos of.

But now the topic of Catalonia is a difficult one for me.

I began following it closely after meeting my wife. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned once or twice before, she is Catalan, and she introduced me to the strength of the independence movement in Catalonia.

Three years ago, in 2015, we went to the protests in London and Barcelona for the National Day of Catalonia. They were very special days: she and I spent them with patriots from both here and there and I had found a new campaign for democracy to which I could offer my support.

But now, as I think has become apparent to most, my wife and I have separated.

The last two months have passed by very slowly. They’ve been difficult, they’ve been hard, and I’ve asked myself many times what I’ve done with my life – and where I want to go now that my marriage has collapsed.

I suppose that I attended the rally yesterday to prove that I will still defend democracy in Catalonia even though I have lost my biggest motivation for doing so.

Without a doubt, I will always support democracy and the right to decide for everybody, in any country in the world.

No, my motivation for going to London yesterday must be bigger than that.

While I will always support democracy and human rights, that alone is not enough to justify spending money I really don’t have to waste at the moment on going up to London for two hours.

I suppose – no, I’m sure – that I went to London yesterday to prove two things to myself.

Firstly, despite everything that has happened in the last few months, I still have the same passion for politics and the same desire to participate in relation to the causes which interest – and matter – to me the most.

And, secondly, that I am still alive (even though I still can’t help feeling a little dead inside) and so I have to find another way of moving forward with my life.

Yesterday, I abandoned my home and my town and allowed myself time to think while on the train and walking through the streets of London.

Now, I believe, I know where I am with my life. I have thought long and hard about the past (particularly the last four years) and I better understand now how I have become the man I am today.

What’s more, I understand where I want to go with my life.

I need to keep studying and working, without any bad influences, and, if I do so, I know that I will arrive at the place I want to be as soon as possible.

Yesterday, I attended the rally to give my support to the Catalans, to take (a lot of) photos and, above all, to rediscover myself.

Now, I have to move forwards – like everyone else – and find the future and the life that I want – and that I know I am destined to have.

“Tony Staplegun” takes aim at the Rochester West by-election candidates

As any Facebook user will tell you, receiving friend requests from complete strangers is not unusual.

But one friend request from a “Tony Staplegun” caught my attention.

In posts which must bee seen to be believed, the (presumably) anonymous user has taken aim at all of the confirmed candidates in the Rochester West by-election.

“Tony” starts by looking at the independent candidate, former Tory and UKIP councillor Chris Irvine, who, before defecting to UKIP, had been selected as Kelly Tolhurst’s running mate in the ward.

Tony Staplegun

The next candidate to take flak from “Tony” is the Conservative candidate Alan Kew, whose business relationship with the other Rochester West councillor Stuart Tranter is a matter of public record.

Tony Staplegun

“Tony” doesn’t seem to have much to say about the Liberal Democrats’ Martin Rose…

Tony Staplegun

…but does have plenty to say about UKIP’s Rob McCulloch Martin. Incidentally, I wouldn’t advise visiting Rob’s “UKIP Dads” page if you are easily offended.

Tony Staplegun

The Green Party’s Sonia Hyner seems to have come off best from “Tony”‘s posts, even suggesting that she could “do surprisingly well” from a “protest vote”…

Tony Staplegun

…before returning to the criticisms, finally aiming his sight at Labour’s Alex Paterson.

Tony Staplegun

It is not clear who is behind the “Tony Staplegun” Facebook profile, which is published without a profile or cover photograph, but whoever it is appears not to be a fan of Medway’s political class.

That said, it is surprisingly refreshing to see a little bit of humour injected into what seems to be an otherwise stale election campaign.

Kelly Tolhurst resigns from Medway Council

Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst has resigned her seat on Medway Council.

Tolhurst, who has represented Rochester West since 2011 and been an MP since 2015, made the decision after being appointed as an Assistant Government Whip earlier this week. She said:

While I am extremely honoured to have been asked to join the Prime Minister’s team as a Government Whip, I accept that after discussions with colleagues and residents it is clear I am unable to carry on with my role as a local authority councillor without conflict.

Working solely as the Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood, I now have the opportunity to represent the whole of the constituency at the highest level.

I believe that this decision is without doubt the best thing for both the constituency and the ward of Rochester West.

The wording of this statement begs two questions:

  1. If she believes that she “now [has] the opportunity to represent the whole of the constituency at the highest level”, was she not representing the whole of her constituency before?
  2. If she has decided holding two national jobs means she can no longer effectively represent her ward constituents, will her parliamentary and former council colleague Rehman Chishti, who also received a promotion this week to one of the Vice Chairmen of the Conservative Party, come to the same decision and also resign from the council?

In a brief statement, Neil Davies, Chief Executive of Medway Council, said:

I have today received, and accepted, the resignation of Cllr Kelly Tolhurst as ward member for Rochester West with immediate effect. We have begun arrangements to fill the vacancy.

The arrangements begin by advertising the vacancy in the ward. If two electors within the ward write to the Chief Executive asking for the vacancy to be filled, a by-election will be called.

And let’s face it, with a probable slate of six candidates for the contest, getting two signatures will not take long.

Frustratingly, before today, I was in the process of writing a lengthy blog post to start the year by taking a look at next year’s full local council elections (trust me, in context it made sense!).

The introduction to that post will now need to be re-written:

In short, I had updated my projections model to try to predict the level of support for each party in each ward, not in an effort to predict the outcome, but rather to see where each party was likely to win and where the key battles would be fought.

I will now postpone publication of that post until after the by-election, as it will likely give me more invaluable data to refine the projection model.

Meanwhile, the people of Rochester West are looking at another election, making it the eighth vote they will have had since May 2014:

  1. EU Parliament election, May 2014
  2. Rochester & Strood by-election, November 2014
  3. General election, May 2015
  4. Council election, May 2015
  5. Police & Crime Commissioner election, May 2016
  6. EU referendum, June 2016
  7. General election, June 2017
  8. Council by-election, TBC

And although at least one election every year between 2014 and 2019 may not necessarily excite voters in Rochester West, for political geeks like me it makes the start of this year very interesting indeed.

And, of course, Medway Elects will be there for the ride!