Medway Messenger: Friday, 15 May, 2015

Election shows democratic flaws

The people have spoken. I would like to congratulate all those who were successful in their bid for election and commiserate with those who, like me, were not successful.

The electorate are the boss, we their humble servants.

However, it was disappointing to learn that the House of Commons our three Members of Parliament will be entering is the most unrepresentative since 1926.

On Thursday, more than one million people voted for the Green Party, and yet they have only one MP.

Almost 3.9 million people voted for Ukip and they also have only one MP.

That’s a combined vote share of more than 15%, and yet between them the Green Party and Ukip have only 0.3% of seats.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats received less than half that number, a little over 2.4 million, and four times as many MPs; from a 7.9% vote share they won 1.2% of seats.

Although I’m willing to compromise with the SNP, as they only stood candidates in Scotland and their votes to seats ratio would, naturally, be skewed, it is still worth noting they won about 50% of the vote in Scotland and 95% of the seats there.

Our electoral system is bankrupt and that change is desperately needed.

First-past-the-post works well in a two-party election, but last Thursday saw six parties achieve more than one million votes.

Alan Collins,
formerly Ukip candidate for Rochester South and Horsted, Goudhurst Road, Gillingham

Introducing #medwayelects

A little over four years ago, I introduced the world to my latest project, Democracy in Practice, with far more fanfare than it probably deserved.

It was, essentially, a collection of Medway Council election results and basic councillor details (i.e. their allowances) presented on a primitive site that looked like it belonged in 1997. After the local elections in 2011, I moved away from Medway and started to migrate the format to my new-found home in Birmingham, although I didn’t live there long enough to complete the project and launch.

I know that Democracy in Practice had its fans, but I was never happy with the look and feel of the site. I have always been a programmer, never a designer. So when the code started to show flaws, and I got involved in other projects which took up my time, I switched the site off and let the domain name expire. I thought that would be the end of the story.

Today, I am launching Medway Elects. We are 25 days away from the most important, and most unpredictable, general election in my lifetime – and, on the very same day, voters in Medway have a chance to change the makeup of Medway Council. I felt Democracy in Practice could live again, but it needed a major facelift – and a lot of changes under the hood to make it function in exactly the way it should.

I got to work building the basic site layout first of all. I modelled it on another website I had built for an Air Cadet project. It’s not flash – just easier to navigate and more pleasing to the eye. I am also working on building a mobile-friendly version. Next, I rewrote the code from scratch – using Democracy in Practice as a strong foundation – and began adding new elements to the website.

Medway Elects still contains election results (plus newly-added turnout figures, where available), including the ability to see each candidate’s electoral (and, where they have served on the council, allowances) history. But I am pleased to have been able to add electoral history for Medway’s three parliamentary constituencies (running from 1997). I am also excited to have been able to programme in various graphs to better illustrate party support and how it has changed over time.

Parliamentary Election page

Clearly, as a party activist, I have never been able to lay claim to being an independent observer (although I have, in the past, had quiet words spoken in my ear for making independent observations on my blog or Twitter), but that is even more true now that I am standing in my first election as a candidate. However, Medway Elects is independent – it contains simply facts and figures, without any spin. Nothing on the site is designed to persuade anyone to vote for any particular candidate, with the only exception being the “Social Media” page, where anybody using the Twitter hashtag #medwayelects can join in the conversation.

Councillor profile page

Perhaps the most exciting part of the Medway Elects which I am launching today is that it is not the finished article. I am continuing to explore additional improvements to the site – although most of these will come after the election, for obvious reasons.

Until then, you can explore Medway Elects in all its glorious local political geekiness at www.medwayelects.co.uk.

P.S. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors of this blog for their valuable advice over the past couple of weeks. Their contribution spurred me on to adding new features and tweaking what I had already created. You too can help make Medway Elects even better by letting me know what you’d like to see added.

Originally featured on the local The Centre and What’s Left blog.

Back in the blogosphere

After six-or-so months away, I have decided to return to the blogosphere.

I always enjoyed informing and entertaining my loyal readers but, as with so many things in my life last year, the enjoyment was sucked out of me.

Now that my life is back on track, I resurrected this website and will be blogging on all things Medway, UKIP and beyond.

And I will start, very shortly, with a two-part look at the authority of the leadership of the Conservative administration in Medway – and why I think it is starting to disappear.

Things are starting to change in Medway – and the next few months are looking to be very exciting, indeed!

Medway Messenger: Friday, 17 May, 2013

Good reason for no Gills parade

I HAVE been a Gills fan for more years than I care to remember, and I well remember standing in Gillingham Park as the Division Two Play-off Final success was celebrated from the balcony of the Municipal Buildings more than a decade ago.

That is why I can understand Mr Sengelow’s sentiments (Letters, May 10) regarding a victory parade following the Gills’ extremely successful centenary year. The club has not always had an easy relationship with Medway Council, but it is important to note that the council is always keen to allow all residents the chance to celebrate the club’s success and has, in the past, accommodated victory parades.

Unfortunately, this time the club was unable to take up the council’s offer, which has provoked a mixed reaction from fans.

I am not too concerned about the fact that a victory parade will not be taking place this year. Unlike the play-off finals, the League 2 championship was won and the trophy presented on home soil, in front of a capacity crowd. This allowed the team to celebrate the success in Gillingham, without the need for an additional local celebration.

Gillingham Football Club is one of the best Football League clubs for involving fans, and Martin Allen has put the fans at the forefront of everything the team has done this year. From inviting them on to the team coach at away matches and into the dressing room, to opening up training sessions and ensuring players do not leave without signing autographs and posing for photographs, the fans have always been held in high regard by the club, management and players. The fans have even been asked to choose next season’s kit.

The decision not to hold a victory parade was, therefore, clearly not taken with the intention of disappointing the fans, although I accept that there may be a few who were unable to attend the match against AFC Wimbledon who may be disappointed. I am therefore happy to accept the club’s decision and look forward to another successful season, albeit this time in League 1!

Alan Collins
Goudhurst Road, Gillingham

Medway Messenger: Friday, 29 March, 2013

Law already covers internet

I EMPATHISE entirely with Bob Bounds’ concerns that local media is being punished for the sins of others (Messenger, March 22).

I have been a blogger for some six-and-a-half years and, at the time of writing this, it is legally unclear whether I, too, would fall into the remit of the Royal Charter.

I am in the final year of my law degree* and dedicated months on the effects of media law on internet users, particularly in relation to defamation. I concluded that the law had continued to evolve effectively to encompass those who use the internet as well as the traditional media.

I have always been careful never to stray into what is legal and what is not – unlike a significant section the national media (not simply News International, as recent revelations have proved). However, as Mr Bounds correctly points out, the genuine wrongdoing suffered at the hands of those journalists is already illegal; the culprits already arrested and, in some cases, charged.

Much as the Hacked Off campaign has manipulated the Leveson Report, so too have our shameless elected representatives manipulated the Hacked Off campaign to finally meet their own ends: To end over 300 years of press freedom and control the media (and, potentially, the blogosphere) with their own Ministry of Truth).

Many articles I have written in the past could have prompted the subject to complain to this state regulator because they did not like what I wrote. The same is true for the Medway Messenger; without even reading the contents of the edition this is printed in, I would wager that there is at least one article which is not breaking any laws, but which could fall foul of the new Orwellian regulations.

No Member of Parliament who voted for this ill-conceived, dictatorial hash job, nor any future candidate who has voiced support for it, is fit for office. I congratulate Mark Reckless and Tracey Crouch for having the courage to stand up for what is right but note with utter dismay that Rehman Chishti, who courted the media for maximum exposure before the general election, has betrayed those same journalists in supporting the Royal Charter.

The Press Complaints Commission was ineffective, out of date and needed replacing, but not by a state-sanctioned censor more familiar to China or North Korea, at the mercy of politicians often with axes to grind.

Alan Collins,
Goudhurst Road, Gillingham

* Regular readers will know that, far from being in my final year of my law degree, I in fact graduated in July 2011. This was an error which occurred when the Medway Messenger edited my original letter for length.