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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Jeremy Corbyn protests against his own decision

I don’t very often write posts attacking the Labour leadership – not because I don’t believe the many ludicrous policies of Corbyn & Co need to be opposed, but because the Parliamentary Labour Party (and many grassroots activists) seem to be doing a competent enough job of opposing the opposition themselves.

In this instance, though, given my ongoing campaign for equal status for mental health services, I will make an exception. Mr Corbyn was once also a vocal advocate of improvements to the way mental health problems are addressed. In February 2015, he told Parliament:

All of us can go through depression; all of us can go through those experiences. Every single one of us in this Chamber knows people who have gone through it, and has visited people who have been in institutions and have fully recovered and gone back to work and continued their normal life. I dream of the day when this country becomes as accepting of these problems as some Scandinavian countries are, where one Prime Minister was given six months off in order to recover from depression, rather than being hounded out of office as would have happened on so many other occasions.

We need greater and more effective assessment of the needs of mental health services across London, because there is still a stigma in some areas. Some communities and families are more able to come forward than others. We need to create an atmosphere in which people understand that we can all experience stress and that we all need help at some time in our lives, and the NHS must and should be there to provide that help when it is needed.

It was, therefore, pleasing to see Mr Corbyn appoint a Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health in his first cabinet last September. However, the role was short-lived, with the portfolio being scrapped following the swathes of resignations in July.

That didn’t stop the newly (re-)elected leader from protesting against the decision to ditch the post at the Labour Party conference today.

Posing with campaigners for mental health, Mr Corbyn held a sign calling for the reintroduction of the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health.

The post he created himself and then abolished himself!

I’ll just leave that brazen act of hypocrisy to sink in…

Source: Jason Groves

I’m supporting Henry Bolton for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner (but my second preference candidate may surprise you)

The candidates have been announced, the election is underway, and I am today officially endorsing Henry Bolton OBE to be the next Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent. For the first time in any election, I am also endorsing a second preference candidate – and regular readers may be somewhat surprised by where that second “X” will be going.

Henry Bolton OBEHenry Bolton OBE is UKIP’s candidate for the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) election taking place on 5 May – and I would encourage each and every one of you to lend him your vote.

The full list of candidates to appear on the ballot paper has been published, and I have updated the 2016 Kent PCC Election page on Medway Elects with the same. Of those standing, I believe Mr Bolton is the best choice for Kent.

Given the fact that I left UKIP around eight months ago, some readers may be surprised that I am endorsing a UKIP candidate, but, for me, the Police and Crime Commissioner role is not about party politics; it is about electing somebody with the necessary skill and experience to manage Kent Police so that they work in the most effective way for us, the people of Kent.

For all her faults, Ann Barnes had racked up many years on the Kent Police Authority before the PCC superceded that body, and that direct experience with the police stood her in good stead. Despite being a walking PR disaster (especially in the early days), there is no denying her results; for Kent Police to receive the best HMIC rating out of 43 police areas is a remarkable achievement, and must be congratulated.

On paper, the Conservative Party candidate appears to be a career politician. Since studying Public Policy, Government and Management at the University of Birmingham, Matthew Scott has been a local councillor and currently works as a Parliamentary Manager in Westminster. You can read the biography on his website and make up your own mind, but, to me, it seems Mr Scott’s credentials stem from liaising with the police from the outside, rather than any direct experience of the running or day-to-day affairs of the Force. Whilst not wishing to unfairly undermine his own skills and experience (which I am sure are many), if Mr Scott is the most experienced candidate the Conservative Party can put forward for Kent PCC, then one must wonder about the credentials of those who didn’t make the cut.

Steve Uncles is the only 2012 candidate making a return appearance. As the English Democrats’ candidate, Mr Uncles achieved a remarkable 5.3% of the vote, only being beaten into last place by independent Dai Liyanage, who attracted 3.7%. This time round, Mr Uncles is awaiting trial for an alleged election offence dating back to April 2013 – and even (successfully) applied to have his trial postponed until after this election. Whilst I am a firm believer in the principle of being innocent until proven guilty, what must it say of a man when he is more concerned with chasing elected office than clearing his name? I will let readers decide the answer to that question themselves.

David Naghi, the Liberal Democrat candidate, represents East Ward on Maidstone Borough Council. Otherwise, I honestly know very little about his experience or credentials for this role. Indeed, despite being on the Statement of Persons Nominated, at the time of going to pixel, he was not listed on the Lib Dem website’s PCC candidates page. Equally, I’m sorry to say that I know very little about the independent candidate Gurvinder Sandher, besides being the Director of the Kent Equality Cohesion Council.

Of the six candidates on the ballot paper, that leaves Medway Councillor Tris Osborne, who is standing for the Labour Party, and Henry Bolton OBE. Both have frontline policing experience, but, in my opinion, Mr Bolton’s background makes him the best-suited candidate for the job. That said, I am not completely dismissing Tris as a possible PCC, as you will see later on in this article.

For the first time, I am heading into an election without being constrained by membership of a political party, so I am free to publicly support whoever I wish. I have decided to be so open about endorsing the UKIP candidate, despite no longer being a member of that party, partly because of his experience, but also because UKIP’s stated policy is that their PCCs should be answerable to the needs of the people who elect them, and not to a national party whip. That independence is crucial in such a key role.

Henry Bolton has spent 21 years in the military, as an infantry and intelligence officer with the British Army. Upon leaving the Army, Mr Bolton spent six years as a civilian police officer with Thames Valley Police, before being seconded to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office by the European Union as Security and Defence Planner for Georgia, Libya, Ukraine, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

You can read Mr Bolton’s full biography for yourselves (if you can forgive the website looking like something from the early 2000s – no one is perfect, after all!), but of particular note are his work as the Head of the International Police in Croatia, leading “a number of international diplomatic missions to help various governments to reform their police, border guard and other security services” and assisting “governments in building cross-governmental, multi-agency coordination and strategies to enhance national security and the rule of law”. He was awarded the OBE in 2013 for “Services to International Security”.

If ever there were a candidate for whom the role of PCC was created, it must surely be Henry Bolton. If the voters of Kent wish to repeat the 2012 result and elect a candidate on the strength of their skills and experience, rather than their party, then, on 5 May, they should mark one of their crosses next to Henry Bolton and ensure that their next Police and Crime Commissioner is a man with the experience to get the job done, and get it done right.

Don’t lose your second vote

Don’t forget that you have two votes in the PCC election and can support a first- and a second-choice candidate. If no candidate has more than 50% of the vote after all first-choice votes have been counted, then all but the two highest-polling candidates are eliminated and any second-choice votes from those ballot papers will be added to the remaining two candidates. In the 2012 election, Ann Barnes, the ultimate victor, attained 46.8% of first-choice votes and won thanks to favourable second-choice votes.

Tris OsborneI will be casting my second vote for the Labour Party candidate Tris Osborne. Again, this is not because I have suddenly started supporting Labour (far from it), but because he is local (to Medway) and also has front-line experience in policing as a former Special Constable. He is very approachable and I believe he would be a strong voice for both Kent residents and Kent Police.

To everyone outside the UKIP bubble my former party just sound like sore losers

In what was billed as the first electoral test for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the people of Oldham West and Royton went to the polls yesterday to choose the successor to the late Michael Meacher.

The veteran MP had served the constituency since 1970 and achieved a majority of over 14,000 in May; anything less than a resounding victory would have been a major blow to an already shaky Labour leadership.

The party’s fears during the campaign were, ultimately, unfounded, and Jim McMahon was returned victorious for Labour with an increased vote share. UKIP came a poor second and the Tories, with a meagre 9%, were the only other party to retain their deposit.

It seems that there may be questions to ask about irregularities in some of the postal votes – and if any wrongdoing took place then, for the sake of trust in democracy, it must be uncovered and the culprits brought to justice.

However, reading through the tweets from some UKIP members and supporters, you would be forgiven for thinking that postal votes cost the party the election, as toys were thrown out of prams left, right and centre:

Many of those raising objections now are the same as those behind #ThanetRigged, which claimed that the decision of the voters of South Thanet not to elect leader Nigel Farage was an establishment plot against UKIP, as comedian Al Murray alluded to this morning:

Of course, #ThanetRigged was somewhat overshadowed by Nigel Farage’s farcical resignation of the leadership and subsequent reversal – not to mention the slightly more important matter of a party of government increasing their number of seats so as to obtain an overall majority. Yesterday, however, was one by-election in one constituency, and the nation’s media were paying attention. Farage did not waste any time in stoking the anger amongst his party’s supporters, himself tweeting:

I may have left UKIP when I moved from the UK, but I do still take a keen interest in the party’s fortunes and I am dismayed at what I have seen since the declaration of the result. From the very top downwards, complaints are being made left, right and centre about the way yesterday’s result was arrived at, while supporters are slapping each other on the back and agreeing with each other’s conspiracy theories. To each other, it may genuinely seem as though there is a broad consensus that something is wildly amiss, but to most detached observers, it often just seems as though the members are looking to blame the election loss on anybody but their own party.

Chris Irvine was once the UKIP Group’s leader on Medway Council, election agent for Mark Reckless when he stood as the UKIP candidate for Rochester and Strood and (for full transparency) my own election agent when I stood as a UKIP candidate for Rochester South and Horsted. When he and Reckless both lost their respective elected positions in May, he quietly stepped away from UKIP (while Reckless took on greater responsibility within the party), but the former councillor hit the nail firmly on the head this morning:

UKIP is very good at playing the victim, which undoubtedly motivates the troops but, frankly, does not give a good impression to anybody outside the bubble of the party’s membership and core supporters. There is too strong a tendency to blame electoral losses on external factors such as alleged criminal wrongdoing, an establishment plot against the party, etc., without a seemingly genuine examination of what the party itself got wrong.

It would have been unrealistic to have expected anything other than a Labour victory in Oldham West and Royton; they were, after all, defending a majority of 14,738, or 34.2%. In May, Michael Meacher was chosen by 54.8% of voters to represent them, compared to then-UKIP candidate Francis Arbour’s 20.6% second-place.

What the UKIP base cannot seem to understand, however, was that while the UKIP vote for candidate John Bickley rose by just under three percentage points to 23.4%, Labour’s new Member of Parliament saw his party’s vote increase by almost eight percentage points to 62.1%. While the majority yesterday was lower in terms of the number of votes at 10,722, as it was a by-election and attracted a lower turnout, the percentage majority had actually increased to 38.7%. On the same turnout as in May, that percentage would have equated to an almost 16,700-vote majority.

Taking the postal votes away may have reduced the scale of the victory, but the Labour would still have won the seat.

So what went wrong for UKIP? Well, I am not denying that there was not an element of voting irregularity going on simply because I do not know the facts any more than the majority of those supporters who have been jumping up and down on their keyboards. I do agree that a thorough investigation should take place to either confirm that there were no criminal actions relating the the election or prosecute anyone who may have committed a criminal act.

However, what the party should really be focusing on is not what may or may not have been conducted by anyone else, but how the party can reach beyond its core support and attract the votes needed to turn it from a protest party into a serious contender across the country. People like Deputy Chairman Suzanne Evans and Director of Policy Development Mark Reckless are crucial in transforming the fortunes of UKIP. Evans took the first important steps in the wake of the Oldham West and Royton result by recognising earlier today that “we must rise to the challenge of continuing to [sic] broadening our support” and “focus on what we can do next time, rather than risk just sounding like bad losers”:

Sadly, whilst scrolling through Twitter this morning I was met almost exclusively by sore losers. Those who would rather complain about the result rather than discuss what needs to change in order to build greater support need to wake up to reality: sore losers do not become future victors, they only generate future disappointment. If UKIP members genuinely want to change the direction of the country, they first need to play their own part in changing the direction – and public perception – of their party.

To those outside the UKIP bubble, they should appear to be a strong, principled political force with a broad support base and policies which resonate with the wider public. Today, however, they just appear to be little more than sore losers, and failure to recognise that will only hamper the party’s chances of electoral success in the future.

This Corbyn-bashing is getting absurd

In their attempts to discredit the new Leader of the Opposition, some of his political opponents are stooping to incredibly low depths.

A service was held today to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Those present were there to honour and remember those brave men who gave their lives defending the our skies from Luftwaffe attacks. Given my close involvement within the Royal Air Forces Association this is, naturally, something close to my heart.

Yet the talking point from today’s service of remembrance seems to be the actions of the Labour Party’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Specifically, the fact that he dared not to sing the national anthem.

Now, I’m certainly not a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, I think much of what he says can be written down and used as toilet paper, but my immediate reaction to this latest “insult” is a resounding “so what?!”.

I may not agree with Mr Corbyn on many, many issues, but he is, unlike those candidates he defeated in the race to the leadership, a man of principle. He has campaigned on what he believes in during his 30 years in the House of Commons and hasn’t been afraid to defy the leadership, rebelling over 500 times since 2001. One of the criticisms from his opponents is that he has the gall to stand up for what he believes is right, not what the leadership of the day believes will win them votes. It is difficult for me, as a democrat, to find fault with that.

Today’s event is, as far as I’m concerned, no different. Mr Corbyn is a staunch republican, he believes the monarchy should be abolished. Why then should he be forced to sing a national anthem that, rather than instilling national pride amongst all citizens, is merely an ode to the sovereign of the day? Much as I support the monarchy, I’ve never been a huge fan of the current national anthem, patriotic though it may feel when singing it. But that’s another post for another day…

Predictably, it was Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames who was wheeled out to make this particular attack. As the grandson of Winston Churchill, it must have seemed that the attack would carry more weight coming from him. Sir Nicholas, who joined the House of Commons on the same day as Mr Corbyn, said that his silence had been “very disrespectful to the Battle of Britain pilots who gave their all”.

Disrespectful to the Queen, maybe, but to the Battle of Britain pilots who gave their all in defending the free society we still enjoy today, thanks to them, it most certainly is not. Mr Corbyn is, as far as I am concerned, as free to decline singing praise to the sovereign if it is against his beliefs as I am to criticise every ludicrous policy he may concoct and promote. The brave Battle of Britain pilots fought to defend our freedom, and making use of that freedom, even in a service of remembrance honouring them, is most certainly not being disrespectful to them or their memories.

Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party, is about to start proposing a number of policies that could damage Britain, and everyone who believes in Britain (even those of us who have moved abroad…) should make the potential damage clear before he wins any real power. However, political opponents and the media alike seem to be focusing on Jeremy Corbyn the man, rather than his policies, and look set to scrape the bottom of the barrel and try to make their personal attacks even more vicious than those against Ed Miliband.

By all means, attack the many crazy policies Mr Corbyn has, but attacking him personally, especially (absurdly) for being true to his beliefs, will only drive those who are fed up of the current style of politics into Mr Corbyn’s outstretched arms, and make the prospect of seeing his dangerous policies put into practice ever more likely.