“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!

Welcome to the new Medway Elects

After a little over one month in maintenance mode, I am delighted to finally relaunch Medway Elects.

The window on democracy in Medway was originally born in April but the final design was rushed to ensure it was able to launch in time for the local and general elections in May. I acknowledged at the time that the layout was not “flash”, and I continued to have reservations about the look long after I published it.

I have since spent the past several months working on building a new site layout that was fresher and cleaner, whilst still sticking the the original objective of being simplistic. The design is fully-responsive to provide you with the best possible viewing experience based on the size of your screen.

In addition to the new design, I am unveiling a raft of new features, including:

Medway Council
Appointments to Cabinet and Committees;
Political Group Leaders, Deputy Leaders and Whips;
Terms of Office on Councillor and Ward pages; and
Voting history for every Councillor.

UK Parliament
Terms of Office on MP and Constituency pages.

NEW SECTION
EU Parliament
Election results since June 1999;
Every candidate for every party; and
Terms of Office on MEP pages.

NEW SECTION
Kent PCC
Election results since November 2012; and
Terms of Office on Kent PCC pages.

NEW SECTION
Referenda
All referenda held in Medway since May 1997.

The process has taken longer than expected, not only because of the vast amount of increased data being added but also because I have had to significantly alter the code structure to be able to cope with all of the new features without crashing the site (as happened during early development tests!).

As I said when I launched Medway Elects in April – it is still not finished. I am continuing to explore additional improvements to the site – and if you have anything you would like to see added to it please do feel free to ask and I will see if it is possible.

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

P.S. A continued thank you to Jennings and Keevil of The Political Medway for their continued advice and assistance as I tried to create the most user-friendly design possible. I am sure that their Twitter harassment will never cease…

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.