Who is standing up for Medway commuters?

Spot the difference:

The Secretary of State will be aware that Southeastern is consistently one of the worst performing and most expensive train-operating companies in the country. Can he therefore explain why it has been given the longest extension—50 months? Can he assure my constituents that the extension is not a reward for failure? What opportunity will passengers have to engage in the process of direct awards as it is finalised?
Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford, Conservative)

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. May I also thank him for reducing train fares in the south-east by reducing the retail prices index plus 3% provision to RPI plus 1%? Under the previous Government, Southeastern had RPI plus 3% whereas the rest of the country had RPI plus 1%, and that was exceptionally unfair.
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham, Conservative)

The Conservatives, like Labour before them, have failed commuters by continuing the Southeastern rail franchise without competition. One Medway MP, a Conservative, has questioned this decision on behalf of her commuting constituents. Another Medway MP, also a Conservative, used the opportunity for political back-scratching.

Constituents v. Career? I know which I’d prefer from my MP…

Battlefield Medway 2015: Too Close To Call

In the run-up to the 2010 General Election, I developed a computer model to project the vote share among the four main parties in Medway, which was largely accurate.

On the eve of polling day, I published my final projection results via Twitter, then sat through the count watching with interest to see how accurate my computer model had been.

The results were impressive:

Chatham & Aylesford
Party Candidate Projection Result Margin
Conservative Tracey Crouch 46% 46% 0
Labour Jonathan Shaw 36% 32% -4
Liberal Democrats John McClintock 15% 13% -2
UK Independence Party Steve Newton 4% 3% -1


Gillingham & Rainham
Party Candidate Projection Result Margin
Conservative Rehman Chishti 47% 46% -1
Labour Paul Clark 29% 28% -1
Liberal Democrats Andy Stamp 19% 18% -1
UK Independence Party Robert Oakley 5% 3% -2


Rochester & Strood
Party Candidate Projection Result Margin
Conservative Mark Reckless 50% 49% -1
Labour Teresa Murray 35% 29% -6
Liberal Democrats Geoff Juby 14% 16% +2
UK Independence Party Did not stand

The model, which combined local and national polling to provide a local picture, was, in most cases, correct within a reasonable margin of error. The only exception was in Rochester & Strood, were UKIP’s decision not to field a candidate against Mark Reckless made projecting the vote share there a little more complicated.

Over the weekend, Liberal Democrat blogger Chris Sams released his predictions for Battlefield Medway 2015. His analysis is quite detailed, and I would urge readers to take a look for themselves, but in essence he claims Rochester & Strood will be a Conservative hold, Gillingham & Rainham will be a Labour gain and Chatham & Ayelsford could go either way.

I thought this a little optimistic, and couldn’t see Chatham & Ayelsford being too closest to call, so I resurrected my computer model and updated the figures to calculate projections on where the votes currently lie:

Chatham & Aylesford
Party Candidate Projection Margin
Conservative Tracey Crouch 41% 38% – 44%
Labour Tristan Osborne 42% 39% – 45%
Liberal Democrats To be confirmed 4% 1% – 7%
UK Independence Party To be confirmed 11% 8% – 14%
Projected Result Labour Gain


Gillingham & Rainham
Party Candidate Projection Margin
Conservative Rehman Chishti 41% 38% – 44%
Labour Paul Clark 43% 40% – 46%
Liberal Democrats To be confirmed 4% 1% – 7%
UK Independence Party To be confirmed 9% 6% – 12%
Projected Result Labour Gain


Rochester & Strood
Party Candidate Projection Margin
Conservative Mark Reckless 42% 39% – 45%
Labour To be confirmed 40% 37% – 43%
Liberal Democrats To be confirmed 10% 7% – 11%
UK Independence Party To be confirmed 5% 2% – 8%
Projected Result Conservative Hold

The results speak for themselves. Rochester & Strood is projected to be a Conservative hold, Gillingham & Rainham a Labour gain and Chatham & Aylesford closest to call. Mr Sams, I eat my words!

The projection shows that the Liberal Democrat vote has virtually collapsed in Chatham & Aylesford and Gillingham & Rainham (as evidenced in both the national opinion polls and the 2011 local election), but has been largely resilient in Rochester & Strood. Conversely, UKIP has surged in Chatham & Aylesford and Gillingham & Rainham, but remained static in Rochester & Strood (they achieved only 4% of the vote in 2005) – perhaps largely due to the anti-EU nature of the incumbent Tory.

Of course, these projections are based, partly, upon mid-term opinion polling, and the political landscape may change dramatically between now and 2015. However, when you consider the figures involved, and particularly the margins of error included in the tables for information, one thing is clear:

At the moment, Battlefield Medway 2015 is too close to call!

Medway Messenger letter: Friday, 13 April 2012

Big bank fees are adding to problem

TRACEY CROUCH’S article on bank charges (Our Woman in Westminster, Medway Messenger, April 6) hit the nail on the head.

While it is important people keep track of their finances, when an out-of-character slip occurs the first thought crossing the banks’ minds seems to be how much money they can make from it.

In November, 2010, I had one such slip myself, where a debit card transaction took me 3p into an unauthorised overdraft.

My bank, not publicly owned, then decided to hit me with a double whammy of charges: £5 for completing the transaction and £25 for the unauthorised overdraft.

As far as disproportionate charges go, 100,000% of the offending amount can only be described as legal loan sharking!

Needless to say, I wrote to the bank pointing this fact out and received what can only be described as a patronising response from the said bank, though, to their credit, they agreed to waive the charges.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine recently faced a £12 charge from their credit card provider for going over their credit limit by 13p – a disproportionate charge of around 10,000%.

Residents across Medway are struggling with varying levels of personal debt, and disproportionate charges from banks are only making their finances harder to manage.

Alan W. Collins, Gillingham

Medway Messenger letter: Friday, 28 October 2011

Rebelling isn’t enough

MARK Reckless and Tracey Crouch defied the whips and voted for the motion [for a EU referendum], but Rehman Chishti ignored a majority and sided with the Prime Minister.

In politics, your constituents come before your party and your career. I have moved from Medway so will not have a vote, but in 2015, when Gillingham and Rainham is likely to lose a Tory stronghold and gain a Labour stronghold, I hope Mr Chishti knows how hard he needs to persuade the constituents he betrayed that it won’t happen again if he wants to regain the trust.

Former Medway blogger Alan W Collins, Birmingham