For my niece, Poppy, born 15 February 2018

Welcome to the world, little Poppy,
you have reminded me that life is beautiful.
But when I cradled your fragile body,
I questioned whether life is worthless.

The world is full of sadness and war,
one the one hand, poverty, and death on the other.
But, just as spring follows winter,
you were born after a loss, Poppy.

The name reminds me of a very famous war,
in which millions of innocent people fell.
In commemoration there is a beautiful symbol,
which grew from the fight, the poppy.

With green leaves and red petals,
the poppy reminds us of a very old wish.
That when they give us war, we respond with peace,
we offer tranquility in place of chaos.

The world is shit, we have to confess,
but we possess the key to improve it.
We live how we want and accept the same for everyone,
and also understand, Poppy, that we are only what we are.

You will always be perfect, I can see it in your eyes,
you will give years of happiness to your proud parents.
Whatever happens, remember, forever,
that the life is yours, little Poppy.

This poem was originally written in Catalan and has been translated into English. As such, it does not flow as well, nor rhyme, as the original.

“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!

#CC17: Glória in excélsis Deo!

When I first started planning this year’s Countdown, I knew I wanted to bring it to an end with this beautiful version of Angels We Have Heard On High.

It is a video I came across part-way through last year’s Countdown and would have featured, but I felt its rightful place was as the finale – and I had already prepared that post so held it over to this year.

Knowing how the Countdown was going to end, it was a really beautiful feeling in Church yesterday morning when this was one of the hymns chosen to lead the Christmas Eve worship. And it is, clearly, apt for the task.

It is a powerful reminder of why we celebrate Christmas: remembering the birth of the son of God, who He sent to walk with us and, ultimately, to die to save us.

Whilst the presents and the turkey (and possibly the alcohol, if you are that way inclined) may make this the happiest day of the year, knowing God and accepting Christ into our lives also brings us joy today and all through the year.

Glória in excélsis Deo, glory to God in the highest, indeed!

As it is Christmas, I am also presenting a second video today, for my Catalan followers. It is no less symbolic of the meaning of the day, and recalls the events 2,000 years ago that brought, and continue to bring, people like me across the world closer to God.

Whilst I would love to follow this with a personal message for my Catalan followers, I will save it for next year, by which time I will have (finally!) published my Catalan blog. Instead, I will simply direct those to whom this applies to a tweet I sent yesterday afternoon:

Whatever you are doing, however you are celebrating Christmas, and whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas, un gran Bon Nadal, and I hope and pray that all your hopes and dreams for the season may be granted.

See you in 2018!

#CC17: 1 Day to Christmas

If I were ever pressed to give a definitive “favourite” Christmas song, there would really only be one contender: Fairytale of New York.

Imagine my delight, then, when listening to Un Altre Nadal de Cançons, a Christmas album in Catalan, I heard a version of my favourite Christmas song in my second language.

Conte de Nova York sticks very closely to the original (so closely, I don’t think it’s necessary to provide a translation today) and is fast becoming my favourite Catalan-language song, although I don’t envisage playing it full-blast in the car in mid-July as I have been this week!

Happy Christmas Eve one and all! The countdown is now on to that wonderful time we can open our presents, eat our turkey, drink our tipple of choice and be generally very merry.

All together now!

Les campanes sonen fort perquè és Nadal…