Something interesting happened at Medway’s Full Council meeting last Thursday.
No, I’m not talking about the protesters who were literally bussed in to the St George’s Centre and ultimately ended up disrupting proceedings.
In fact, the moment to watch came during the discussion and vote on the Rochester Airport Master plan – a vote which was recorded at the request of Labour to show residents that, whilst those nasty Tories were trying to formulate a plan to boost growth and create jobs in Medway, they were dead against creating a shorter, pave runway and selling off the surplus land for business units.
No, they’d rather rip another vein out of Medway’s heritage, flog the lot and, presumably, create another housing estate without the necessary infrastructure to go with it. They, together with the Liberal Democrats, tried it before. They’ve not had control of the council since, though I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
What should really interest the political geeks of the borough (and either excite or concern residents, depending on your point of view) is what one Councillor Rupert Turpin said, and how the Deputy Leader of the Council responded.
For Cllr Turpin, still only in his first term as a councillor in Rochester South and Horsted (which, incidentally, is one of the wards which will be most affected by what happens to Rochester Airport), dared to challenge the authority of the great Councillor Rodney Chambers OBE, Leader of the Council for almost 14 years and councillor for more years than anyone would dare remind him.
Cllr Turpin believed, like a lot of people opposed to the plans, that he was not getting the answers he wanted from the relevant parties. Aggrieved, he abstained when it came to the vote, and was not afraid of placing on record exactly why he was doing so.
It is a sight seldom seen in public, and apparently came as much of a surprise to his colleagues as it did to those of us still left in the public gallery. But it wasn’t just Cllr Turpin’s actions that should have raised eyebrows.
Cllr Alan Jarrett, the Deputy Leader of the Council could not let matters lie, and sought to stamp his authority – in a public council meeting. He claimed that no business would answer Cllr Turpin’s questions and subtly suggested that he had no good reason to abstain.
Fast forward to the recorded vote and Cllr Turpin did indeed abstain. It may not be earth-shattering, but it is a sign that Cllr Chambers’ authority is slipping, and that his support from his own members may be ebbing away.
And, as I will show later, I believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg…