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For all her faults, Ann Barnes had racked up many years on the Kent Police Authority before the PCC superceded that body, and that direct experience with the police stood her in good stead.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.

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!

Taxing the truth, Tristan?

It seems everyone’s favourite Medway Labour councillor Tristan Osborne is up to his well-worn tricks.

In this post following last night’s meeting of the Full Council, Cllr Osborne accused the Tories of twisting history to suit their rhetoric on low  Medway’s Council Tax. It is an accusation he has levelled before, and I consider it a personal failure that I have, thus far, allowed it to continue unchecked.

You see, dear reader, the delicious irony is that, in making his argument, Cllr Osborne is, himself, twisting history to suit his rhetoric – and it does not take much examination of the facts to see his mis-truths unravel.

On the low level of Council Tax the Conservatives inherited from Labour when it took control of a minority administration in 2000, Cllr Osborne states:

Structurally, the real reason we have relative low Council Tax is the creation of the Unitary Authority which, and unlike in wider Kent, means our residents largely only have one level of local government;

It stands to reason that streamlining services to be run from one bureaucracy instead of two bureaucracies is likely to lighten the financial burden on the taxpayer, and the notion has a very conservative feel about it. Yet Cllr Osborne then adds that it was:

a policy implemented under Labour as we ran the Council and government at time.

Ah, so it is a matter of timing, yes? Well, yes, actually it is, but not for the reasons he implies.

It is, of course, true that Medway Council officially took control of local services in 1998, when the national government was Labour-run. However, with such a wide-ranging purview and population, the task facing this new authority meant that it could not simply be two borough councils and a county council one day and a unitary authority the next.

No, a great deal of planning needed to go into preparing the new authority to govern Medway, to which end a shadow authority was created before the handover to examine issues, including  the likely necessary budget and how to preserve city status when the Borough of Rochester-upon-Medway was abolished. It is true that this shadow authority was almost 50% Labour (not an overall majority, which they have never achieved since the authority was created), but it was elected at the same time as the Labour government: 1 May 1997.

Hang on! I hear you cry. A shadow authority elected at the same time as the Labour government? How can that be if Cllr Osborne is correct in asserting that Medway Council exists because of the Labour government?

The answer is obvious.

The history of local governance in Medway is long and varied and it would not add much to the present discussion to replicate it here. The pertinent question relates to the merging of the Boroughs of Gillingham and Rochester-upon-Medway and how it came about. The answer to said question is simple, and it all goes back to a gentleman by the name of John Banham.

Following an Act of Parliament in 1992, Banham was tasked with chairing the Local Government Commission for England. The Commission was asked to review the structure of local government and, when John Gummer became Secretary of State for the Environment in 1993, he issued revised guidance to the Commission, whose progress had been slow:

In some areas the commission may wish to recommend a continuation of the existing two-tier structure. But the government expects that to be the exception, and that the result will be a substantial increase in the number of unitary authorities in both urban and rural areas.

Although this guidance was successfully challenged in the High Court and revised, it made clear the Conservative government’s intentions to introduce great numbers of unitary authorities. Yet the Banham Review decided to leave Kent’s two-tier system unchanged and, shortly after making his final report, John Banham resigned from his post. In a speech to the House of Commons announcing this (amongst other things), John Gummer stated that the commission, under a new chairman, would take a different approach:

I intend to ask the commission to carry out fresh reviews of a short list of selected districts … I believe that those new reviews must be carried out by a reconstituted commission which can look at the cases afresh … The areas I have in mind to be covered by the new reviews are: … the Medway towns–that is, Rochester upon Medway and Gillingham

Later in that same debate, Gillingham’s (Conservative) MP Jim Couchman said:

I welcome the decision to call for the new or revised commission to review the Medway towns. My right hon. Friend will know from his personal knowledge that the redevelopment of the Medway towns is absolutely critical to their future prosperity and that for planning, transportation and urban redevelopment, the Medway towns are seen as a whole.

The call will be welcomed by all the political parties, with the exception of the Gillingham Liberals, who got up to some extraordinary stunts during the consultation.

Mr Gummer replied:

I very much agree with my hon. Friend: the great and ancient towns of Chatham and Rochester joined to make a single authority–with rural areas about them, but centrally those two authorities–because they knew that it was necessary for the future of their community. In many of the regeneration areas of the Medway towns, it is difficult to draw the line between Gillingham and Rochester upon Medway. Indeed, only those who have long lived there–it is probably why the Liberals do not understand this– know where the boundary is. Those who care about Rochester upon Medway and Gillingham are very concerned about the regeneration possibilities and the great hope that comes to that area of the country. I think that they will want at least the advantages–as well as the disadvantages, for there may be some–of unitary status to be considered.

The new commission was chaired by Sir David Cooksey and ultimately recommended the abolition of the two borough councils of Gillingham and Rochester-upon-Medway and the creation of the single-tier Medway Towns Council in September 1995. This was enacted by the excitingly-titled The Kent (Borough of Gillingham and City of Rochester upon Medway) (Structural Change Order) 1996, signed on 18th July 1996 by Conservative Minister David Curry and which created the shadow authority to be elected on 1st May 1997 with the new council proper being born on 1st April 1998.

All the foundations for the better-value-for-money unitary authority, including the Statutory Instrument which created it, were laid by the Conservatives, and any suggestion that its existence is down to Labour is surely taxing the truth to the extreme.