Precept

Manston becomes a zero-sum game

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, April 12 2015

The fate of Manston was always going to be a major issue in the election battle for South Thanet and it is hardly a surprise that the rival parties - notably Ukip and the Conservatives - have been falling over themselves to dip into the political sweetie jar to offer assorted pledges and commitments.

First out of the block were the Conservatives.

They clearly wanted to pre-empt Ukip's rally on Saturday at Margate's Winter Gardens and brought down the transport minister John Hayes two days earlier to pronounce that, according to what he had seen from the government consultants appointed to review the CPO papers, there was nothing to stop Thanet council from pursuing that option.

But what had he seen? It wasn't quite clear and when the Department for Transport was asked for a copy of the interim report PwC had produced, we were told to put the question to GCHQ because it was a political event and nothing to do with them.

Mr Hayes said in a rather breathless press release that it represented a 'huge step' towards re-opening Manston as a working airport and that the only way to ensure that it did was to vote Conservative.

This was then overshadowed by a row over whether the news breached the strict rules of "purdah" which are supposed to apply during election campaigns and are designed to ensure that no announcements are made which might be construed as giving some electoral advantage to a party or candidate.

The owners of Manston lost no time in denouncing the way the announcement had been made to say that it felt there may be a case to answer and were taking legal advice on the issue.

This was swiftly followed by Ukip unveiling its position - or rather, repeating its position - that the first thing that it would do, were it to take control of Thanet District Council, would be to also instruct council officials to start a CPO process to restore Manston as a working airport.

So, in a sense Manston is a zero sum game for both Ukip and the Conservatives: there really is not much difference between them.

The only problem they may have is that while Manston is unquestionably an important issue in South Thanet, voters may get rather tired of it if the issue is all the parties talk about between now and May 7.

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Everything you need to know about the election battle in Kent  -constituencies guide, candidates, commment and analysis: #KENTDECIDES

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Will Nigel Farage win in South Thanet? It looked like the party was having a bit of a wobble and it did not come out well from the revelation that it had tried to suppress a poll which appeared to indicate it was falling back in he constituency.

It is becoming next to impossible to read the runes with any changes in the standing of the parties fluctuating on a daily basis. Having said that, I detected a spring in the step of Labour this week, who are feeling that they are steadily improving and represent the main challenger.

The problem for both the Conservatives and Labour is that neither has a decisive lead in the polls. For floating voters who want to keep Ukip out, there is no clear choice to go for. That will potentially help Ukip and split the anti-Farage vote.

With three weeks to go, there are bound to be more twists and turns and the launch of the party manifestos next week could represent a potential banana skin for Ukip.

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There are election posters and election posters but 2015 will go down as the year that saw - courtesy of Ukip - the first one to feature the words "compulsory purchase order in relation to Manston. Next up?

Maybe a Conservative one featuring "quantitive easing."

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The usually mild-mannered Sevenoaks candidate Michael Fallon took on the role of Conservative bruiser-in-chief this week with his "stabbed in the back" jibe against Ed Miliband. The Conservatives defended the comments but it is the kind of politicking that really turns off voters.

And the row they generated did have one consequence. It helped distract voters from other issue - partcularly Labour's "non-doms" announcement - which might have just been the purpose.

 

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Categories: Manston | Precept

Spinning lights, Lodge Hill and Ann Barnes' PR spend

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, February 15 2015

Conservative county councillors did their best to put a gloss on their streetlight switch-off U-turn at the authority's budget meeting but it has been an unnecessarily messy episode which the opposition parties understandably exploited.

The ruling administration did what it could to make the best of a bad job but had to face accusations that it had not actually saved any money, after spending £3m on installing the technology needed to move to part-night lighting  - effectively neutralising the predicted saving of £3m up to 2017, when it says bulbs will be replaced wih LEDs.

At least Conservative council leader Paul Carter was upfront in acknowledging that had the council known that the cost of LEDs was to fall significantly, it might not have embarked on the switch-off. (His claim that it had saved money was less convincing).

Opposition in Kent appears to have been more vociferous than other areas, which may have something to do with its size and rural nature.

To be fair, it did consult pretty widely at the outset.

Having said that, perhaps councillors did not do themselves any favours by appearing rather dismissive about residents' fears over security and crime, insisting the perception of an increase in crime was not matched by the reality.

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Any public figure who spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on outside PR agencies and consumer research companies can expect to be asked to account for it.

Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes says appointing outside consultants was necessary to secure an "independent" review of the communications strategies adopted by the force.

Communications are important for any public body especially for the police.

But we doubt many people will regard it as that important to pay a PR firm close to £14,000 for an insight into what was being done and what might be done better - especially given the common complaint that they don't get to see many police officers on the street these days.

It is equally hard to justify the £2,400 spent on media training for the crime youth commissioner Kerry Boyd, whose term of office is to end shortly but whose activity has been so low profile as to make her virtually invisible.

Perhaps the advice was to not say anything or do anything in public or before the media.

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It proved one of the few local flashpoints in the Rochester and Strood by-election, so what have the parties made of the government's decision to call in the plans for 5,000 homes at Lodge Hill and hold a public inquiry?

Strangely, it has produced an unlikely consensus between UKIP MP Mark Reckless and Kelly Tolhurst, the Conservative candidate.

Mr Reckless says he is delighted he will not rest until he has 'won the war'. Kelly Tolhurst declares she will "continue to lead the campaign against it."

Perhaps they should stand on a joint ticket. No, we can't see it either.




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Categories: Memory | Precept

The Friday Five - a round-up the week's top political stories in Kent

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, September 5 2014

The Mayor of London considered it a dream but others saw it as nightmare. But it was Boris who woke up in a cold sweat this week when Sir Howard Davies finally sunk his grand plans for a Thames Estuary airport.

In a conclusive demolition of the scheme, the Commission said it was too costly, too environmentally damaging and too disruptive. Boris reacted in characteristically forthright fashion. "In one myopic stroke, the Commission has set the debate back by half a century," he railed. But for all his fluster, the scheme looks dead and buried. Unless BoJo becomes Prime Minister.

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There was not much evidence of entente cordiale as migrants gathered at Calais resorted to increasingly desperate attempts to cross to the UK. The Mayor of Calais threatened to blockade the port - a threat that didn't go down terribly well with Kent MPs or ministers. UKIP leader Nigel Farage remained uncharacteristially quiet...

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It was described by its creator as a "abstracted diagrammatic river...and a calligraphic motif simultaneously embedded in and separate from the surrounding streetscape." But the £100,000 concrete "flume" - an artistic feature of the divisive shared space road scheme in Ashford is falling apart and is to be ripped up. And who is to pay for it? Have a wild guess...

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After the defection of Douglas Carswell from the Conservatives to UKIP, the spotlight shone on other likely suspects who might follow suit. The Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless was the subject of this speculation but killed it off swiftly while Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson revealed he had been contacted by someone asking if he would like to consider joining. No, he said.

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Still, the UKIP bandwagon keeps rolling on although I doubt very much that Mr Cameron will be quaking in his boots just yet to learn that the Conservatives have lost a by-election in Folkestone.

Congratulations to David Callahan, though, who took the seat from the Conservatives with 27.9% of the vote, six points ahead of Tory candidate Rodica Wheeler with 21.7%.

 

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Categories: Precept | Relationships

After the coronation - now UKIP leader Nigel Farage faces the heavy artillery

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, August 27 2014

There was never really any doubt about the outcome of UKIP's hustings meeting to select the party's election candidate for Thanet South and if it wasn't quite a coronation, it came pretty close. It might have been billed as a genuine contest between the four candidates but Nigel Farage had activists eating out of his hands from the moment he took the stage.

Nigel Farage canters to victory in UKIP hustings>>>

Although in later interviews he reined back a little over his declaration that UKIP might hold the balance of power  next May, you could, in the febrile and euphoric atmosphere at the Odd Fellows Hall in Ramsgate, see why he said it.

So, can he win in Thanet South? Here are the reasons he might - and the reasons why he might not:

For:

  • UKIP has established a solid base of support in the constituency, with a growing number of activists and volunteers prepared to pound the streets, stuff envelopes and generally do anything they can to get him elected. After successes that exceeded the party's expectations in the county council election last May, UKIP believe it has momentum that will carry them through to next May.
  • Nigel Farage may not be to everyone's taste but he is a skilled and astute politician, who knows the area well and has a proven track record in winning elections. Yes, his claim to local connections are a little tendentious - he lives in west Kent - but he is hardly the first candidate to stand in a constituency he does not (yet) live in. The Conservative candidate CraIg McKinlay, for example, lives in Medway.
  • Although UKIP has become an established political organisation, it is still regarded as being outside the political mainstream. Voter disenchantment with the main parties remains high and UKIP continues to be a repository of support for the disaffected. It will benefit from the "plague on all your houses" sentiment for all it is worth
  • UKIP views on immigration and the EU continue to chime with a lot of voters across the political spectrum. It will push the message that if you want UKIP, you have to vote UKIP. Europe will be a big issue in the election in a way that it wasn't in 2010 and Thanet has arguably seen the consequences of a failure by successive governments to properl tackle immigration over the years
  • Voters like backing winners - if people feel UKIP is in with a chance of causing a political upset, they may want to join in.

Against:

  • By his own admission, the UKIP leader is a marmite politician. He divides opinion in a way few politicians do - you either like him or you don't. There's no middle ground.
  • While voters are concerned about immigration, as well as being sceptical over the EU, they will also want to know where UKIP stands on other issues. At the moment, there is a big policy gap that it needs to fill fairly quickly.
  • The other parties see UKIP as a genuine threat - although they might not admit it publicly. That means they will bring in the heavy artillery during the campaign to try and see it off. Expect Thanet to be inundated by a stream of visits from political heavyweights in the run up to May's poll.
  • UKIP is undergoing much more scrutiny than before and continues to have candidates and supporters capable of dropping the party in it with the odd unguarded remark and throwaway comment. It will have to be hard on disciplining transgressions rather than letting them go unpunished if it wants to be seen as a "serious" party.


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Categories: Precept

Have the Conservatives shot the UKIP fox in Thanet?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, July 8 2014

Whatever other qualities Craig Mackinlay may have, it is pretty clear that when it came to the Conservatives choosing their prospective candidate for Thanet South, his former involvement with UKIP was a trump card.

Ordinarily, would-be MPs who have dallied with other parties are often treated with suspicion by constituency activists but in this case, it worked to his advantage.

Former UKIP man to contest Thanet South for the Conservatives>>>

The threat of a significant challenge by UKIP in a key UKIP target seat in 2015 may not have caused a meltdown in Conservative ranks but there is no doubt there was a certain sense of panic about how to respond.

The prospect of the charismatic leader Nigel Farage being UKIP's candidate only served to add to the Conservative anxiety. The indignity of possible defeat next May and becoming a footnote in parliamentary history was beginning to cast something of a dark shadow.

So, handing the candidancy to the avowedly Eurosceptic Mackinlay, who fought two elections as a UKIP candidate and was briefly leader, was a shrewd tactical move.

He didn't lose much time in getting on the front foot and suggesting there was no reason why Nigel Farage should stand, now there was a Conservative running who was equally scepticalabout the EU. We can expect more of this in the run up to the election.

For his part, Nigel Farage has a dilemma. Had UKIP got through its selection process and adopted the leader as its candidate earlier, it could have argued that it was forcing the Conservatives' hand.

If Nigel Farage now looks elsewhere in Kent, he faces being accused of running scared - ironically, the charge levelled by the party when current MP Laura Sandys, who is on the pro-European wing of the Conservatives, announced she was standing down.

He has responded to questions about his intentions by saying that Thanet South is one of several constituencies in the mix.

But he has also been compelled to say that he will announce where he wants to stand in a few weeks, which does make it look like he is responding to events rather than leading them. The suggestion is that UKIP will seek to depict Mackinlay as "UKIP-lite" and depict their candidate as the real deal.

I have until now thought that he would opt for Thanet South above Folkestone and Hythe or Dover and Deal.

On balance, I still think he will but the odds have lengthened a little and strangely, UKIP are for once on the defensive.

 

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Categories: Precept

Why Nigel Farage is the elephant in the room for Thanet Conservatives

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, July 2 2014

It is perhaps a measure of UKIP's spectacular growth as a political party - or movement  - that when Thanet Conservatives meet this week to decide who they want as their prospective parliamentary candidate for Thanet South,  the name many will be thinking of first is Nigel Farage rather than the three shortlisted for the role.

He is, as one Conservative put it, "the elephant in the room."  Which is what makes the selection of someone to succeed Laura Sandys so intriguing. On paper and under different circumstances, this probably would be a seat where the Conservatives would be in a two-way battle with Labour and the Conservatives might expect to win.

The Thanet South Conservative shortlist>>>>

But there is a fly in the ointment. UKIP leader Nigel Farage has dropped several hints that this is a constituency he may contest at the general election and the Conservatives are acutely aware that would present a major challenge. Thanet is now an  area where UKIP is well entrenched, with seven county councillors, all elected last May and in the process, ousting some long-standing Conservatives.

So, one of the key considerations of association members will be which candidate would be best placed to neutralise UKIP and the Farage factor? The association has already made clear that is after someone prepared to champion an 'in-out' referendum even earlier than David Cameron has committed the party to, although a statement to that effect on the association's website is no longer there.

One of the three shortlisted candidates is Craig Mackinlay, who was a leading figure in UKIP for 12 years and fought a couple of elections for the party before rejoining the Conservatives in 2005. His credentials on this front are therefore sound and if the UKIP threat is uppermost in members' minds, might be considered a favourite.

UKIP would find it awkward to contest a seat where the Conservative candidate is a hardline Eurosceptic whose views are barely any different from Nigel Farage.

On the other hand, UKIP might feel that they can exploit a candidate by suggesting that if voters want the real thing when it comes to the election, you can't get a much more authentic voice of Euroscepticism than Nigel Farage.

Away from Europe, another factor is that Conservative Central Office is known to be anxious for there to be more women candidates at the election as several current MPs are standing down.

There have been some rumours that this view has been communicated rather firmly  to Thanet Conservatives. As the only female candidate, if this factor comes into play, then the odds might swing towards Anna Firth, a barrister and Sevenoaks district councillor.

In terms of their CVs, the shortlisted trio are all very able and whoever gets the nomination will be a good candidate.

But if Nigel Farage does eventually opt for Thanet South, the Conservative candidate will be pitchforked into the cauldron of an election contest where they will be taking on a party determined  to secure an historic parliamentary breakthrough.

 

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Categories: Precept

A PR car crash for Kent's crime boss + UKIP's purple tide: the week in politics

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 30 2014

Here's my round-up of another busy week in Kent politics, featuring an odd miscellany of onions, airplanes, Ann Barnes and - perhaps inevitably - a man called Nigel Farage...

AFTER its victory at the European election, an understandably euphoric UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the next objective would be to propel his "people's army" into Westminster. "Who knows, we might hold the balance of power," he said.

He made it clear the party has set its sights on Kent - where UKIP topped the EU poll in every area bar Tunbridge Wells - as a key battleground in 2015.

As to his own intentions, he more or less confirmed he would stand as a candidate in Kent - saying that it would "probably" be in the south east "somewhere by the seaside."

That would be Thanet South, then.

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Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg cut a chastened figure after enduring a torrid week and looked decidedly off-colour when interviewed about the hammering his party took in the EU poll.

Things turned even worse when there was a botched attempt to undermine his leadership and persuade party activists to dump him before the election.

But when things are that bad for a politician, anything that could be seen as a glimmer of hope is seized on.

Although it wasn't much to cheer, at least the party didn't go into a major meltdown at the Maidstone council elections, where it took the largest share of the vote and defended most of their seats. Its perfomance was overshadowed by UKIP's breakthrough, taking four seats on the council for the first time. 

The Lib Dems even won a seat from the Tories - but that gain was wiped out when they lost a seat to Labour. Still, in politics, it is often the small things that count...

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IF  Nick Clegg had a bad week, it has been nothing in comparison with the truly gruesome one Kent's crime commissioner Ann Barnes experienced.

Her appearance in a warts-and-all Channel 4 documentary "Meet The Commisioner" was a PR car crash to top all PR car crashes.

Even before it was aired, the Kent Police Federation said the clips used as a trailer for the programme had damaged the reputation of the force.

The full programme triggered a frenzy of largely critical social media activity and spawned a parody Twitter account called @AnnBarnesOnion after the commissioner was seen struggling to explain a system of policing priorities based on...an onion.

Viewers were aghast, comparing the show to "The Office" and the Olympic spoof "Twenty Twelve" and most did not think that it showed the commissioner in her best light.

But if it had damaged the reputation of the force, that was nothing compared to the damage done to the commissioner herself. Even one of her former aides and campaign managers, Howard Cox, admitted she had been badly advised to take part.

In characteristically forthright fashion, she defended her participation, saying she wanted to use it to make people understand what her role was.

The irony is that the programme did just that, providing a fascinating insight into what a commissioner does, only not in the way Ann Barnes expected.

In particular, it vividly illustrated that among the public, there is still widespread misunderstanding and confusion over the role, with many thinking commissioners are rather like crime-fighting sheriffs who can ride into town and chase away all the hoodlums.

Perhaps inevitably, she said there had been some "mischevious editing" and in a lengthy statement posted on her website said she was frustrated and disappointed by what had been broadcast.

But for once, her usually hyperactive Twitter account, which she says is the most followed of all crime commissioners, seemed to go rather quiet.

Meanwhile, someone took up a light aircraft trailing a banner reading #ANNBARNES out and flew over police HQ in Maidstone, making her the David Moyles of crime commissioners.

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Categories: Precept

Kent's political map turns a tinge of purple

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, May 28 2014

Whether it was an earthquake or tremor, the success of UKIP at the European election has sent a shockwave through the political establishment.

UKIP celebrates after stunning election success>>>

An understandably euphoric Nigel Farage has now set his sights on propelling "the people's army" into Westminster and breaking the mould. In one of his less guarded moments, he said that the scale of his party's victory meant  "anything was possible" and while UKIP would never form a government, it just might hold the balance of power after the election.

So, how realistic is it that UKIP will have MPs in Westminster? Mr Farage says the party will focus its efforts on a string of constituencies where it has already secured a power base. Ironically, this mimics the successful campaign strategy adopted by the Liberal Democrats in places like the west country.

Several Kent seats will be among the targets. Among them will be the two Thanet seats, Folkestone and Hythe and Sittingbourne and Sheppey. Or as Nigel Farage put it: "Yes, we do like to be beside the seaside."

Of course, the main problem is that, unlike the European election, MPs are voted in on the first-past-the-post system.

Still, in some of these seats UKIP has the benefit of a well-organised and enthusiastic base of activists and councillors, notably Thanet where UKIP now boasts seven county councillors out of the eight that represent the area. These things matter in campaigns where the margin between winning and losing will be tight.

Also on the plus side is that in most of these areas, UKIP did extremely well in terms of their share of the vote. In Thanet, the party took 46% of the vote compared to 24% in 2009. Many now expect Nigel Farage himself will contest  Thanet South, where the Conservatives have yet to adopt a candidate following Laura Sandys' decision to stand down. That may cut both ways, of course  - the leader is loved and loathed in equal measure -  but on balance will be seen as an advantage.

UKIP's contention that it takes away as many votes from Labour as it does from the Conservatives has something in it but can it siphon away enough of their supporters to come through the middle?

Mid-term elections always see the government taking a kicking in the form of protest votes and, important though they are, UKIP will have campaign on more than just immigration and withdrawing from Europe at the general election. They will also be under even greater scrutiny by their opponents..

Still, if ever there was a time for UKIP to make a parliamentary breakthrough, this is surely is it. The party's European success - albeit on a low turnout - is important because voters will now be less likely to think that putting a cross against "the people's army" is a waste.

Traditionally, the political map of Kent has been red and blue - and more often just blue. UKIP's success this week and at the county council election means the map is developing a distinctly purple tinge.

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The European election results have left the main parties wondering what they can do to counter the threat of UKIP next May.

So far, they seem to think that if they can get their message across - or "deliver" their message - on key issues like immigration and the promise of a referendum, UKIP will be neutered. I am not so sure. Both Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have been hammering their key messages on these issues in the weeks running up to polling day.

It is not that they failed to spell out in detail what their position was - it was that voters did not believe them. Retreating to the same strategy but saying it much louder will not be enough.

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Is Labour still suffering from Southern Discomfort? The party's share of the vote went up by more than 6% to 14.6% but fell way short of the Conservative share, which fell to 31%.

With a general election a year away, they will need to improve on that significantly if they are to have any chance of winning back any of the seats they lost in Kent in 2010. The message from party chiefs is that they know there is "more to do" but they can get there. There is nothing wrong with an optimistic outlook but these results make it less, rather than more likely that they are in a good position to win. (Some Conservatives were quietly pleased with the way their vote held up reasonably well).

In the key target seats of Dover and Chatham and Aylesford, they need a swing of 5.2% and 6.9% respectively. With national polls giving them only a narrow lead, that is a big hill to climb.

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Categories: Precept

Politicians in high visibility jackets and chatting about boilers? There must be an election looming

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 2 2014

Here is my round-up of the top political stories of the week in Kent and Medway. 

1.  If  you haven't seen a politician for a while - get ready. One could be on your doorstep soon. The European election is just around the corner and the May 22 poll - with the results on May 25 - looks like being marginally more exciting than perhaps it has been in the past. Chancellor George Osborne was first out of the gate, with a visit to Ebbsfleet where his much treasured 'garden city' project will be.  At the moment, there's not much to see except a muddy quarry but the Chancellor was whisked away for a tour of the field, resplendent in a high-visibilty jacket, boots and a had hat. Mind you, Dartford MP Gareth Johnson had by far the best jacket, replete with so many fourescent strips, he could be seen from space.

2. Following hard on George's heels was his chief tormentor the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who popped down to Medway to rally support  among Labour activists and in doing so, enjoyed a lengthy conversation about boilers - possibly too lengthy -  and seemed very impressed by the variety of cakes his guests offered. For once, Ed had UKIP in his sights rather more than the Conservatives, although he contrived to get the key "cost of living" phrase in several times. David Axelrod would have been impressed. 

3. Talking of UKIP....you can't keep Nigel Farage out of Kent that long and although he wasn't physically in the county, his decision not to stand in the Newark by-election, resurrected speculation that he had a county constituency in his sights - either Thanet South or Folkestone and Hythe and the fact that you can't go very far in Folkestone without seeing a UKIP billboard may be a tantalising clue. But UKIP was a bt miffed when some wag put alternative slogans on them  of a satirical nature. And Nigel passed another political right of passage when he was egged by a protestor on a visit.

4. Crime commissioner Ann Barnes had a spot of bother over the costs of an office relocation to Kent Police HQ in Maidstone. At £150,000 it seemed rather a lot, especiallly as, until a national newspaper started asking questions, no-one had appeared to have known about the expenditure. Still,  she fought back and just about managed to rebut the claims - among them a suggestion from an "anonymous" source that she was a bit of a Diva. Still, if it was supposed to be a good news story because of the long-term savings, it seems odd that the commisioner was not shouting about it from the rooftops.

5. And finally, there was news that the government was to crackdown on betting shops in town centres by unveiling new powers to councils that would allow them to block bookies from opening. For once, there seemed to be cross-party support for the policy. Political harmony during the run-up to an election? I'm feeling rather queasy...

 

 

 

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Categories: Politics | Precept

Manston, Miller and Mr Farage: The top political stories of the week

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, April 11 2014

Here's my round-up of the top political stories of the week in Kent and beyond:

1. After trying to stave off calls to quit, Maria Miller capitulated to the inevitable and quit her job as culture secretary. Few Kent MPs seemed prepared to comment in public about the saga which left Mr Cameron facing questions about his judgement. One that did was Tracey Crouch, the Chatham and Aylesford MP, who said Mrs Miller was right to resign but expressed frustration that MPs elected in 2010 were being tarred with the same brush despite the expenses rules being tightened.

2. Rarely out of the political spotlight, the definitely not shy or retiring UKIP leader Nigel Farage had another week in the headlines. A poll suggested that if he chose to stand at the general election in Folkestone and Hythe against Conservative incumbent Damian Collins, he would run him close but may not win. Bring it on, said Mr Collins. Mr Farage dropped an even heavier hint that he was eyeing up a Kent seat in 2015 but declined to say which one. Our bet? It will be Thanet South.

3. There may have been a spectacular increase in people cycling but Kent's track record on encouraging more people to use two wheels rather than four was under the spotlight. Census figures suggested fewer people were  cycling to work than ten years ago - compared with more forward-looking places like Brighton and London. The Green county councillor Martin Whybrow denounced the county council for its track record, altlhough given that the Conservative leader of KCC is an enthusiastic rally car driver, maybe he shouldn't have been that surprised.

4. An unfortunate piece of timing left some people wondering whether David Cameron was "running frit' after a scheduled and heavly trailed interview with Radio Kent was abruptly cancelled - supposedly so he could make a telephone call to a fellow unnamed Prime Minister.  Was it coincidence that the interview was due to take place the day after Maria Miller quit? Who knows.

5. Uncertainty continues over the fate of Manston Airport as the final flight by KLM took off on Wednesday and the airline boss of the Dutch operator made clear the carrier would most definitely would not be coming back. There continue to be talks over a possible buyout and owner Ann Gloag has agreed to consider a rescue plan drafted by staff. A case of watch this space.

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Categories: Liberal Democrats | Politics | Precept

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