Rochester

The bitter by-election battle for Rochester+Strood - why UKIP could win...and lose

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, October 3 2014

It's no surprise the by-election battle looming in Rochester and Strood is shaping up to be one of the most acrimonious and fiercely-contested in British politics for decades.

The vitriol pouring from Conservatives towards Mark Reckless is an indication that they will fight tooth and nail to see him off.

The stakes are high: for UKIP, a win would give their prospects at the general election a huge boost. For the Conservatives, victory would send out a strong message it is capable of resisting UKIP's purple wave.

So, who will get over the finish line first?

 

Why UKIP could win:

  • If UKIP wins the Clacton by-election next week, which the Conservatives seem resigned to, the result could give the party a momentum that could persuade undecided voters in Rochester and Strood that a cross against UKIP is not wasted
  • UKIP continues to trade heavily on its appeal to voters disillusioned with what Nigel Farage dubs the Westminster elite. Disaffection and antipathy to mainstream parties remans high and at a by-election, voters often choose to give the parties in power a bloody nose
  • The perceived failure of the government to tackle immigration has a particular resonance in Kent, the gateway to Europe. The focus on the efforts of migrants at Calais to cross the channel is a vivid reminder that the issue has not gone away and the view that the government has yet to get a grip on it
  • He may not carry a large personal vote but Mark Reckless has been generally supportive over key constituency concerns, such as the Thames Estuary airport. He is regarded as among the most effective members of the Home Affairs select committee
  • If the Conservatives persist with their highly personal attacks on Reckless, there is a risk it could become counter-productive. Voters are already fed up with the playground politics of Westminster and could be turned off if all they hear over the coming weeks of  "he said, she said" verbal jousting

 

Why UKIP could lose:

 

 

 

  • The Achiles’ heel for Mark Reckless is the accusation that he has betrayed voters and his constituency by denying repeatedly that he was to defect. That makes him vulnerable to the damaging charge that he cannot be trusted – a politician who says one thing and does another
  • UKIP has no real organisational base in the Medway Towns in the way that it has in other areas, like Thanet. While the party now has a 17-strong county council group, it has no representation in Medway
  • The Conservatives will bring in the heavy artillery and will be blitzing the constituency with a series of high-profile visits by ministers and MPs. A formidable number of activists are being mobilised to stuff envelopes, deliver leaflets and help out
  • Despite a 10,000 majority, Mark Reckless carries no real personal vote in the way that Douglas Carswell has in Clacton, where UKIP is odds-on to win next week's by-election

The unknown factors:

  • Labour held the seat (then known as Medway) in the Blair years. Although it is not an official target, it could benefit from a split in the right-wing vote. It has an outside chance of causing an upset of its own
  • Perceived wisdom is that by-elections tend to favour minority parties. But this is no ordinary by-election, so it is difficult to gauge what impact a low turn-out may have
  • There is nothing to measure UKIP's standing in the constituency. While it took the largest share of the vote in the European election this year, there has been no local election since 2011 - when it took just under 2% of the vote. UKIP did not contest the seat in the 2010 general election, giving Mark Reckless a free run at the seat.

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Medway | Rochester | Strood

Don't be the unobservant view-blocking butterball

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Saturday, November 24 2012

One of the wonderful perks about my job is I get to see amazing acts all over Kent.

So imagine the fury of going to see the great John Cooper Clarke, only to not be able to see or hear him because of inconsiderate others.

Of course, as is often the case when I am a little bit cross, I exaggerate a little. The headline act at Rochester's Royal Function Rooms, who could easily be described as the five Ps - perfect punk performance poet pioneer - John Cooper Clarke was absolutely class.

I would have enjoyed hearing his unsurpassed grasp of the English language more on Friday, November 23, if my view had not been obstructed by various boozed-up, non-spacially-aware punters.

Arriving at the gig reasonably early, I managed to bag a decent table to watch JCC and his supports, Chatham poet Wolf Howard and Mancunian Mike Garry. 

Perhaps I'm uninitiated in the etiquette of poetry gigs but I couldn't help feeling narked when boozers filed out of the bar and stood directly in front of my table, without so much as a look of apology. Their rear-ends were literally touching the front end of my table and they just looked directly at the stage, as if I wasn't there.

Not wanting to cause a scene, I decided to crick my neck and look round these impetuous loafers. As one act finished, they waddled back to the bar, only to take up their concealing position when the next arrived, as oblivious as before.

Then, just as I settled into my uncomfortable posture, came the drunken cat calls of a group of women standing behind me, equidistant to my view-blocking compadres.

"Give me strength," I thought as they woooooooooooo-ed less than a foot from my right ear at the end of every poem, muttering "exactly" and "yeah" at each of JCC's comical assertions in what he called "the adverts" in between readings.

Then, imagine the emotional contradiction I felt when the oblivious lump in front of me spontaneously developed recognition of other human beings aside from the one on stage, looking round at the tipsy plonker behind me to deliver a scowl which thankfully shut her up and put the rest of us out of our misery. 

Perhaps I am being a bit of a stiff on account of being the designated driver for the night. JCC poetry readings are not debates on late-Rennaissance verse by any stretch. The night was raucous and all the better for it.

All I ask is that people don't enjoy a show at the expense of others. Don't be the unobservant view-blocking butterball or the loud, tiddly dipstick. 

Otherwise someone will end up tainting your night in the same way one day in the future.

Tags:
Categories: Books | Celebrities | Entertainment | General | Humour | Rochester

When the Olympic dart strikes through the heart

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Thursday, July 26 2012

I thought I’d been there, done it, and bought the t-shirt.

My Olympic Torch Relay party at my flat on Friday went without a hitch as the flame which began burning on Mount Olympus passed through Gravesend on its way to the London 2012 Games.

A dozen or so cups of tea were made for family and friends, who piled in to my flat at the normally highly unsociable hour of 9am, ready to claim our spot on Saddington Street in plenty of time, to see the procession pass in and out of the Gurdwara.

We got two bites of the cherry and barely had to walk any distance at all to see such a momentous occasion in British sporting history.

Job done I thought. I’d taken a couple of pictures, waved and cheered like I was at a football match (everyone was doing it so I felt ok) and even seen the torch bearer trip on a sleeping policeman – although thankfully he had kept his balance.

Yet none of that compared to the excitement when Julia Chilcott from Maidstone came into the office for an interview with my colleagues at kmfm about her torch bearing experience.

Julia carried the flame into Leeds Castle and lit the cauldron at the end of Thursday’s run from Deal to the county town.

She walked in almost hugging the golden beacon and its appearance quickly gained more attention than when a newborn baby is brought into the office.

I’d tried to play it cool and watch from afar as colleagues gathered around the torch but before I knew it, I was up there like a wide-eyed schoolboy asking for my picture to be taken with the little piece of history.

As with every torchbearer I’ve met or read about, Julia was delighted to tell everyone her story and more than willing for everyone to get their moment with her treasured possession.

More than seeing the flame, more than cheering and even more than my faultless Olympic Torch Relay party (honest!), this was the moment when the cupid of the Olympic Games drew his arrow and fired it straight through my heart.

There’s a magic to how the torch relay brought everyone in the county together and how it has demonstrated so simply the power of sport.

Boy I cannot wait for the Games now.

  • For daily updates on what is going on at the Olympic Park, follow our man Alex Hoad’s blog. He will be following Kent athletes’ performances throughout the Games. You can follow him on Twitter @KentOnline2012.

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The Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 27 will be too big to watch in your normal, comfy armchair in your uninspiring living room (oh, that’s just me then.)

A large open-air screen will be at Rochester Castle Gardens showing the event live from the Olympic Stadium for free.

A similar big screen will show the ceremony at Gravesend Community Square. Then after watching the spectacular coordinated by film director Danny Boyle – the man behind Slumdog Millionaire – party into the night at a silent disco on the upper Community Square. Tickets are £8 from the Woodville on 01474 337774.

The ceremony will also be shown on the big screen in Dover’s Market Square from 9pm for free, with a Zumbathon getting the atmosphere going from 7pm to 8pm.

Tags:
Categories: Entertainment | Gravesend | kmfm | Media | Medway | Olympics | Rochester | Sport | TV

The Deccas have been decked

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Wednesday, June 29 2011

It is with great sadness that I heard the news of the disbanding of Medway band The Deccas.

The foursome were one of the first Kent bands who let me in to their little world as a features reporter for What's On.

Chatting to them at their practice sessions at Def Studios in Chatham's Historic Dockyard, I was struck by the way the produced tight, typically Medway-Mod recordings.

Their only album Ways To The Sun was typical of the spiky power pop that has gripped the Medway scene for God knows how long. Short, sharp tunes with a good hook.

Never afraid of admitting they were hoping to "make it" they had that pure quality - not found in nearly enough bands - of just being four good mates.

In an email Twydall-born singer-songwriter and guitarist Wes Wren, Gillingham guitarist Phil Crane, Rochester bassist Dave Sawicki and Rainham drummer Tony Hetherington announced: "It is with heavy hearts that The Deccas are saddened to say that they are no more.

"After four and a half years, over 120 gigs, four CDs and six different members and numerous Subways the time seems right to stop."

For nostalgic Medway-scene followers, the good news is that the band will finish their latest EP and put it out on a limited run for free.

Until then, we mourn you The Deccas. Is it too late to reconsider?

****

For anyone who wondered why I suddenly stopped tweeting when I was at Hyde Park for the Kings of Leon concert last Wendesday, it is because the whole thing was too awesome to take my eyes off.

Great support shows from Mona, White Lies and Paul Weller capped off by a stonker of a set by perhaps the biggest band on the planet right now.

I was so impressed that I am heading back to Hyde Park tomorrow to see Arcade Fire, with support from The Vaccines, Beirut and Mumford and Sons.

Then Kent's festival season kicks off with the Hop Farm Music Festival at Paddock Wood the next day and Lounge On The Farm at Canterbury's Merton Farm the following weekend.

If the updates slow down, it is because I've developed a very serious case of tweeters finger.

****

If you fancy getting your music, latest gig or theatre production reviewed on this blog or inside the KM Group's What's On magazine, drop me an email at cprice@thekmgroup.co.uk.

You can also follow me on Twitter @TheChrisPrice and follow What's On @kmwhatson. Join us on Facebook by liking www.facebook.com/kmwhatson

Tags:
Categories: Chatham | Entertainment | Gillingham | Historic Dockyard Chatham | Medway | Rainham | Rochester

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