All posts tagged 'Craig-Mackinlay'

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:


  • 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.


  • 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

UKIP leader Farage will be in it to win it

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, August 15 2014

Finally, the speculation over where UKIP leader Nigel Farage is going to stand at the general election is over. And, as expected, he is to go for the nomination in Thanet South, where the party feels it has a better than evens chance of making a long-awaited parliamentary breakthrough.

Of course, he has yet to go through his party's selection process but even allowing for the occasionally perverse choices made by local constituency associations,  it is inconceivable that activists would want anyone else.

I will stand for nomination in Thanet South, says UKIP leader Farage>>>

So, can UKIP win? National polls would suggest not but that is to ignore local circumstances and demographics.

The current MP Laura Sandys is standing down, meaning that any personal vote she may have carried is gone.

UKIP can legitimately claim to have established Thanet as a power base after the county council election last year, when it won seven of the divisions up for grabs. it has a well organised local association and won't have difficulty in mobilising foot soldiers to pound the streets come election time.

The fact that the Conservatives have chosen a former UKIP member, Craig Mackinlay, to be its candidate is an indication of how anxious they are about the challenge - underlined vividly by the share of the vote UKIP took at the recent European election - 45.9% - compared to 22% for the Conservatives, albeit in an election with a low turnout.

The charismatic Farage will bring some stardust  to the campaign but that is a double-edged sword: plenty of people like him as a plain-talking, unspun "man of the people" but equally, many see this as precisely the opposite and a carefully contrived - but entertaining - act.

Labour will also have some anxieties over a strong UKIP push in a seat they have eyed up as a target for some time. The worrying scenario for them is that some polls are suggesting that UKIP is drawing as many votes from them as it is from the Conservatives - which will play to UKIP's claim that Thanet South is a tight three-way marginal.

UKIP's prospects for an historic parliamentary breakthrough in Kent are probably about as good as they will ever be. The party has momentum, a high profile and a leader who enjoys popular support and knows that the issue of Britain's membership of the EU will be centre stage in the election campaign.

Perhaps the only prediction about which there can be an certainty is that Thanet South will be a key electoral battleground. And if you are not enthused by politics or politicians, it could be a place to give wide berth to next May.


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Categories: Politics

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

How the race to become Kent's first elected police commissioner was won...and lost

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, November 18 2012

Conventional wisdom has it that elections are lost rather than won. In the case of the race to become the county's first elected police commissioner, it was a case of both.

Ann Barnes, an independent, deftly exploited the public unease that there was something wrong about the idea of having a party politician in charge of policing - even in a strategic role - and exploited it for all it was worth. She was aided by the fact that the issue of policing independence was also dominating campaigns elsewhere and media coverage duly reflected that. It is worth noting that she was not the only independent voted in on Friday - five others were, too.

The campaign never really got into the issues that it probably ought to have been about - which candidate had the best and most credible manifesto for cutting crime and making our towns and villages safer.

To the extent that it did, all six candidates pretty much said the same thing - more visible policing, a crackdown on drug dealers, better value for money etc - leaving voters, already perplexed at the whole concept, wondering just what the difference was between them in any case.

For the Conservative team in Kent - who I am told knew on Thursday they had lost and had tipped off Central Office to tell them so - the frustration was that they were seen as the party that was responsible for "politicising" the police and were tainted by association, no matter how many times Craig Mackinlay, who deserves credit for accepting defeat graciously,  declared he was his own man.

Still, it was a bitter defeat for the Conservatives, who tried unsuccessfully to portray Ann Barnes as a Liberal Democrat in disguise and actually fought a reasonably solid and clear campaign.

But they knew that even among their own supporters, there was disquiet about the idea and plenty chose not to vote or if they did, either backed Ann Barnes or chose her as their second candidate - or simply stayed at home.

Ann Barnes' campaign worked because it struck a chord with people and that chord kept playing throughout the entire campaign. It was a simple, coherent message and she was even able to avoid too much focus on the fact that she had, as chairman of the police authority, spoken out against the whole idea.

Of course, winning the election is one thing. She now has the arguably much more important job of implementing her crime plan and dealing with the shrinking police budget. Overshadowing that is the story of the arrests of five officers facing accusations of manipulating crime figures.

It will not be easy and as a candidate who has vowed not to countenance more cuts to the budget, she may face some awkward decisions. One of the problems with commissioners is that they will be balancing want against need in a much more direct fashion than the appointed police authorities.

And it would be naive to expect any commissioner not to have one eye on their popularity with the public as their term of office gets underway. They know, even if they are independent, that come the next election, they will be judged on results and whether crime has been cut.

The debate about politicising the police will no longer have quite the resonance it did this time round.

Like it or not, Ann Barnes will be just as much a political figure as anyone who comes from a mainstream party political background.

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Categories: Conservatives | Politics

Why you should vote in the police commissioner elections

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, November 14 2012

IT is one of the ironies of the government's proposals for directly-elected police commissioners that public indifference to the idea is in stark contrast to the importance voters place on crime and safety.

(You see the same with Europe and voter turnout in the EU elections).

So, if the forecasts of pollsters are credible, turnout in tomorrow's ballot looks like being pretty dismal although there are some surveys suggesting that it might not be as bad as some fear.

Read our special report on the elections and find out who the candidates are

Plenty of people dislike the concept of elected commissioners and are uneasy about the idea that politicians who have to serve the twin interests of their party and residents may be in charge of such an important public service.

Many others remain thoroughly confused by what is going on and are labouring under the misapprehension that they are voting for American-style sheriffs, who will have control of the police force on a day-to-day basis.

Even some of Kent's candidates have failed to grasp the distinction between their strategic role, outlining pledges that stray into the chief constable's territory.

The government has to shoulder some responsibility for this confusion and apathy. It has not done as much as it should to promote the elections and explain clearly what they are about.

But this week's ballot is not on the government's handling of its flagship policy, much as some want it to be.

It is about who you think is the best person to do the job of ensuring Kent Police is keeping the streets, towns and villages safe and making sure that taxpayers are getting value for money.

And while there are undoubtedly imperfections in the arrangements for commissioners, the policy, for the first time, gives voters a direct say in who they want to do that job.

No-one has ever voted for anyone to be on the police authorities and the checks and balances on what they did were pretty non-existent.

Police commissioners, on the other hand, will have to be more transparent and accountable to residents. They will also be answerable to independent crime panels, who will be able to summon them to account - in public - about their decisions.

So, many may not like the idea but it would be wrong to stay at home as a way of registering disapproval.


Making a prediction on the result appears to be beyond even those involved in masterminding their candidates' election campaigns.

The low turnout, coupled with a new voting system involving second preferences could skew the outcome in unpredictable ways.

For what it is worth, I would be surprised if any of Kent's six candidates win by securing a majority on first preferences.

Which brings us to which two candidates will make it through to the final round and the tricky issue of where second preference votes will go.

Best guess? There will be a run-off between the independent candidate Ann Barnes and the Conservative Craig Mackinlay.

But knowing where second preferences will go is virtually impossible. Possible scenarios? The Conservatives may pick up second preference votes from UKIP supporters - whose campaign has bordered on invisibility - and some of those backing the English Democrats.  

There is no natural second home for Labour supporters but I would guess they will go for an independent candidate (if they use it) as a strategy to stop the Conservatives winning.

Liberal Democrats have no candidate but it's a stretch to think they will back a Conservative or Labour candidate and are most likely to go for an independent and that will be Ann Barnes. Some may opt for Dai Liyanage who is a former Liberal.

One thing that could tip the scales is postal votes. Ann Barnes sent out a personal letter with the postal voting pack and her team believe it has paid dividends. For some reason, the Conservatives did not and feel they may have missed a trick.

Given all the uncertainties, perhaps the only safe thing to predict is that by Friday we will have Kent's first-directly elected police and crime commissioner...

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Categories: Police | Politics

Tories bouyant about police commissioner prospects+ that new job for KCC's ex-boss

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, September 14 2012

THE Conservatives appeared to be in bouyant mood at the launch of the party's candidate to be Kent's first elected police chief this week.

Hopeful Craig Mackinlay was in plain speaking, forthright mood as he laid out his credentials as a man who would brook no nonsense and would not stand for anything that got in the way of making Kent a crime free zone.

There were references to a zero tolerance approach to drugs and anti-social behaviour and he threw in a populist jibe against what he regards as a proliferation of worthy "partnerships" that he claimed talked a lot but didn't do very much.

(I did think he slightly undermined this when ended up acknowledging that working with councils and other partners was necessary to beat the criminals, though.)

On the charge that commissioners would lead to greater politicisation of policing, he said that there had always been politics in policing as the soon-to-be scrapped police authorities were largely made up of political appointees.

And he threw in a line about how householders should be permitted to do more or less what they liked to defend their properties against intruders.

It was all good meaty rhetoric that went down well with the party faithful - he even got away with saying he wouldn't mind being the most hated politician in Kent if it meant making the county a more secure, crime free place.

Speaking to a few people afterwards, they do seem to think he has a good chance of winning.

One intriguing titbit to come out of the launch was that the party is aiming to have a fighting fund of £70,000 by the time the election comes around; currently they have raised about half of this. I can't imagine many independent candidates being able to raise this amount.


No wonder Katherine Kerswell is "thrilled." Who wouldn't be?

Less than a year after leaving Kent County Council as its managing director in controversial circumstances but with a payout of £420,000, she has landed another job with a six-figure salary - this time with the government.

And what precisely will her new job involve? Reforming the civil service to make it "sharper, quicker and more agile."

Translated, that means doing more with less people around to do it but of course the government can't say that because it would make it look rather idiotic.

As plenty of people at County Hall can testify, Ms Kerswell has had plenty of experience in this field of "reform".

Many still bear the scars of the scorched earth around Sessions House left by her "Change To Keep Succeeding" programme, which left to a string of senior directors leaving and the introduction of what was described in Orwellian terms as "a new operating model" for the authority.

Even elected members on the ruling Conservative group blanched at some of the changes and are said to have become irked that their voices were being drowned out as KCC, with the machismo of a Mexican wrestler, marched restlessly towards new frontiers.

No wonder this week's news has led the Taxpayers' Alliance to dub her as the "the poster girl for senior public sector staff riding the job merry-go-round."

Still, nice work if you can get it, as they say.


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Categories: Politics

Gloves come off in police commissioner race.

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, August 15 2012

There hasn't been much by way of excitement in the race to become Kent's first elected police commissioner. But after a relatively lacklustre start, it seems the gloves are coming off as rival candidates square up to one another.

The arrival of the forthright and uncompromising former Kent Police Authority chairman Ann Barnes as a candidate has undoubtedly stirred things up.

This week, she garnered some healthy media interest after leading a delegation of independent candidates to Downing Street to take issue with the Home Office rules that mean would-be commissioners won't get a 'free' mail shot to outline their manifesto pledges to voters.

It was a deftly executed PR move - although I doubt the specific issue is one that many people are terribly exercised about.

The truth is most voters pay very little attention to such mailshots and many more get thrown in the bin or used for the cat litter tray than are carefully read by people before they venture out to the polling station.

What was interesting was the reaction her intervention prompted from the Conservative candidate Craig Mackinlay, who issued a lengthy statement to the media saying the costs of allowing an election address would be enough to pay for 40 front-line police officers.

His statement was more intriguing for another reason. In it, he speculated about the independent nature of Mrs Barnes' candidacy, stating "it would appear that many declared independent candidates are far from being so."

What could he possibly mean? Well, here is the rest of what he had to say:

"I make no obvious connection at this stage but given that Mrs Barnes’ campaign team is substantially made up of Lib Dems, with a campaign manager who has stood unsuccessfully three times in Parliamentary elections for the Lib Dems, I shall let the public decide whether Kent Lib Dems have found their true candidate hidden behind an independent facade and are now expecting Kent taxpayers to spread their message."

Mrs Barnes’ campaign is being masterminded by Peter Carroll, who stood twice in Folkestone and Hythe and once in Maidstone as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.

The Lib Dems are not fielding a candidate and behind the scenes, the Conservatives appear to think that it could be a useful strategy to plant in peoples' minds the idea that Mrs Barnes, if not an out-and-out Lib Dem is effectively their candidate.

Mrs Barnes' campaign team have decided to say nothing in response to these comments by Mr Mackinlay but are not as upset as you may think.

The view is that it shows the Conservative camp is rattled and if their line of attack means they keep Mrs Barnes' profile up and help establish her as a viable independent candidate, it is all grist to the mill.

Still, these are skirmishes in the phoney war.

What really matters is what the candidates intend to do if they become police commissioner. If they persist in tit-for-tat politicking, they may find voter disinterest is even worse than some fear come the actual election in November.

Read our special report on the race to become Kent Police Commissioner here

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The twists and turns in the Conservative race to become Kent's first elected police chief

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, June 8 2012

Having lost the Iraqi war veteran Tim Collins from the contest before it had begun, some may have thought that the race to become the Conservative candidate for the role of Kent's first elected police commissioner stood to become a damp squib.

Read our special report on elected police commissioners>>>>

But the final shortlist of three is more interesting than it might have been, notably because of the presence of Jan Berry, who was the national chair of the Police Federation for several years and then became a government adviser on cutting police red tape. She also rose through the ranks in the Kent force, which she joined in 1971 and retired 37 years later as a chief inspector.

So, no-one could say that she lacks relevant experience or expertise - although if I was the Kent chief constable, I might be a little disquieted at the prospect of having a former "shop steward" taking such a key role. On the other hand, rank and file police officers would probably be rather reassured at the idea. It's not entirely clear when Jan threw her hat in the ring with the Conservatives but she's certainly someone who, on paper, has a good CV.

The other two candidates are Francois Gordon, a former UK Ambassador to Aleria, the Ivory Coast and British High Commissioner to Uganda. He is also a European strategy adviser to Kent Police, although I have to admit I'm unclear what this entails.

The final name in the hat is that of Medway councillor Craig Mackinlay, who was brought up in Kent, trained as a chartered accountant and tax adviser and is now a partner in a Kent firm. He stood as a UKIP candidate in three general elections - the last for Gillingham in 2005 - and also stood as a candidate for the party in European elections before signing up with the Tories in 2005. (It will be interesting to see if UKIP decides to put up a candidate in the race).

The outcome should be known in a week after three hustings meetings have taken place.


It seems Kent Police are determined to adopt a low key approach to the Olympics.

At least, that is the conclusion I have drawn from a response the force made to a Freedom of Information request I submitted trying to elicit a few details about its contigency plans to deal with various security and transport issues.

Apparently, the force will adopt a "business as usual" procedures at spots such as Ebbsfleet station and the Channel Tunnel - advising me that these are strictly the responsibility of the Port of Dover Police and the British Transport Police anyway. As to immigration matters, "such specific details relating to these locations will therefore not be held by Kent Police" as they are primarily the responsibility of the Home Office and the UK Borders Agency.

When it comes to dealing with illegal or ad hoc camping sites "there are no plans held" and "any such matters will be dealt with on a case by case basis" - wait for it - "as business as usual."

When it comes to dealing with contingency plans to deal with an incident involving mass casualties or fatalities "there are no plans held by Kent Police...that relate specifically to the Olympics."

One step the force is taking however is to restrict police leave "to ensure that a maximum number are available for any increases in demand throughout Kent" - an interesting phrase as it does not even concede that there will, for the biggest event staged in the UK ever - be any increased demand for extra officers.

I am guessing the response is designed to be reassuring. But for some reason, I can't help thinking it's not.

Indeed, as the chairman of Kent Police Authority Ann Barnes put it in 2011 when she complained about the lack of extra funding for security coming Kent's way to deal with the Games:  

"There's a £500m security budget and not a single penny coming to Kent despite the fact that because of the geography we have a huge policing operation here."

"We don't have events but we have dozens of training camps, we're the gateway to Europe, and we'll have hundreds of thousands of people coming through the ports and the Channel Tunnel."

Indeed, as we reported recently, KCC has already voiced concerns about the influx of tens of thousands of visitors through the county and the prospect of disruption and congestion at key points of the transport network.

Read the Kent Police FOI response here  PoliceOlympics.pdf (240.22 kb)

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Categories: Olympics | Police | Politics

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