All posts tagged 'Kent-MPs'

Conservatives scratch at their European itch

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, October 25 2011

Try as they might, the Conservatives have an unfortunate habit of scratching at a running sore that might be better left alone. Last night's rebellion, joined by four Kent backbenchers, was undeniably an embarrassment for David Cameron who seemed to have misjudged the mood among the ranks quite badly.

Kent MPs who joined revolt>>>

More than that, however, it exposes him to the damaging accusation that he presides over a disunited party and if there is one thing voters dislike more than anything, it is the sense that there is a split in the government.

His problem is that dissident Euro-sceptic backbenchers are a notoriously tenacious bunch, as unlikely to give up the cause as a dog with a tasty bone. The attritional warfare that blighted John Major in the 1990s sapped his government's energy and credibility over time and Cameron will have to do something to avoid a repetition. At the moment, his argument that powers are being repatriated strikes me as weak, largely because not many people understand the policy.

Adam Holloway, who quit as the PPS to the European minister, to join the revolt, was right to demolish the rather lame government line that 'now was not the right time' for a referendum. 

My suspicion is that rather more Kent backbenchers might have liked to join the rebellion. One interesting footnote to the debate is that back in 1996, when Bill Cash - the arch Eurosceptic - was causing his government so much grief - two of the county's MPs backed his Bill to force a referendum on our membership of the EU: Canterbury's Julian Brazier and North Thanet's Roger Gale.


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Categories: Precept

Kent MPs anger over County Hall's grammar 'attack'

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, June 17 2011

There is no denying that Conservative Kent MPs are pretty miffed by County Hall's Conservative leadership and its plans to scrap transport subsidies for pupils going to grammar schools.

MPs' backlash over grammar transport cut>>>

I gather that virtually every MP opposed the plans when they were first outlined  and left KCC in no doubt that they regarded it as a wrong move. Some have now broken cover to denounce the plan in public; others are keeping their powder dry.

One MP told me: "If this was a Labour run council, everyone would be seeing this as an attack on grammars." Another said KCC was "schizophrenic" over grammars and couldn't decide whether it liked them or not.

Either way, KCC has contrived to make a lot of people unhappy and I sense that relations are somewhat strained between MPs and the powers that be at County Hall.

The continued survival of grammars is totemic to many Conservatives, who feel David Cameron was fundamentally wrong to rule out the creation of new grammars and wish the party would be much bolder in support of selection. In Kent, these feelings run high and MPs feel rather let down that the area with the greatest concentration of selective schools appears set on penalising those who go to them and strive to go to them.


It's about 18 months since Kent was treated to a whirlwind visit by KCC leader Paul Carter and architectural guru Sir Terry Farrell as the pair unveiled a masterplan setting out a vision of Kent as the UK's "super region".

But what has happened to "21st Century Kent - Unlocking Kent's Potential" that bold document that moved the council leader to say that it could herald an era that echoed the achievements of the Victorians?

Bold vision for Kent...>>>

The answer is, it seems, not a great deal. A report to a committee next week sets out how after various consultations and the commissioning of various - jargon alert - "workstreams" a series of "emerging actions are being mapped to produce an outcome-focussed performance and delivery framework."

And all this will be set out in a "high level" report (no low level reports at KCC) which will be used to take a "high-level strategic view of progress" and be used to further the "21st century brand."

So, that's alright then.



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Pfizer: did politicians know? And why under-fire Southeastern could get its extension

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Wednesday, February 2 2011

After the devastating news about Pfizer closing its plant in Kent, there has inevitably been speculation about whether ministers were privy to the announcement before it was made. Business minister David Willetts said today that the government was told 'a few days before' in a briefing with the company and immediately set about asking if there was something the government might do to change its mind.

That does rather suggest that it was as much as a shock to the government as it has been to everyone else. That incidentally, includes Kent County Council.

The question then becomes whether the government's radar was adrift on what was happening in the wider pharmaceutical industry and should - could - have been more pro-active.

Labour is suggesting - rather inevitably - that ministers ought to have been in the loop and should have been making efforts to encourage Pfizer to stay put. That may be rather over-estimating the influence and leverage governments have when it comes to persuading global corporations faced with a contracting market in a recession to bend to their will.

One other consequence of Pfizer's decision is that it raises a serious question about the government's central contention that job losses in the public sector will be absorbed by growth in the private sector - especially in the context of expected job losses of 1,500 at KCC and many others in the county's public sector.


I am getting the distinct impression that for all its faults and the opproprium heaped on it by disgruntled passengers, the odds on Southeastern being offered a two-year extension to its contract are growing.

Despite the admirable efforts by Kent MPs to pile pressure on the government to do otherwise, it seems ministers are in a legal bind that would make it extremely difficult to go against the conclusions of its 'continuation review' and it appears likely that Southeastern may be on course to meet the required thresholds - notwithstanding the many complaints from its passengers.

The government will be extremely wary of exposing itself to any kind of legal action from Southeastern were it to go against the review and the possibility of handing out compensation to the company.

Of course, ministers will be able to blame the previous government for laying down the franchise rules that place them in an awkward position but I very much doubt that will appease Southeastern's long-suffering users or the county's equally frustrated MPs.

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Categories: National Politics | Politics

Southeastern on the rack again. Will the government step in?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, January 4 2011

I've a distinct feeling of deja vu even though the new year is only a few days old.

Why? Well, Kent MPs are back on Southeastern's case, this time raising concerns about its claim to have reached punctuality targets that means it does not have to give season ticket holders a discount.

The reason why some MPs are uneasy is that the company did indeed pass the threshold but only by the narrowest of margins. 2010 was a pretty miserable year for rail travellers in the region and I get the distinct impression that MPs have pretty much had enough of Southeastern and feel that even if it is strictly within the terms under which discounts are offered, it is rubbing salt in the wounds of long-suffering commuters who have endured delays and cancellations.

It looks increasingly likely that our MPs are moving to some kind of collective position that calls - as a minimum step - on the government to prevent Southeastern being granted an extension to its franchise after 2012.

Beyond redemption - one Kent MP's view of Southeastern>>>

A couple have already gone public with calls for it to be stripped of the contract (Thanet North's Roger Gale and Rochester and Strood's Mark Reckless, who labelled the company in characteristically uncompromising language as 'beyond redemption'). Meanwhile, the Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clarke told me in carefully chosen words that when the government came to any view about the franchise "the quality of service to the customer is an important factor" and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch has today written to the secretary of state for transport asking for an independent audit of Southeatern's punctuality claims.

Political predictions are tricky but I wouldn't bet against the government deciding that it too has had enough of Southeastern, particularly if - as seems inevitable - we get more bouts of bad weather and restles MPs representing heartland constituencies continue to demand that "something be done".

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Categories: Medway | Politics | Southeastern | Trains

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