All posts tagged 'Maidstone'

Why the election battle getting all tactical in Kent

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Monday, April 20 2015

If you are looking for a measure of how tight the election battle is in Kent, then you don't need to look much further than the attempts being made by all parties to woo supporters of their rivals.

The trouble is that there are some different lines coming out which is serving to make an aready complicated election even more confusing for voters.

In Maidstone, Nick Clegg delivered an appeal to Labour supporters to back the candidate Jasper Gerard - saying that represented the best way to oust the the Conservative incumbent Helen Grant. Party strategists even disclosed their private polling data to show that so far one in five Labour voters had indicated their willingness to switch.

But the message from South Thanet is rather different. There, Labour is calling on both Liberal Democrat supporters and soft Conservative voters to back its man Will Scobie. And that appeal was endorsed by a former Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakshott last week, who said the only way to stop Ukip was to have a "progessive voters" forge an alliance to thwart his Parliamentary ambitions.

As to Ukip, party leader Nigel Farage has encouraged "old" Labour voters as well as Conservatives, to support him, saying the party is the only one who can control immigration.

David Cameron, who tried to push tactical voting at the Rochester by-election, has encouraged Lib Dems and Ukip supporters to vote Conservative to block a Labour government propped up by the SNP.

There is nothing new about tactical voting but the various entreaties being made by all parties do indicate that this will be what everyone knows is an unpredictable outcome.

And it is worth remembering that tactical voting is as much to do with politicians enhancing their prospects of getting the job as it is to do with some higher moral purpose - the "vote for me because you might think I am no good but wait til you see what the other guy is like" argument.




The election campaign has been a pretty timid and lifeless one so far, with no real flashpoints or defining moments. It seems as though the parties are campaigning in monotone.

This is because they are all totally terrified of making a gaffe that will come to haunt them come May 7 and are, so far as possible, micro-managing events in a way that ensures that contact with unpredictable voters  is kept to a minimum and if at all possible avoided altogether.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, visiting Maidstone, did at leat meet some students and happily gave countless media interviews.

But there have been visits where the public will have been totally oblivious to them happening. Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May came down to Ramsgate last week but I am not sure she had any interaction with voters. (I should, to be fair, stress that she was quite happy to be interviewed by us).

At least Labour can be spared the charge that it is trying to evade encounters with the public - only because to date, there have been no VIP visits at all which seems strange given there are two official target seats and South Thanet in its sights.

As to Ukip, it is at least opening up the endless "meet Nigel" events to both the Press and public - although at recent ones, he has declined to ask the audience how many are party members or activists, suggesting that many of those attending are probably already backing the party.

John Major was widely ridiculed for his election "soap box" stunt back in 1992 but 23 years on it is interesting to see that the Conservatives are considering bringing it back to reinvigorate what has, so far, been a curiously lifeless affair given what is at stake.





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Categories: Politics

Candid camera capers ahead of new kmfm show

by Waking up Kent, with kmfm Breakfast presenter Garry Wilson Friday, May 30 2014

I hate having my picture taken. Hate it. So a whole day of posing was not my idea of fun.

For the greater good though, I smiled and bore it, as my new radio partner, Emma Adam, and I headed off into Kent for some fun in front of the lens.

First we wound our way to Whitstable for a picnic on the beach. By the time I’d struggled to the beach with the picnic basket, blanket, microphones, mic stands and other paraphernalia, Emma had already attracted the attention of a small but growing throng of fishermen across the harbour.

She’d decided to put her froofy 50s-style underskirt on beneath her frock whilst she waited for me. I’m surprised it caused such a stir. I imagine it made a nice change from staring at whelks and winkles.

After a quick cupcake and tea we were off to Kent Life, near Maidstone, to see the ‘ickle animals’. We had a lovely stroll around, greeting the donkeys, geese, toddlers and sheep. We got a few funny looks dragging a glitter ball about with us, and had a lovely time swinging on a rope swing thing until some of the big boys kicked us off.

Having heard Mr Selfridge was being filmed at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham, we decided to get down there and see if we could meet Jeremy Piven. Like your typical tourists we stopped to have our photo taken in one of those ‘put your face through the cut-out holes in a picture of other people to make it look like you’re someone else’ things. It made us look like characters from that other show filmed at the dockyard, Call the Midwife. On bikes. I think if you look closely you can see my bloomers.

Emma was wearing towering sparkly heels for the photos. Unfortunately they weren’t designed for walking, so she had a pair of trainers to change into ‘between shoots’. Because we didn’t have time to erect scaffolding to enable her to climb up and down safely every time we changed locations, she spent much of the day leaning at odd angles against anything to hand to aid the change.

Dockyards are full of large and very sturdy things. Big anchors. Hulking ships. It’s almost unbelievable that during a soft-shoe shuffle, Emma leant against a fake plastic wall used for filming. It almost fell over and rumbled like a roll of thunder. Security were alerted and Piven remains unruffled while the two of us remain at large.

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Categories: kmfm

Cleaning up with fitness regime

by Tuned In, with kmfm Breakfast Show's Emma Saint Thursday, March 28 2013

So spring is officially here – not that you would know it yet from the weather, though I’m hoping we are in for a few more sunny days in the weeks to come! I have to get up very early in the morning for the Breakfast Show and it is so much easier to get out of bed when we are out of the dark days of winter. There really is no better feeling in the world than starting your day when the sun is rising and the birds are singing!

With summer just around the corner, you may have heard me on the Breakfast Show talking about my strict new diet regime and my new project to try to get into shape. We asked listeners for some tips on the best ways to get fit and their suggestions were hilarious!

One female listener said she does a unusual secret exercise when she’s driving her car - clenching her bum cheeks while sat at traffic lights. It apparently gives you the ultimate toned behind! I must admit I have started trying it - and will let you know if it has any impact!

Apparently cleaning is another great way to get into shape. Mopping floors works your shoulders and biceps and burns around 112 calories in 30 minutes, hoovering for 30 minutes works your arms and biceps and can burn up to 240 calories, while gardening for an hour works your arms, legs and core and you can burn a whopping 258 calories! And if you’re like me and crank the music up and dance while you’re doing it, then chances are you’ll probably be burning a lot more!

I’ve also started working with a personal trainer. You may remember that at Christmas my co-host Rob Wills was forced to get into shape after we set him the challenge of posing topless for a charity calendar! He needed more than a bit of help so we got him a personal trainer and after seeing the results, it’s made me take the plunge.

I’ve been training for two hours a week with Michael Tuohy who offers sessions all over Kent from the comfort of your own home or at LA Fitness in Maidstone. He is also a nutritionist so is advising on me on how I can change my diet to make sure I’m eating the right foods but still have a few naughty treats.

The great thing about having a personal trainer is it gives you the motivation you need to keep you going and when you start to see results it’s really satisfying I’ve had one hour session twice a week for three weeks now and I’m already noticing the difference.

My body fat has gone down and I’ve lost six pounds! Before I started the sessions Michael gave me a full health check and we began charting my weight and body fat so that we could set goals for me to achieve. I’m improving every session and I feel like I have a lot more energy. Why join if me in getting fit? Let me know how you get on.

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Categories: kmfm

MPs expenses: why saying that it's in the rules isn't enough

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, November 23 2012

No issue has proved more toxic for politicians in recent years than the scandal of their expenses.

Rightly, the disclosures of how the system was being widely abused led to much-needed reforms in an effort to "clean up" politics and restore public faith in our elected representatives.

But the issue is back centre-stage and one of the county's MPs is at the middle of the latest maelstrom.

Maidstone and Weald MP Helen Grant has been left to fend off criticisms of her own arrangements that have left many not just perplexed but deeply irritated.

Let's be clear. Helen Grant's expenses are within the IPSA rules, odd though they may strike many. But that is precisely what causes resentment and prompts cynicism among voters.

As MPs discovered to their cost first time around, that kind of  justification does not wash with the public and is even more tenuous if it appears their claims are regarded as being outside the spirit of the rules.

MP Grant caught up in expenses row>>>

To hear the same 'yes-but-it-is-in-the-rules' justification trotted out after the latest set of revelations involving not just Ms Grant but others suggests that particular lesson has not yet been learned.

And it is even less credible at a time when MPs are - rightly - incandescent about the very same justification that large corporations are using to account for their evasion of corporate tax bills in the UK.

There are several aspects to the situation that Helen Grant is in that make it especially damaging.

The first is that her principal home is in a constituency - Reigate - where the sitting MP is disqualified from claiming a second home allowance because it is deemed to be near enough to Westminster for an MP to commute to.

On top of that, it has struck many as strange that she herself no longer has a home in her own constituency, especially in the light of her pre-election declaration that she intended to maintain one.

Constituents are very sensitive - some may say too sensitive - about this sort of thing. 

While they may tolerate their MP living just outside their constituency, they are reluctant to countenance the idea that their MP should live in an entirely different county miles away. It has not helped that the disclosures follow the news that the Maidstone MP is considering closing her constituency office.

It has allowed the impression to be created - and it is one vigourously denied - that the MP is neglecting her constituency.

Equally pernicious is that a large number of her constituents have to endure a daily commute to London to work and pay heavily for the privilege.

To discover that their MP is able to claim for a flat in London to help her with her duties, and that they are, as taxpayers meeting those costs, has unsurprisingly stirred up further resentment.

Plenty of those commuting from the County Town do jobs that involve irregular and unpredictable hours and late-night travel and have to do so because they have no alternative - much as they might like to have one.

And the claim that MPs are often detained at Westminster by late night sittings is over-egged. True, they sometimes do but much less than they used to because of reforms designed to make their working hours more sensible.

I accept that MPs do work long hours and are genuinely committed to the job. So, too, do people in many other professions.

The issue is that perceptions matter in politics. MPs cannot afford to be seen to be out of touch with voters. And rightly or wrongly, this episode has created a perception problem for Mrs Grant for all sorts of reasons.

She has certainly forfeited some goodwill among her hard-pressed constituents that may take a while to recover.

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Categories: Politics

The apathy factor politicians have failed to confront

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, May 4 2012

The real story of the council elections is not the advances made by Labour and the slide of the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

It is, or at least should be, the fact that the turnout was so appalling - the lowest, so it is said, for ten years.

Hundreds of councillors have been elected on turnouts of about 30% - meaning two thirds of potential voters simply weren't interested. Hardly a resounding mandate.

In one ward in Maidstone - Parkwood - just 18% of voters turned out. Even in Tunbridge Wells, where you might have thought there would be a greater interest, turnout was around 30%.

You can call it apathy, indifference or disillusionment. But however you describe it, it represents a significant and profound challenge to our politicians who have - on all sides - singularly failed to come up with ways of resolving this long-standing crisis afflicting local government.

Thatcher thought the solution was to hit voters in their pockets via the poll tax - a kind of shock therapy that did indeed get people interested in councils but not quite in the way she intended.

Labour tried implementing cabinet government and executive mayors. The argument was that people would know where the buck stopped and greater accountability would transform the public's appetite for local democracy.

More recently, the coalition has gone for a transparency revolution with equally mixed results. There have been various attempts to make it easier to vote.

All have failed to effect any kind of revolution and appear to have left as many of us as indifferent and disinterested as before. This is not to say people are turned off by politics. They are often engaged in issues that really ought to mean that council elections matter more than Parliamentary ones.

Somehow they don't. Why? Many councillors do an admirable job taking up constituents' interests but I am often struck by how inward looking many are - often seeming to consider that in serving 'the council' by attending lots of meetings, they are somehow serving residents.

Political interests are often elevated above those of constituents, with members fearful of uttering anything that could be perceived as being disloyal to their party or damaging to the image or reputation of the authority - let alone damaging their prospects of preferment and a possible job in the cabinet.

Politically, the result is that every party begins to sound the same.

Despite endless consultations and PR, councils are  still too often seen as doing things to people, rather than with them or for them. They suffer, like national governments, from the perception that they are distant and remote, patrician bureaucracies that ask us to accept implicitly that 'they know best.'

Of course, council elections are seen through the prism of the national political scene. So, we see the line trotted out that the apathy factor is more about discontent with the government of the day than lack of interest in the local council. (I accept the media falls into this trap, too).

Note how defeated local councillors are directing their ire at their national representatives and how the party leaders are rationalising their results by talking about Parliamentary mid-term blues.

But if politicians spent as much time discussing how councils could better connect with residents as they did in a blame game explaining away their electoral losses, perhaps we might get nearer to finding a way of resolving this lack of interest.

The antidote to apathy - worth a watch



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Categories: Politics

Life’s too short to live on lettuce alone

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, February 14 2012
Telling a woman she’s too fat is never a good idea. Even saying she’s a little too fat won’t soften the blow.

Fair enough, Karl Lagerfeld has spent his life in a world where people are obsessed with being stick-thin, and telling a girl she needs to shift a few pounds is all part of the job.

But picking on Adele just isn’t on. Mr Lagerfeld may love the skinny-minny body, but it isn’t for all of us.

Of course I’d love to be a size 10, but the last time I fitted into something that small, I was still a teenager.

The only way I’m ever going to get back to that size is if I give up booze, chocolate and pasta and live on lettuce – life is just too short.

I love good food and if it means I tip the scales higher than some, then so be it.

Of course, I’m more careful these days than I was in the past – I’m conscious that my cholesterol level is higher than it should be and I do my best to eat reasonably healthily during the week, but it’s still fish and veg that I love. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it.

But come the weekends, I’ll tuck into whatever I want (or whatever’s available – have you tried getting a salad at a football match?)

I did once drop a few dress sizes, but it was the stress over a relationship break-up. I looked good, but I was utterly miserable. So I’m with Adele – life is for living.

Speaking of Adele, that girl was one of my bad decisions. She played Maidstone’s Big Weekend in 2008 and was first on the bill on Sunday.

Having worked until 2am that morning, I’d slept in and thought I’d give her a miss. What a mistake that was.

Still, not as big a mistake as a friend of mine, who turned down the chance to interview the umpteenth up-and-coming boy band to play a Gillingham nightclub. Yep, it was Take That.

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Categories: Food

Does a dark shadow loom over HMV?

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Thursday, January 6 2011

Trading results are not usually a case for emotion, but I am always saddened by bad news from HMV and Waterstone’s.

So many happy hours have been spent browsing – and occasionally spending money - in these shops, especially in towns without a decent bookshop.

Many music retailers have already shut up shop in recent years, clobbered by the internet and the trend to downloading. I have not the slightest interest in downloading. I know it’s cheaper but there is absolutely no substitute for the feeling you get from handling and examining a real object.

That applies as much to CDs as the previously cherished vinyl LPs. I was a bit surprised by HMV’s 13.6 per cent sales decline after standing in long queues before Christmas and the New Year. But I guess the bad weather stopped people from going out and buying presents and perhaps they ordered online instead.

You can also order online from HMV but I have noticed prices are often higher than Amazon. HMV also faces supermarket competition, but Tesco and their offer a pathetic range, and then only the latest best-sellers. There is nothing like the fantastic range and back catalogue in most HMV and Waterstone’s stores.

Sixty branches are to close across the country, and that probably dooms one of the two branches of Waterstone’s in Maidstone and Canterbury. It makes commercial sense but is not good news for many of the staff. Richard Curr, head of dealing at Prime Markets, has urged shareholders to sell, saying the Christmas statement shows the group is “well and truly on the rack, engaged in a desperate scramble to cut costs and close stores to avoid breaching banking covenants.”

That gloomy statement casts a dark shadow over the long-term future of HMV – but I am hoping for the best. Where would those happy browsing hours of serendipity be spent instead? The closures ought to be good news for local music retailers, but sadly there aren’t many left.

Almost all classical outlets have gone. The few surviving independents are mainly in small towns without an HMV or Waterstone’s. I hope HMV’s troubles will do them some good, but I fear that changing trends could spell the slow lingering death of my favourite type of shop.

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Categories: Business

It is all bearing fruit

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Thursday, November 18 2010

I had the good fortune to attend a school’s business event as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. The welcome and organisation by Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone was very professional and comparable to the best standards encountered in the “real” world.

The presentation by senior students was far better than many I have had to endure. They spoke to business-savvy guests without notes. They were articulate and informative with engaging personalities. Asked about their future interest in business, all said they would like to be involved in private enterprise after university.

They are active members of Young Chamber and cascade business and enterprise throughout the school. There was a time when most young people were turned off by business, preferring to work in the City or the public sector. I remember an event attended by a hundred young people a few years ago when only a couple of hands went up when they were asked who wanted a career in business.

It’s great that opinions are changing, thanks partly to popular television programmes like The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den. They are both cool to watch, with “You’re Fired!” now a popular catchphrase, and the Dragons’ format introduced in many schools.

Young people are quick to recognise that as the public sector is squeezed by spending cuts so career opportunities will be fewer. And for all the discredited multi-million bonus pools, the City is not as awash with cash and kudos as it once was.

For years, education/business partnerships, Young Enterprise, the Kent Foundation and more recently Young Dragons have been working hard across Kent and Medway to encourage interest in business among young people. All these factors have contributed to a surge of interest in business.

There are already some amazing young entrepreneurs out there and it looks as though they will be joined by many others in the years to come. Despite the tough economic conditions, and the prospect of eye-watering university fees and worrying job shortages, this new generation are an enterprising and confident bunch who are rapidly gaining the skills to set up on their own.

Well done to them, the teachers and the business mentors. A pat on the back too for Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce which is working so hard to take Young Chamber into schools. It is all bearing fruit. Business, the jobs generator of the future, is going to be in good hands.

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Categories: Business

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