All posts tagged 'Mark-Reckless'

The big artillery rolls into Rochester...but will voters care?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, October 17 2014

We were promised that the Conservatives would blitz Rochester and Strood with the party's big hitters and hundreds of activists and for once, no-one can accuse a political party of breaking its pledge.

The frenzy of activity will reach a new level this weekend when the Conservative machine deploys a reported 1,000 activists to Kent to drum up support for a still unknown candidate.

Buses will be bringing down this army from London to distribute leaflets, knock on doors and generally remind us - as if we needed to - that there is a byelection going on.

There is every chance that they will bump into Ukip activists, who are doing much the same with supporters coming from outside the county to rally behind its candidate.

For the Conservatives, this strategy is all about signalling that - unike Clacton - they will not roll over and are going to be putting up a fight to stem Ukip's purple wave. It is as much about the deep loathing for Nigel Farage as it is for defector Mark Reckless.

And there is clearly no love lost between the Ukip leader and Mr Cameron, who said that if voters plumped for Ukip "all they are doing is giving Nigel Farage the chance to have a long gloat in the pub."

Much of this activity is designed for media consumption, of course, but you do wonder if the high-intensity strategy might prove counter-productive if it carries on at such a velocity until November 20.

For the Conservatives, the risk is that while it will be effective in shoring up support from core supporters, it gives the impression that it is concerned about the outcome. Cameron's own personal involvement means that if Ukip does produce a coup, his leadership will come under the spotlight. I suspect that the game plan is as much about trying not to lose badly as it is about trying to win.

The other risk is that the scale of activity only serves to remind supporters of other parties lacking similar battalions of activists (and deep pockets) that there is an election going on.

Still, anyone who does not like politics or politicians may be advised not to answer the door for the next four weeks.

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The Conservatives deserve some credit for opening up its selection process to all voters in Rochester and Strood, although the compressed timetable has rather limited the amount of time for residents to get to know the two who were shortlisted well.

Its big event was the hustings meeting this week in the Rochester Corn Exchange, which was open to everyone. That is everyone but not journalists from the national media.

They were kept out as party managers had decreed that only local media could attend, which meant myself and Radio Kent.

This provoked some tension behind the scenes, with Professor Tim Luckhurst from the Centre For Journalism,- who chaired the event, along with invited guest Dr Sarah Woolaston MP, suggesting unsuccessfully that the ban be reconsidered.

It wasn't and the net result, unsurprisingly, was that the national media turned away at the door rmade the ban the focus of their reports rather than what was said at the meeting.

And to rub it in, managed to get a transcript of the event anyway.

In fact, both candidates acquitted themselves well and had interesting things to say, not least on immigration.

Whoever gets the nod will be in a high-pressure political cauldron for four weeks and under forensic scrutiny from the media.

This week's hustings could have been useful acclimatisation.

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Professor Luckhurst says the Conservatives made a mistake in having only selected media present.

"I believe the Conservative Party’s decision to exclude from the hustings journalists from national newspapers and broadcasters  was foolish and entirely unnecessary. Freedom of speech is a core democratic principle and no political party should restrict it.”

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When Labour leader Ed Miliband turned up in the County Town of Maidstone last year for the county council election campaign, he did so to demonostrate that there were no "no-go" areas for the party.

It's early days but in comparison to Ukip and the Conservatives, Labour appears to be taking a low key approach to the fight for Rochester and Strood. No single comment has come from a senior member of the party's leadership about the election to date.

Perhaps it is waiting for the Conservative bandwagon to run out of puff.

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You can't draw too much by way of portents for November 20 from a council ward by-election where only one in five voters bothered to exercise their vote but Ukip notched up a small victory in Kent this week when it romped to victory in the Sheppey Central ward in Swale.

And it was pretty comprehensive, too with the victoriuos candidate getting nearly 60% of the vote.


 



 

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Categories: Conservatives

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

The Political Year In Quotes: who said what and why....

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, December 20 2012

 

"I want to stop the police being run by politicians” –  Ann Barnes, declaring her plan to stand in the election to be Kent’s first crime commissioner

 

“A wilful waste of money” – Ann Barnes, as chairman of Kent Police Authority on the plans for elected police commissioners, before declaring her candidacy

 

 

"It's my view that the idiot entering the roundabout at speed with one
hand on the steering wheel and the other holding his mobile phone poses
an infinitely greater threat to the public wellbeing than a couple of teenagers sharing a cannabis spliff." 

 

Would-be independent police commissioner candidate Ian Driver.

 

 

 

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“Unacceptable and disturbing” – minister Grant Shapps on the £420,000 pay-out to former Kent county council MD Katherine Kerswell

 

“It will save a fortune in the long run” – KCC leader Cllr Paul Carter on scrapping Katherine Kerswell’s role

 

“I am thrilled to join the civil service” Katherine Kerswell on her new six-figure salaried job in the civil service. A few months after leaving her job at KCC

 

“You have to question the training and development within KCC. It does not produce a good working environment when you see people coming in on a six-month contract and apparently sort things out” – Conservative county councillor Mike Jarvis

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“Why don’t they live within their means, or move down here and see what it’s like to be taxed until they weep? Frankly, we can no longer keep subsiding other people’s spending habits.” Former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie makes friends in the North by advocating a new “Southern” party for the region

 

“I did receive an invitation but told him I wasn’t going to go.” Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless on reports that he was courted by UKIP funder Stuart Wheeler to switch sides

 

“Helen’s exceptionally demanding job requires her to be in London for most of the week, which is where she lives during that time. Her decision to use her rental allowance in London is therefore understandable and acceptable given her circumstances.” A declaration of loyalty for under-fire Maidstone MP Helen Grant from her party chairman James Peace

 

“She is treating the voters of Maidstone with utter contempt. She is exploiting the system to the maximum and she seems to consider her constituency a complete irrelevance. She should do the right thing and resign” – Becky Matthews, a constituent of Mrs Grant’s

 

 

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“Everybody is gobsmacked that they got themselves into a financial mess and did not realise what the situation was. It is staggering.” Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke on the financially-stricken K College

 

“You cannot just click your fingers and fix it. We need to think big and hold our nerve over the decades.” Transport minister Patrick McCloughlin on criticism of the government’s review of aviation strategy. It won’t report until after the election.

 

 

 

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“Following a cabinet decision, it has been decided not to proceed with the trade mission to the USA as it was not considered the best use of public funds at this time.” – Kent County Council scraps a planned trade mission across the pond

 

“It is a small investment and a real opportunity” – Kent County Council defends the same trade mission to the USA a few weeks earlier.

 

“The structure of Kent commercial services is unnecessarily complex and not fit for purpose, it lacks the appropriate direction and has become untethered from the council.” A leaked confidential report on KCC’s commercial services

 

“Utter madness, irresponsible and ridiculous”. The leader of Kent County Council Cllr Paul Carter on Shepway Council’s plan for a nuclear waste site

 

“Let’s not over-dramatise this.” Paul Carter on the same subject.

 

“Many are in dire need of some TLC”  - Backbench county councillor Mike Harrison raises an important matter of state at a full council meeting. Yes, the apparently poor  condition of the chairs councillors sit on.

 

“It makes us look like the landed gentry” – county councillor Bryan Sweetland (Con) berates the media over its coverage of the expenses of the county council’s chauffeur-driven cars.

 

“Chauffeur-driven” – how KCC’s policy document refers to the authority’s fleet of cars. Five times.

 

“Concurrent strategies and tactics that will facilitate this requirement must be integrated into the broader approach.” A gold-medal winning piece of jargon from Kent County Council’s emergency Olympic plan.

 

  

 

"A momentous moment in the county's history" - KCC education cabinet member Cllr Mike Whiting on the proposals for a new grammar school.

 

  

 

“A number of people have said the Kent test is not fit for purpose and could be improved, specifically because there is a sense you can coach for it and if people are willing to devote money to something, they can get an unfair advantage when it comes to getting a grammar school place." Cllr Mike Whiting announces a review of the 11-plus to make it "tutor proof"

 

 

 

 

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“We cannot go around all the institutions of this country, heralding the virtues of direct elections when at the heart of our constitution 825 members are there as a result of some form of patronage.” Thanet South MP Laura Sandys backs reform of the House of Lords

 

 

"The awarding of this prize to the EU brings it into disrepute." UKIP leader Nigel Farage slams the decision to award the EU the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

 

Meanwhile, bears continue to make mess in woods...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: National Politics | Precept

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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