All posts tagged 'rochester'

UKIP's purple wave keeps rising but will it ebb before next May?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Monday, November 24 2014

There is not much that will set back the spirits of the irrepressibly cheerful Nigel Farage, so it was no surprise to hear him in a particularly upbeat mood the morning after Ukip won the Rochester and Strood by-election.

The margin of victory was not, however, quite as large as the polls or betting odds had suggested it could be. Not that this stopped the leader declaring the outcome meant that the general election was "beyond comprehension" and "everything was up in the air." (He also said he would have been happy to win by one vote).

However, you can't say everything is unpredictable in one breath and in the next assert that there is a distinct prospect of your party winning more seats in Kent - it is logically inconsistent.

The result in Rochester and Strood does nevertheless underline that Ukip has momentum and it is momentum the other parties are struggling to halt.

Kent is now its most significant power base of anywhere in the country and it is continuing to show that it can mobilise highly effective campaigns where it chooses to.

But fighting a single by-election with your "people's army" is one thing; deploying the same kind of resources at a general election is something else, which Farage has acknowledged.

That, incidentally, is not just a challenge for Ukip. It is one for the Conservatives who next May will face precisely the same issue. Mr Cameron won't have his infamous kitchen sink available and neither will he be able to make five visits in as many weeks.

Ukip's chances of holding on to Rochester and Strood are uncertain: some bookmakers have made the Conservatives odds on to regain it, which goes some way to explaining why the Conservatives were not quite as depressed or inconsolable when the result came in.

In Kent's case, Ukip will target a handful of seats where it has a better-than-evens chance of an upset. Oddly, I suspect that Thanet South, where Farage is the candidate, may not get quite the same level of attention because he is already the red hot favourite to win.

But Folkestone and Hythe, Sittingbourne and Sheppey as well as Thanet North and Dover and Deal are all in their sights.

For the Conservatives, the danger is that tacking to the right in an attempt to out-Ukip Ukip risks alienating its more Euro-phile MPs and activists. It is interesting to see that two Kent MPs used the by-election to argue the party should move in the other direction to the centre ground.

Ashford MP and former immigration minister Damian Green said at the weekend that there is no reason for the Conservative party to decide that slithering towards Ukip is the route to success."

Meanwhile, Thanet South MP Laura Sandys said the by-election result offered the party the chance to move to the centre ground - which is where elections are commonly won.

Ukip will be quite content to see these divisions exposed as it will allow it to depict the Conservatives as split on the key electoral issue of whether the UK should rush for the EU exit door.

Whether it can, as Nigel Farage claims, hold the balance of power after next May is altogether a different matter.

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Despite its best efforts and a candidate who impressed, Labour had little to celebrate in the by-election. It wasn't that it fought a bad campaign - although it should have focused more on the NHS.

Its vote was squeezed by Ukip and to a lesser extent, the Green party. The row over the white van man's flags was not a factor because it came too late but does exemplify that it is alienating some of its core traditional voters, a place Ukip has jumped in to with alacrity.

Speaking to Labour figures about what they feel they need to do, you often hear them say that they need to communicate better.

This implies that if only got their message right, everything would be well in the world. The problem is that you can have a solid message but unless you have a receptive audience ready to listen, it's worthless.

The party reminds me a little of the Conservatives under Ian Duncan Smith, the  man who uttered the immortal words that the quiet man was "here to stay and is turning up the volume."

Three weeks later, the party dumped him.

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Did Mark Reckless invoke the spirit of Tony Blair in his acceptance speech after being declared the by-election winner. "You are the boss, you must never let me forget that," he said.

Rewind to Tony Blair's victory speech after becoming PM in 1997: "We are not the masters now, the people are the masters. We are the servants of the people.We must never forget that"

 

 






 

 

 

 

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The Conservatives could win Rochester and Strood. But not on November 20

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, November 14 2014

There is every chance that the Conservatives can win Rochester and Strood. But it won't happen next Thursday, barring some kind of sensational upset.

The momentum is with Ukip, as it has been for most of the campaign, and it is hard to see the Conservatives producing a major game-changer between now and next week.

Despite this, Conservatives remain - at least publicly - pretty upbeat and you can still find a few who think they could yet upset the odds and emerge victorious.

That was clearly behind the appeal by David Cameron for people to vote for the Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst - regardless of what party they supported. Was this the last throw of the dice in their campaign? It seemed that way.

The plea for a rainbow coalition to stop the purple wave was surprising - especially coming from the PM - but my sense is that it has not struck a chord with the other parties. It is true, as Mr Cameron suggested, that by-elections are different to normal elections and voters are more likely to switch allegiance.

By-elections are occasions when normal political logic goes out of the window. However, the notion that Labour supporters will hold their noses in the ballot booth and put a cross against the Conservative candidate just doesn't ring true.

The reaction to his plea suggested that there is not much enthusiasm for the idea from those it was aimed at. Somewhat inevitably Ukip was thrilled, depicting the call as desperate and an admission that the Conservatives cannot win on their own.

Nigel Farage delighted in telling a rally on Thursday that he knew things were going well for the campaign not because of the opinion polls or bookmakers but because Mr Cameron was pleading for support from people who would normally vote for other parties

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So, if the outcome of Thursday's by-election, why might the Conservatives find some consolation?

It came in the latest opinion poll whose top line was that Ukip were 12 points ahead for the by-election but which also found there could be enough support among voters next May to see the Conservatives regain it from Ukip.

In the light of what looks like a disappointing night to come, it is a small crumb of comfort for the party which has lived up to its promise to chuck everything at trying to win the by-election but seems destined to come off second best.

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The Labour campaign can not have been helped by the on-going whispers against Ed Miliband. Having a mini leadership crisis in the middle of a by-election is - to state the obvious - not exactly helpful to any party.

Still, it has continued to send down some of the party's big hitters and locally, its activists have been busy pounding the streets and knocking on doors. And its candidate Naushabah Khan has arguably been one of the more confident performers in hustings and in media intervieiws.

But despite this, the party's standing in opinion polls have gone down since the start of the campaign - a reflection that sometimes events can conspire against political parties in ways that are totally beyond their control.

It is puzzling, however, that the party strategy has not been more heavily focused on the NHS and the on-going problems at Medway Maritime.

One reason may be that in doing so, the party could be perceived as criticising frontline staff who are its own supporters.


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It's a two-way fight in the by-election battle - but who will deliver the knockout blow?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, November 7 2014

We are, as football commentators like to say, at the business end of the by-election battle for Rochester and Strood.

You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks it is anything but a two-way fight between Ukip and the Conservatives, with the former still ahead on points as they continue sparring.

Conservatives sources say that although the party is behind, the gap is not as wide as the recent opinion polls have indicated and it could yet be a tight race.

I think that may be an optimistic assessment but the last thing any party is going to do or say is anything that could be construed as running up the white flag.

 

The biggest difficulty facing the Conservatives is persuading undecided or floating voters to opt for them rather than Ukip, along with cajoling their own supporters to get out and vote on polling day rather than sit on their hands in protest.

It does appear the party's strategy is geared towards pushing Ukip as hard as it can on November 20 and closing the gap to a point where it can depict the result as a by-election blip and a good platform to recapture the seat next May.

Unless, of course, it finds a way to deliver a decisive knock-out blow in the next two weeks.

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Meanwhile, Ukip remains bouyant but underlying its outwardly confident mood, there are jangling nerves.

It cannot afford to be seen as complacent and cannot afford to make any high-profile gaffes that could be exploited by its opponents to renew the "fruitcake" charge.

It slipped up this week at its open hustings meeting when Mark Reckless rather clumsily described dictator Colonel Gadaffi as "good for immigration" - trying to make a wider point that in so doing, he had stopped migrants leaving Libya and entering Europe through Italy.

And there continues to be plenty of mud being thrown in Ukip's direction about Lodge Hill, with the Conservatives in particular ensuring that the apparently contradictory positions held by Mark Reckless remains in the public domain.

It has just released an American-style attack ad video outlining what it believes to be his flip-flopping on the issue - an interesting development in its strategy.

This is undoubtedly a faultline for Ukip and while it has tried to counter by suggesting that the position of the Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst is ambiguous, it has looked defensive on the issue.

Still, Nigel Farage - who we haven't seen as much of in recent weeks - gave a turbo charge to its hustings meeting in Hoo this week and is said to be returning for a rally to ramp up the Ukip campaign next week.

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The last thing Labour wants in the run-up to polling day is for questions to be asked about its leader Ed Miliband.

But that is what it has got and the danger now is that its prospects in a seat it held for 13 years until 2010 are even worse. Bookmakers are now offering odds of 80-1 against it wininng the seat.

If there is a plan for Ed Miliband to make a return visit, I would expect it is being reconsidered rather urgently.

The party is working on a result which would give it a creditable third place but even that is at risk.

And although it is a long shot, might the Green party pull off a shock and squeeze it into fourth place?

A crushing defeat like that would have huge repercussions for the party - and take some of the heat off David Cameron.








 



 

 

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Labour's immigration conundrum, the Conservatives get a candidate...and a pink bear

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, October 24 2014

It was interesting to hear Ashford MP Damian Green speaking up the pro-European wing of the Conservative party today on the Andrew Marr show and yesterday in The Times. There probably aren't too many votes to be had in the by-election from talking about the positive side of belonging to the EU - which explains why Ed Miliband and David Camerom are both tacking to the right and talking loudly about immigration.

So, why is the Ashford MP speaking out now? My guess is that it is a pre-emptive move not designed for voters in Rochester and Strood. In the event of losing the by-election, there will be a furious debate about which direction the party needs to go in, and the clamour will be loudest from those who think that the only way forward is to out-Ukip Ukip .

Mr Green wants us to know that there are still a considerable number of Conservatives who actually support the EU and think the country benefits by doing so.

Their voices are a little muted just now and will be so until November 20. But they are anxious not to be completely steamrollered when the debate about what direction the party will go in gets underway after voters in Rochester and Strood have had their say.

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Labour has a tricky job on its hands to convince voters it has a credible policy on immigration and the issue is inevitably centre stage in the Rochester and Strood by-election.

It has clearly decided that on balance, it is better to try and confront the issue head on rather than ignore it.

This week's visit by Ed Miliband and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper was aimed at trying to underline a policy which balances the party's bellief that immigration has been good for the UK and at the same time, has been bad for the UK. This "two for one" policy is hard to sell to an electorate which in the current climate thinks that the pendulum is stuck on the bad side.

In ramping up the immigration rhetoric, it risks being seen as dancing to UKIP's tune and alienating its own core supporters.

The biggest credibilty gap, however, is not what its policy is today but what it was when it was last in government.

When asked about its failings over benefit tourism and failure to stop unrestricted numbers coming into the UK, Mr Miliband said "You don't get everything right in government."

Unfortunately for Labour, not enough time has passed for voters to forget its rather poor track record  and with just three weeks before polling day, is highly unlikely to convert undecided voters.

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It has been a mixed campaign for the Conservatives to date but at least it now has a candidate in place for the by-election.

Kelly Tolhurst, a life-long local resident and Medway councillor, won a two-horse race, edging out Anna Firth in a postal primary that didn't quite ignite the public in the way the party perhaps wanted.

This was probably down to the rather compressed timescale for the election of its candidate as much as public indfifference. The party clearly hoped that the primary would enable it to differentiate itself from UKIP, where Mark Reckless was installed with no vote by members, 

But I am sceptical about whether voters will go into the polling booths with the process of selection uppermost in their minds.

And the time it has taken to complete the selection has arguably given Ukip a free run in the campaign for several weeks. That precious commodity of momentum is still with it, as the recent ComRes poll illustrated.

The result was closer than expected. Kelly Tolhurst was the favourite - particularly given her local roots - and impressed a lot of people with her passion and enthusiasm. But she is being thrust into a political cauldron and the media will be scrutinising her every move and utterance.

The pressure on her will be immense and it is likely the party machine will be making sure she is not too exposed. Let's hope she will not be too carefully managed.

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Slightly surreal moment of the campaign so far: Ed Miliband talking to a pink bear in Rochester yesterday - no, not a real one - that would be really strange - but a charity fundraiser. It led to a comment straight out of The Thick Of It by one of his aides, heard to say: "Bring the pink bear over now."

 

 

 

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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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This magnificent folly in the woods has been opened to all at last

by The Codgers' Club Friday, April 11 2014

by Alan Watkins

Deep in the woods between Strood and Cobham stands a magnificent folly which – by all rights – should never have survived.

It annoyed the Dean of Rochester and so angered the bishop it was never used for the purpose for which it was conceived and built.

It was vandalised, gutted and (if the people responsible had had their way) might have been blown up.

Then a number of people said enough was enough – they believed the Darnley Mausoleum deserved to be saved for the community, history and the nation.

Last week their dream came true and it was finally opened to the public.

The floor has been rebuilt. Marble pillars lost when a massive tyre pyre burned the heart out of the two-storey building on Bonfire Night in 1980 have been restored. The original source in Italy could not provide the orange-red stone, so the National Trust got the final quarrying from a source in Spain.

According to rumours – and readers may know the truth – the original marble was removed after the fire and now graces several fireplaces in the Medway Towns. But that may be a part of the legend.

The mausoleum sits high on a hill in Cobham Woods, a short walk from Strood and also from Ranscombe Farm.

You need to know where it is to find it, walking from Medway. It is so easy to get lost in the overgrown woods and end up miles from the mausoleum.

The easiest way to approach it is from the war memorial in Cobham. Lucky drivers park next to the National Trust’s newest office, a converted barn overlooking the golf course and Cobham Hall. The unlucky park two miles away at Shorne Park – and pay.

Not like the second half of last century, when gangs would bring to the mausoleum cars, which, after being raced through the woods, would be set on fire and crashed into the dry moat or allowed to roll down the hillside until they set fire to the woods.

More than 100 wrecks were eventually removed by a charitable trust set up by Gravesham council and chaired by its former chief executive Eddie Anderson.

He was not there on Sunday morning when, without panoply or pomp, your scribe and his wife, by chance, were the first visitors to the restored structure.

We walked up with some of the volunteers who will now man the building each Sunday from noon to 4pm.

They will help visitors to understand the thinking, the expenditure and the value to north Kent of restoring the building.

Meanwhile, for my wife it was a long-dreamed-of visit with a special surprise on reaching the pyramidal-topped turret – she was invited by the chief warden of the park, Jonathan Ireland, to unlock the doors to the funerary chapel and become the first of what could be millions of future visitors.

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Categories: Moans and groans

Spare a thought for majestic barn

by The Codgers' Club Friday, January 18 2013

by Peter Cook

It's great news that Eastgate House is to be developed and restored with the help of a Lottery grant. Well done Medway Council.

But it’s sad that across the river a much older building, the Frindsbury Barn, languishes derelict, despite grandiose castles in the air schemes for it to be restored for the benefit of the community.

It’s four-and-a-half years since the barn was off-loaded by the Church Commissioners, unburdening themselves of a huge white elephant. Since then nothing has happened to bring the 800 year old structure – described as the Queen of Kentish Barns – back into good repair.

If this majestic mediaeval marvel falls down it will be our fault – for failing to kick up enough fuss over its neglect.

Only the still small voice of the Frindsbury and Wainscott Community Association has been raised in protest, when what’s needed is the roar of public anger.

The problem, of course, is money. Restoration projects like these cost millions, and I’m guessing that the grandly named Heritage Design and Development Team, which owns the Barn, are not sitting on that kind of boodle.

The company has plans to build houses on a nearby quarry as a means of generating finance. But this is a pie in the sky scheme. First the quarry would have to be filled in, which would take, probably, 10 years or so.

It would also involve building roads across prime farmland to get the lorries through. And local people are set against more housing in the quiet cul-de-sac of Parsonage Lane, where the quarry and the barn exist.

Meanwhile, the barn remains unprotected and open to the elements, despite the fact that the owners told me six months ago work would soon take place to sheet it over.

The council has powers to carry out work to make it weather-tight and bill the owners for the work.

But it says it cannot do this as the timbers are sound and it is not in imminent danger of collapse.

Or put another way, you have to wait until it’s falling down before anyone takes action.

They say because the barn is open to the air, the timbers are kept healthy and free of rot. Well there’s some truth in that. Holding in the damp is a recipe for fungal growth. But restoration experts know about that and have techniques for keeping ancient structures both aired and protected.

Its present state of dereliction makes it look like an abandoned ruin, attractive only to rats and vandals.

What is needed is a properly structured project backed by the kind of people who know about restoration and pulling together the right kind of funding. Schemes of this kind can’t be managed by small private concerns, unless these are run by people with exceptionally deep pockets.

It’s time for everyone concerned with the barn, the council, English Heritage, the owners, us, to think carefully about bringing in heavyweight assistance to get the job done.

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Categories: Moans and groans

Great CV but did we try hard enough?

by The Codgers' Club Friday, March 23 2012

by Alan Watkins

What is stopping Medway  becoming a city? It’s the 20th biggest conurbation in the country and outside of the capital the biggest in the South East.

It is striving to improve – and hasn’t done badly with four universities, a fine campus and a new bus station. It has support in the community.

At 6/1, it was also second favourite (behind Reading) so someone fancied us. So why were we overlooked?

It could be the cavalier way that Rochester lost its city status, not once but twice (Whitehall has a long memory).

Maybe it had something to do with all the other events in 2012 and we’ve got enough to be getting on with.

There’s 200 years of the Sappers, 200 years of Charlie D, two annual festivals in honour of him and the Diamond Jubilee.

Charlie is that hirsute Victorian author and ex-news hack who wasn’t born here, spent much of his life in Pompey and Broadstairs (when he wasn’t hopping into his mistress’s bed) and died in Gravesham. Medway adopted him, but the government robbed him of his last wish, and buried him in a congested corner of Westminster instead of Rochester Cathedral where he really wanted to lie in eternal rest.

Someone worked out most of his famous scenes were set in Rochester (must have been a council researcher). We’ve bid for the City of Medway three times.

The point now is to start asking why a town like St Asaph (population 3,400) should get the title while 250,000 of us have no idea where it is.

And before any clever Welsh geographer mutters Denbighshire, that’s a county with the same size population as the district of Gillingham, Medway (93,000).

I hope the councillors are now re-examining their laid-back approach to the city bid, and comparing their lack of effort with the energy of the other contestants. Maybe Chelmsford will throw the bouquet our way next time.

It won’t make much difference: the next English city will probably be in the west, and most likely in the north-west.

I suspect the Rochester supporters will have had a collective smirk.

Right, back to the drawing board ...

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Get ready for a summer of stars

by Tuned In, with kmfm DJ Andy Walker Friday, March 9 2012

The Critics Choice winner at this year’s BRIT Awards, Emeli Sande, will be performing at Lounge on the Farm in Canterbury this summer.

Emeli has stormed into the charts with her debut single, Heaven and now Next To Me. Her real name is Adele but of course there can only be one Adele in the music business.

Also announced on the bill so far are The Wombats, Chic, Mystery Jets, former headliner Roots Manuva, David Rodigan and Goldie.

News of the other summer concerts are starting to filter out. Rochester Castle Concerts are back this year with Steps headlining on Thursday, July 19. Jools Holland is playing the evening before. It will be great to see Steps back on the main stage blasting out their big classics that we remember back in the 1990s.

As the weather has been mild recently and the nights are lighter, now feels right to write about what is coming for Summer 2012. Cheryl Cole will be back with a new album and it is said she will mark her return by performing on new TV talent show, The Voice. Her American manager, will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas is a judge, so it makes sense.

You may have been to see Kylie Minogue in concert last year. Well, expect another concert and another album from her, celebrating 25 years in the music business. I can confirm she puts on a brilliant show.

Mariah Carey and Beyoncé may have recently had babies, but that has not stopped them making music. Beyoncé has already spoken about releasing new material. She has been writing with Ryan Tedder who is the lead singer from band One Republic. He also co-wrote with Adele on her record-breaking second record 21. Mariah already has new songs ready to go – one of which she is about to debut in America, so expect to hear it here soon.

The last few weeks I have been teasing you by saying that coming soon you could be seeing Coldplay live. So, get ready to win one of the biggest ever prizes on kmfm. Win your way in to see Coldplay... live... in... Boston! We could be flying you and your other half or friend to America to see one of the world’s biggest rock bands

Make sure you are listening to kmfm in March!

Speak to you on your way home

Why now is the right time to bring Dickens home

by The Codgers' Club Friday, February 17 2012

by Peter Cook

This is my latest big idea. Let’s bring back Dickens.

Forget those old campaigns to fetch HMS Victory back to Chatham, where she was built. That plan is dead in the water. Or rather dead in the concrete.

We would need dozens of road drills to dig her out before we could even get a tow line aboard. That might wake up the neighbours.

Dickens is a different matter. And we would be doing the old boy a favour. We’d also be doing Rochester a favour and people could come and pay homage at his tomb for free, instead of having to pay through the nose like you do in Westminster Abbey.

He never wanted to be buried in Westminster Abbey with all those other puffed-up writers.

The original plan was to pop him into Shorne Churchyard. But that might be a bit close to the motorway these days, albeit quite near Cobham Woods, where he loved to walk.

The Dean and Chapter at Rochester Cathedral offered to have him interred there. A grave was even dug for him. Perhaps it’s still there under the flagstones, waiting to collapse under some preaching prelate.

Imagine the astonished looks on the faces of the choir as the Dean or even the Bishop was inexplicably swallowed up, with just a puff of masonry dust to show where he had been.

Being realistic, they have probably put someone else in there now. After all, if you’ve dug a good hole, you don’t want to waste it.

So let’s start a campaign now to have the coffin exhumed and repatriated to the city that he knew and loved – well, it soon will be a city.

Devotees would flock to Rochester from every country where Dickens is read and loved – and that’s just about every country.

At a stroke it would make Rochester High Street a commercial gold mine, offering everything from Dickens soap on a rope, take-aways from the Chuzzlewit Chip Shop, treatments at the Our Mutual Massage Parlour and so on.  Actually, it’s a bit like that now.

So I’m looking for full support for this campaign. The next Dickens Festival should be a protest march with placard-carrying characters from his books chanting Bring Back Boz.

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Categories: Chatham | Charles Dickens

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