Saturday, 31 July 2010

Loose lips

A good start to the Conservative foreign-policy agenda and the sensible measured response from David Miliband.


Friday, 30 July 2010

Economic Lesson

The above graphs are key to understanding the UK fiscal position and more importantly why the UK does not need to embark upon drastic and aggressive public sector cuts, a flawed argument of the Tory right on display last night.

Both graphs are more important than a simple graph on the numerical size of the national debt which on its own is not an indicator. The second graph clearly shows that the UK National Debt was significantly higher in proportional terms for significant periods of the last century, during periods of economic growth and recession.

Though it is unwise to make direct comparisons with the distant past. It is worth comparing our position with other developed economies.

Both graphs show that US Public Debt levels are also proportionally in the same space as UK debt levels. Therefore, like the US, investors would look to this ratio closely and judge the UK to be sound bet in terms of investment. This graph would be significantly different in Ireland, Greece and Southern Mediterranean countries.

The first graph shows that compared to other significant economies the UK is well placed to recover and should not, and was never, considered to be at major risk unless the deficit was not seen to be reduced manageably over the medium term.

The Conservative Party lies about the requirement for massive cuts quickly are purely and simply ideological. The necessity of immediate cuts has been poorly judged.

The key therefore to future economic strength is growth in GDP and a reduction in the proportion of debt-GDP.

The difference between Labour and Conservative Party's is stark. Labour would lower the deficit over a manageable 5-10 year period ensuring growth in the economy at 1.5-2.5%. This is broadly in line with other G7 / G20 countries.

The Conservatives are gambling that they can reduce the deficit over a shorter 4-5 year period during a period of massive retrenchment in the public sector. The gamble is that aggressive cuts to the public sector will stimulate private sector growth. The Conservative position is more aggressive than other G7 / G20 countries and is considered more risky.

Tory Councillors should learn the difference between debt and deficit before waffling about the damage of the previous Labour Government. The recession was caused by markets and a lack of regulation and the fibs over unmanageable debt are myths. It is totally manageable.

Credibility counts and many Tory Councillors lacked a significant amount of it last night.

Medway Council Meeting

The Council Meeting last night promised to be a raucous affair due in major part to the Conservative cuts to local government, discussion of the directly elected Mayor, cuts to free swimming and the rise in VAT.

A full twitter of the evening can be read at @tristanosborne

Prior to this meeting this blogger caught up and met with fellow Medway bloggers Alan W Collins and John Ward. It was a great pleasure and honour to finally meet up with the fellow bloggers, who this blog has sparred and supported over the last 18 months.

The meeting began late with two petitions from Cllr Teresa Murray on Safeguarding the Watts Meadow (see below) and Cllr Andrew Stamp ( now Independent) submitted a petition on introducing the Medway Freedom Pass. An issue which this blogger has written about for close to two years, and which Medway Labour have been actively campaigning on.

There followed several questions from the floor from concerned parents from the Save our Schools campaign.

The Medway Save Our Schools Primary School campaigners had submitted a series of questions requesting, politely, that Cllr Les Wicks apologise and to honourably resign in light of the impact on all those that were harmed by the bodged Primary School re-organisation, which have caused parents significant anguish across Chatham, Rochester and Strood.

It must be remembered that the SOS campaign originally only requested that Cllr Les Wicks apologise for the incompetent and shameful manner in which he had held the Primary School re-organisation, which was later rejected by the Schools Adjudicator. Cllr Wicks failed to apologise and launched into a tirade accusing the School Parents of being Labour Party stooges. At which point, and quite understandably, parents started to get quite annoyed and aggravated and called for his resignation.

The Save Our Schools campaign was run by parents, teachers and school governors.

The more Cllr Les Wicks deceives himself, the larger the hole he digs for his own political career. He should have done the honourable thing and apologise, like Michael Gove did four weeks ago, and close this issue down.

Local Green Party campaigners were out in force demanding to know the cost of the Medway City bid but also failed to get any answers, though the rationale for supporting the bid was very logical. Hence why all the political parties on the Council support it, though one Liberal Democrat Councillor came pretty close to stating she would prefer if Reading won...

There followed a debate on the ongoing cuts by the national Conservative and Liberal Democrat government.

The Conservatives blamed the previous government but failed to grasp two simple truths.

Cllr Brice confused the cause of the recession which of course was market induced and not government induced. Government had to act to save the banking system and it did so sensibly. It was the lack of regional and global governance (red tape) which caused excess. The solution therefore is increased governance from Europe and globally. Hence, why his own government is giving FSA and Bank of England powers to a pan-regional European regulator. Durr....

Secondly, a number of other Conservatives confused the debt with the deficit with many stating we had to rid ourselves of the £160 billion debt. That figure should be £149 billion and that is the annual deficit and not the debt which stands significantly higher. A few realised this but then made the error of stating that the debt had to be managed down.

This is a flawed economic argument in the sense that the solution to debt throughout the 20th century was to increase GDP and cut the proportion of debt to GDP. Growth is the motor and sentiment is the catalyst. The recent downgrading of the annual deficit and better then expected growth statistics from Q2 show Labour was right that we do not need unnecessary and harsh cuts to the public sector.

Labour Councillors made clear that whilst accepting limited public sector cuts as necessary the impact of local cuts was being gerrymandered. Cllr Glynn Griffiths stated that it was odd that Twydall's road improvement plan was a casualty to the improvements to Lordswood Leisure Centre. One is necessary to safeguard young people's safety and the other is a glorified and ever more expensive facelift for a leisure centre in Cllr Jarrett's own ward.

The Liberal Democrat leader, the ever capable and charismatic Cllr Geoff Juby took the floor congratulating the Conservatives on being sensible in government but then opposing his own government's position on cuts to Free Swimming for young people and pensioners. The Liberal Democrats are once again playing to two audiences. They abstained on the crucial vote to oppose cuts in the Council chamber.

Bit of a habit, this abstention lark...

The concept of a directly elected mayoralty was then discussed. The idea behind the elected mayor has the support of this blogger because it would re-engage local people with the structures of the Council. However, Cllr Rodney Chambers rejected the idea, whilst Labour leader Cllr Paul Godwin said the debate was worth having in the near future.

The Labour motion to oppose VAT increases was then discussed at length with Cllr Teresa Murray and Cllr Vince Maple making clear the Conservative hypocrisy of increasing VAT with no electoral mandate to do so. In addition, many Conservative supporters oppose the VAT increase including the Tax Payers Alliance and as such local Conservatives could make a stand for local residents.

Cllr Wildey then went on a rant accusing Labour of increasing child poverty and cited Joseph Rowntree Foundation statistics. He incorrectly stated that child poverty had increased when actually 600,000 children were lifted out of poverty during the Labour Government. He had confused poverty indicators, but he thought it sounded good.

There then followed a very weird bout of blame for the VAT increase with Tories failing to understand that cause of the recession and then stating that it was not the government's fault that VAT had to go up. Despite the fact they would have been aware in February this year, as this blog has stated, that they would have to put VAT up, and lying to the British public about it.

The VAT motion was amended to support the Conservative & Liberal Democrat VAT increase and the Tories passed the motion.

All in all a very unsatisfactory evening for Medway residents but then with a tired administration in Gun Wharf. Are you that surprised?

Watts Meadow under threat

The news that Medway Council have allowed development on the historic Watts Meadow in the centre of Rochester is almost certain to become a Local Election issue for 2011, as it is quickly becomes apparent that a total lack of scrutiny by the Council have allowed key paths and access routes to be blocked by a housing company, Bellway.

It is also clear that the developer is bulldozing the Meadow itself as areas have been cleared for digger access.

This blogger is raising the profile of the Facebook campaign is an attempt to unite all local green and historic preservation campaigners against the threat by Medway Conservatives.

Residents are up in arms that the Conservative-dominated administration have allowed Bellway to begin clearing a disused nursery site adjacent to the Watts Meadow Nature Reserve houses. They have also marked out two plots inside the reserve itself which is a direct contradiction to the wishes of the former owner of the land who left the area as an environmental legacy for Rochester.

Once again, and for the enth time across Medway, we see bulldozing over green spaces and railroading and steamrolling over resident opinion. It is a total disgrace.

Cllr Teresa Murray is working with independent Watts Meadow campaigners to safeguard this green lung in the centre of Rochester. It is regularly used by dog walkers and families.

The independent campaign has established a Facebook campaign group entitled 'Stop Medway Council building on Watts Meadow Nature Reserve'

Commenting on the closure of Watts Meadow, Cllr Teresa Murray stated exclusively to Musings from Medway that:

"Medway Conservatives have no respect for the heritage of Medway whether it be historic buildings or green spaces. Conservative Councillors have regularly voted to bulldoze over green spaces in attempt to make a quick buck out of poor residents who are ignored and trod on by procedure and red tape.

They will continue to ignore petitions because they are all focused on internal infighting for local government selections and not interested in helping Medway residents.

In Chatham, Tory Councillors have continued to allow the threat of Capstone Valley to continue with Medway Magna threatening to build hundreds of new properties across the borough.

Rochester & Strood has been blighted by the poor decisions of Conservatives locally. We have seen the closure of the Dickens Centre and historic market. We have seen the demolition of the Aveling & Porter building in Strood and the historic centre of Chatham has been bulldozed for a bus station which is poorly designed.

People now realise that the Conservatives in Medway are incompetent. They should immediately open up the space for public use and put pressure on Bellway, and remove any threat to the land remaining in public use"

Mark Reckless MP, who is also Councillor for Rochester West ward, told Medway Messenger that the solution might be to allow the public to use the path in late evenings and weekends when work is not taking place.

His suggestion is unwise because many dog walkers and residents do not use the paths late at night due to poor lighting.

Despite his platitudes Medway Conservatives offered no assurances at last nights full Council meeting. They offered no timetable and no comfort to residents.

The campaign to save Watts Meadow is independent but opposition Labour Councillors will help in every way possible, including active lobbying in the Council chamber and beyond to stop this piece of heritage being vandalised by introverted and backward looking Tories

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Arriva Bus Service is appalling

The one issue that is sure to raise the angst and wrath of a certain type of resident across Medway is not the Medway Tunnel, it is not the £800,000 cost of the Civic Centre demolition, it is not even CCTV cars which cause such distress to car users.

No, the reddest and most angry of faces come not from car drivers who are caught in insufferable traffic congestion, they actually come from those disgruntled, no positively pulsating angry bus users who have had to use, what must be considered by most, to be the most appallingly managed service of anywhere in the Country.

For years the bus service has been in a terminal decline across Medway, a direct correlation of decline with the change in political control on the Council from Labour to Conservative.

In the 1990s, the services were limited but they were cheap and for the most part on time. Now, buses are regularly late and extremely expensive. No one has pushed back or been actively scrutinising Arriva for close to a decade.

We now all suffer the result.

Since the Conservatives have been responsible for monitoring the bus provider services in many urban areas have got demonstrably worse. This is in part due to the constant roadworks and hassle that has caused so much anger amongst residents. It is in part due to massive fare increases. It is however mostly because Conservative Councillors have failed to scrutinise and hold to account the Arriva bus contractor.

People would not mind paying a little extra if buses were on time, regular, well managed and with information screens indicating the time of the service.

Statistics in Medway show that nearly 40% of fare-paying passengers are 'very dissatisfied' with the service on offer. This statistic is amongst the worst in the UK. A terrible indictment.

Many residents are not just unhappy with the busses, they are also very unhappy with the £5m new central Chatham bus station, which resembles, according to one voter in River Ward, a mushroom patch. The centre has been poorly designed and constant delays have led to poor scrutiny of the process. Once again, Tory Councillors have been unable or incapable of scrutinising the decisions of the leadership.

It is time the Conservative Group on the Council started to get a grip on this very real problem of buses. Bus users are not good at speaking up for themselves, partly because they come from disadvantaged groups that feel powerless to speak up against entrenched interests. Partly because like true Brits, and with gritted teeth, they have got so used to being treated with callous disrespect.

One of the major concerns not covered by any survey, is the irregular bus services on Sundays whereby people are simply unable to get to work. This is a major economic drag on the area and should be a major concern for the Council. Yet it barely appears on any Conservative leaflet.

The Tories simply do not care.

Next year residents can make a choice between a Conservative Group which has managed this insufferable decline in service or a Labour Group which will, quite literally, get Medway Moving.

Airport for North Kent rejected

Following representation from Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham & Aylesford we have had a clarification from Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport on the Government policy on the Thames Estuary Airport, as proposed by Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson.

According to Tracey Crouch's personal blog the letter from the Minister of State said that

"I can confirm that the Government has no plans to build any new airports in the region. Our aviation policies are firmly focussed on improving existing airports - making our airports better, not bigger"

So it would appear that this finally is an unequivocal no to Boris Island. It would be useful if Tracey could perhaps copy the letter to fellow North Kent MPs and the Council leadership and opposition.

This blog would like to pay tribute to the effort of Tracey Crouch to represent constituents across Medway on this issue. Mark Reckless MP has also been an ardent supporter of the campaign to oppose an airport development.

Sadly, it was noted that Gillingham & Rainham MP, Rehman Chishti failed to sign the Early Day Motion 493 submitted by Gordon Henderson opposing the development of an airport in the Thames Estuary.

Perhaps he just didn't get round to it, but then surely with no Select Committee responsibilities you would think he had the time.

Perhaps not?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Tory Infighting hits Local Press

Local Conservative infighting continues at pace with rumours circulating that former colleagues are barely on speaking terms.

According to Alan Watkins piece in Medway Messenger:

'The Shenanigans in public are nothing to what is happening behind the scenes.

Nowhere is this better portrayed than on the peninsula. Leading councillors have been sorted out by a handful of faceless residents who are members of a single political party.

The vast majority of electors will be unaware that familiar loved (or unloved) local councillors have been dropped.

Two of Rodney Chambers' cabinet members have been shafted, a third given warning and Cllr Chambers' Party Whip has been beaten into submission.'

The Tories are too busy backstabbing each other and not concentrating on the real problems in Medway.

We have road and traffic congestion, Chatham road chaos, CCTV cars sucking the financial blood out of motorists, the potential for a Medway Tunnel toll and millions cuts from schools and our Academies under threat. Meanwhile investment in Police has been brutally slashed which will no doubt lead to an increase in criminality.

Instead of fighting for residents we have Tory factions squabbling with each other.

What a total disgrace.

With the national Conservative government cutting local services and grants. We need a group that can fight and oppose these cuts and not support them. We need an opposition with vigour and energy and not one that has run out of steam, comprised of the tired faces from the 1980s.

Its time for change. Next year will decide which direction.

Centrist or Thatcherite.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Out on the stump

Two Labour groups of canvassers were out on the stump this weekend after the visit from Ed Miliband in the week.

Despite the temperature, the reception on the doorstep was very warm with many voters angry at the drunken antics of Mark Reckless MP and the cuts agenda of the Conservative Party locally and nationally. David Davis drunken antics in a restaurant on the news did Labour no harm, as people begin to see the fault-lines appearing in this lacklustre coalition.

The Medway Conservative group was also targeted by residents for the incompetent management of Chatham regeneration, constant road works and surprisingly, the cuts to Police numbers. One individual met had been one of those recruits waiting to join the Police, before the Conservative Government showed its priorities for policing in Kent.

We were following in the footsteps of the Green and English Democrat canvassers who had clearly been on the doorstep. Many voters were confused with the English Democrats who seemingly call themselves the 'New Party' on the doorstep. The Green Party, which is fighting on the issue of City Status are not swaying anybody. High-level anodyne policies like that do not energise a base of support beyond a tiny rump. Many people are concerned by pavement politics including crime, regeneration and for someone with a history of fighting for the community where John Jones is strong.

Our canvass returns showed very very little support for the Greens, Liberal Democrats or English Democrats. This canvasser did not speak to a single Green voter. Both campaigns however have reasonable candidates and are definately out on the stump.

It is however a real two-horse race in River Ward between David Craggs and John Jones.

The Conservative campaign has finally got itself into gear with a number of leafletters spotted trying to get entrance to a number of flats, and moving on.

The gear will no doubt shift upwards as the day approaches. A strong leaflet it must be said introducing a credible candidate..

River Ward is a two horse race. Conservative voters dissatisfied with the antics of the MP and cuts to police and schools may stay at home. Liberal Democrats are moving to Labour and it is clear we have an energised campaign with media support. The Greens have little support but will suck a few votes away from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, not one leaflet yet, though have been spotted in Melville Court and other Labour areas.

Perhaps someone should remind them that they are now propping up Tory policies of cuts to public services which will hurt the residents of Melville Court and other areas of the ward. Tuition fee increases and VAT rises will hurt the poorest most.

The momentum is with John Jones and Labour. Though we still have weeks to go...

Ed's Pledge to Medway

Medway will be the focus of Ed Miliband’s in winning back the hearts and minds of people in the County. Last week, he accompanied campaigners and former councillor Bill Esterson, now MP for Sefton Central in canvassing support for John Jones, the Labour candidate in the forthcoming River Ward by-election.

Ed has brought much needed publicity and help to a close fought campaign with the Conservatives.

Ed met swing voters throughout the ward and was warmly received by many residents. He articulated the key message that this is a two-horse race and that a vote for the Green or Liberal Democrat will let in a Conservative Councillor through the back door.

He was speaking on a visit to River Ward in a bid to reconnect with disillusioned voters who are getting increasingly fed up of incompetent management of the Council and threats to police, schools and local services.

Ed has also been speaking to local members and has been gaining momentum amongst the local membership, as the outside candidate. He has three out of the four mega-Unions and is believed to be the bridge candidate with the left of the Labour Party.
Despite coming face-to-face with the voters who helped turn the political map completely blue, Mr Miliband said he believed there was still a chance to restore public confidence in Labour.

“It is a real focus for us. The Labour message seemed to get lost in the general election campaign and I’m determined to show people living here we can change their lives. Politics has got a bad name and we need to defend it. We must show we can take action and make people feel like society is fair. Voters and party members are up for a fight against this coalition.”

As one of the favourites to step into Brown’s shoes, Mr Miliband – who is standing against his brother David in the leadership election – said he would make real changes for residents.

This blogger is backing the Ed Miliband campaign for leadership and welcomed his visit. He has the charisma to lead Labour back to Number 10.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

VAT Rise will go to Council Vote

Despite the accusations that Medway Labour is doing nothing to oppose the Conservative cuts agenda, there is visible action in the Council Chamber next week by Medway Labour to show whether local Tories will put people before petty partisan interest.

Medway Labour have submitted a motion to Council calling for the Council to oppose the Conservative Party increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20.0%.

Medway Conservatives have spent the previous three years campaigning against VAT increases with the famous bombshell poster from 2007/2008. Many Conservative Councillors stood in a local, European and General elections campaigning and leafletting against any increase in VAT. The Tory finance supremo opined about the increase in VAT in December 2009 but has since stayed totally silence.

Many Conservative members have expressed major concern about the VAT increase and the membership locally is deeply unhappy with the increment. They expect there elected Councillors to act in their interests.

Labour Councillors are giving your Medway Conservative Councillors a chance to show some independent thought and vote against the increase in VAT.

The Tory grassroots and its voters have made themselves heard with crystal clarity on tax increases.

The Tory increase on VAT will hit:

- Pensioners will be hardest hit by the VAT increase to 20% in the Government’s June Budget
- Pensioners have not been compensated for the extra costs with increases in tax allowances or benefits.
- The Lib-Dems campaigned against a VAT increase and accused the Conservatives of hiding a secret VAT bombshell.
- The Tory-Lib-Dem unfair VAT increase to 20% is a broken promise that will hit the poorest hardest.

The VAT increase is also being opposed by the Tax Payers Alliance. The right wing campaign group have made clear that true Conservatives would oppose the VAT increase out of principle.

Will your local Conservative Councillors vote for their membership and voters or will they put petty interests ahead of the people they are supposed to serve?

For Media: Tory Leadership Lies on VAT

• 'There are no secret plans for an increase in the VAT rate.' George Osborne, August, 2009

• 'Our plans involve cutting wasteful spending and stopping the National Insurance rise, our plans don't involve an increase in VAT.' David Cameron, April 2010

• 'The tax increases are already in place, the plans do not include an increase in VAT.' George Osborne, April, 2010

• 'There are no plans in the Conservative Party to raise VAT. I think the Lib Dems can pipe down about this now.' William Hague, April, 2010

• 'We will not have to raise VAT to deliver our promises. Their (Conservative) tax promises on marriage and jobs may sound appealing. But they come with a secret VAT bombshell close behind.' Nick Clegg, April, 2010

• 'I think I would predict within a few months they [a Conservative Government] would have increased VAT to 22.5 to 25 per cent. We're in a totally different place to where the Tories are.' Vince Cable, September, 2009.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Change to Win

In the 1990s, Labour realised it had to change if it was to win.

Now, in this leadership election, local members across Rochester, Chatham, Rainham, Gillingham and Strood are again having a conversation about how to renew our party and reconnect with the electorate after a tough electoral defeat.

Ed Miliband believes we need to turn the page on the old style of politics if we are to win again.

We need to move on from the division that contributed to our election defeat, to move away from the factionalism that got in the way of our common values and to change the old orthodoxies that held us back in government.

We also need new ways of bringing party members together.

Ed Miliband is standing in this leadership election because he believes Labour needs profound and credible change if we are to win back the trust of the British people; if we are to build an economy that works for people; if we are to create a more equal society with the space for everyone to flourish; and if we are to forge a more engaging, more accountable and more democratic state.

We cannot go into the next election still as the party that says the Iraq war was right or that tuition fees are here to stay. We cannot fight the Tories arguing that low-wage, low-skill jobs are good enough for our communities or that we don't need to radically overhaul our banking sector. Instead, he is campaigning for a foreign policy based on our values; for a fairer system of funding for Higher Education; for a living wage, so people get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work; for a high pay commission; and for more active support for British industry.

And his campaign is being heard. He has nearly 100 CLPs and he has the support of UCATT, Unity, the GMB and, as of today, UNISON.

Ed Miliband has the momentum now. He has the values and the charisma to win the day.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Its a two horse race

No sooner then this blog started to probe why a Conservative candidate had not been announced for River Ward, one was duly announced by Medway Council.

The six candidates announced in alphabetical order.

David George Craggs - Conservative Party
Gerry Harrison - Liberal Party
John Alun Charles Jones - Labour Party
Steven Richard Keevil - Green Party
Brian Christian Ravenscroft - BNP
Ron Sands - English Democrat

In reality River Ward is a two-horse race between David Craggs and John Jones.

The other contenders, and noticeably those not present, including UKIP, will not stand a chance of taking the ward.

The Conservative candidate has a connection with this blogger, having been a teacher at Kings School Rochester. He was a very strong and capable teacher and was a popular housemaster for the School House (Boarding facility). David could also be spotted on regular patrol in Rochester Highstreet and according to the Kent Police website is the North Kent organiser for the Special Constabulary. He is also a working head master for Gads Hill School currently.

The Labour candidate formally stood with the blogger in Strood North in the Local Elections in 2007 and has a strong record of delivering for residents as a former Councillor and spokesperson on anti-social behaviour reduction, community cohesion and regeneration. John is also involved in the local community PACT Committee locally. John is also Chair of the Brook Lines Residents' Action Group and a member of the Brompton Residents Association, where he aids in the organisation of local events for residents. He is a well known face on St Mary's Island.

The Liberal candidate has no online profile at all. Though the candidate was clearly on display, it is assumed, last Friday on Rochester Highstreet where he was heckled by local residents (or perhaps they were tourists).

The Green candidate, or better known by his twitter profile @onmejack is according to his profile a former 'Making Life Taste Better' Champion and failed Sitcom writer. He is now an 'FD Media Course Leader, Functional Skils lecturer' and enjoys bridge. He clearly needs to be instructed on basic political etiquette as one of his recent posts included 'Important to remember; Gingers are people to' and clearly has enough campaign time to enjoy a number of DVDs including True Blood - Series 1. This blogger would suggest that perhaps he should continue to immerse himself in other DVDs... (I am a fan of True Blood btw).

The BNP candidate is a martial arts enthusiast and formerly PPC for Gillingham and Rainham. According to his election interview, he has been a BNP member for 10 years and is the “voice of sanity.” According to his interview, his first concern was with “putting the British people first.” The 42 year old is a fan of cheese and marmite sandwiches, and in his spare time he likes to read and go on holidays.

The English Democrat candidate is a former army [officer] who has lived lived in Rochester & Strood all his life, apart from the time he spent in the British Army. Mr Sands, 57, says his main concerns are immigration, getting a devolved parliament for England, and creating local jobs for local people. Soul and Motown fan Mr Sands has been a member of the English Democrats for two years and lists party chairman Robin Tilbrook as his hero. Nice loyalty.

The reality is that this is a two-horse race between John Jones and David Craggs.

It it is perhaps ironic that on the day the government are announcing massive cuts to police force numbers across Kent, and the wider country, that law and order could be considered a strong point for Tories.

Under a Labour Government we saw a massive and significant reduction in crime due to investment in more police.

The Tory agenda of police cuts, forced mergers, and interestingly, elected Police Chiefs, are not well received policies on the ground. The Tories are also cutting investment in Magistrate Services, Criminal Prosecution Services and are putting pressure for more short sentences for criminals.

The issue of anti-social behaviour in the ward will no doubt be a major issue. Kerb-crawling and drug usage blight areas of River Ward. It would be interesting to see what the Tory candidate feels is appropriate, given his ward colleague has a strongly libertarian angle on these issues. In addition, the disgraced former Tory Cllr Brice still remains in the council payroll after having been a kerb-crawler. He has yet to apologise to residents and the Conservative Group still refuse to call for his resignation.

Drunken behaviour also blights areas of Rochester Highstreet on Friday and week nights. Obviously drunken behaviour, and most notably our own MPs 'legless' pursuits will surely come up.

All in all the Tory candidate's justifiable strong points are undermined by Tory colleagues and the Medway Conservative record.

Will that enough for John Jones?

Its going to be close. People on the doorstep are very unhappy with Mark Reckless and his antics in Parliament but they do not see a coherent or cogent Labour Party.

Too close to call, but only two horses are in the race.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Medway Hustings

It has been a busy week.

Preparation for the River by-election which is coming up fast is taking a lot of time and effort. Labour have selected the ever able and capable John Jones to replace the newly elected MP, and former River ward Councillor, Bill Esterson.

John Jones has been pounding the streets of River Ward and will be joined tomorrow on the doorstep by Ed Miliband, who will be meeting floating voters in a key part of the ward.

Meanwhile, the Conservative campaign is on the rocks, the Tory campaign chief Andrew Kennedy is now not in Medway according to an anonymous comment on this blog.

The Tories have been painfully slow of the mark, with the English Democrats and Greens already having selected candidates.

This blog is looking forward to an update on developments from the River Ward Conservative website. A regular read of this blogger.

Journalists will surely start to probe as to the delay behind the Conservative selection?

Medway blogger Alan W Collins is seemingly the only Conservative who is bothering to campaign. He wrote a letter to the Medway press last week indicating that the current by-election had been a fix by Labour.

His imagination overlooks the obvious that Sefton Central was expected, according to most pundits, to go Conservative. Sadly the Tory PPC for Sefton Central showed she was unable to reach beyond her narrow Conservative base. Perhaps not the best of candidates.

Bill was elected by local residents to represent them in 2007, but like Rehman Chisti in 2005, he fought a Parliamentary seat elsewhere. If Alan Collins wants to slam Bill, then he should rightly slam his own Conservative MP for perhaps the same error of judgement in 2005. Perhaps also, he could slam all the other Conservative MPs who were formally Councillors in other areas of the country? This blog could happily name a few.

Bill rightly remained as Councillor until he knew he could no longer fulfil his obligation, and then honourably resigned. It was two months after the General Election at a time when Labour is 5-10 points behind in the polls. Hardly strategic!

One of the many reasons for resigning included the very rational argument that no MP could make important Council votes if there were a vote in the House of Commons at the same time. Mr Reckless and Chisti can therefore, and most certainly do, full in the same category. Questions need to be asked about this urgently.

Talking of Bill Esterson, the combined Rochester & Strood and Chatham & Aylesford constituencies held there leadership hustings last week. Over 100 people crowded into a small room in the Corn Exchange, Rochester to make their individual voices heard about the future for the Labour Party in Medway and beyond.

The membership, being moderate and centrist in disposition, overwhelmingly favoured the centrist candidates of Ed and David Miliband.

David Miliband was the overall winner of the vote for both Rochester & Strood and Chatham & Aylesford.

Gillingham & Rainham made the sensible decision to select at a different time for logistical reasons. They will meet tomorrow night at Twydall Labour club to select their choice for leader.

Ben Bradshaw MP was David Miliband's surrogate and spoke eloquently of 'Southern Discomfort' whereby Labour overwhelmingly lost voters in the Southern commuter belts. He emphasised that Labour needed to win back voters in the South and Medway was absolutely key. Key that Labour communicates the damage of local Tory Councillors and MPs at every stage. It will be the core strategy of a Miliband leadership of the party, to engage people in Medway and other conurbations in the South and it is the responsibility of Labour members to highlight aggressively the Tory cuts agenda and its real harm on Medway residents.

Bill Esterson MP echoed the sentiment of Ben Bradshaw indicating that Labour had to reach beyond its base into those voter segments which we had lost in the last General Election. By making fairness, equality and opposition to the dogmatic and ideological cuts of the current Thatcherite Conservative Party and their Liberal Democrat poodles. Ed Miliband would be the unity candidate who could work to inject a spirit of idealism to the rank and file.

It was also heartening to welcome so many new members. Teachers, mums, dads, journalists, bankers, lawyers and pensioners.

We are building again.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Ed Miliband has the 'Big Mo'

In what could be a repeat of the democratic primary race in the United States it appears that the favourite to win the Labour leadership is beginning to slip in the race.

According to Ladbrokes today, Ed Miliband is "the candidate with the most momentum in the race" for the Labour leadership

Ed Miliband has had his odds cut from 5/2 a month ago to to 9/4 today, while David Miliband's have lengthened slightly to 4/9 from 2/5 a month ago. In spite of the changes, David Miliband still remains remains odds on for the leadership, but his lead is slipping.

David is expected to win the race for the membership caucus, due in part to his financial lead and ability to leaflet and directly communicate with Labour members. The crucial component will come in second preference votes and indeed the position of the major trade unions.

The only major trade union, the GMB, has backed Ed Miliband.

David Williams of Ladbrokes said:

"Some of our canniest political punters reckon Ed might pick up enough second and third preferences behind his brother to stand him in good stead for the final round of voting."

On May 19th, at the beginning of the leadership election, David Miliband was 1/2 and Ed Miliband was 5/2, with Ed Balls behind on 8/1. Balls odds have lengthened substantially during the course of the campaign, as have Andy Burnham's. Burnham, in particular, is now seen as a rank outsider to Ladbrokes' punters.

This blog has been in a keen supporter of Ed Miliband from the outset of his campaign, despite the full awareness that he starts from a position of weakness in comparison to his older brother.

This blog is backing Ed Miliband because he has the IQ and the EQ to lead Labour back into power. He is the candidate who can unite the different groups and interests of the party and can reach out beyond the narrow 'think-tank' brigade in London.


Ed Miliband will be visiting Twydall Labour Club on Tuesday 20th July from 7.00pm where he will husting and meeting members of the local community.