John's Jottings for November 2001

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

Where Did it All Begin?

This is the first of an occasional—hopefully monthly—series of musings on the Medway political scene written by me, John Ward, one of the local councillors for what is currently Horsted ward in the Medway Towns area of Kent, England. I put this information here for the benefit of anyone who has stumbled onto this on my website and wonders what it's about.

Okay, first a bit of background: just how did I come to be a local councillor?

It all started with the campaign to save Rochester Airport from enforced closure by the local Council. This was in August 1999 when I was the secretary of the Davis Estate Residents Association, Chatham (DERAC) and we, as close neighbours of the airport, were cencerned about its future, as were nearly all the residents living on this estate and, for that matter, many others living in other parts of the Medway Towns.

We discovered that the then Labour-controlled Medway Council, backed up by the Liberal Democrat group, was pushing for closure, ostensibly to allow a grandiose project to go ahead there: a so-called Science and Technology Park. This appears to have been a smokescreen for what was almost certainly an attempt to sell the land off for either housing or one or more "crinkly shed" distribution centres. Because the Council had had most of its £150 million reserves frittered away in recent years, things were becoming desperate and the airport site is worth a lot of money.

After a partially-successful campaign, DERAC and several other organisations with an interest in the subject (pilots' associations, environmentalists, aircraft preservation and related societies) managed to compel Medway Council to offer a short-term lease to a company that would continue to operate the airport as a going concern. This was no more than a stay of execution, but it did buy us time.

Throughout this period we were aided considerably by the Conservative group on Medway Council, then only 19-strong out of the eighty seats. With local elections looming in May 2000 it became apparent that we needed a change of control in the council and as part of that thrust I should stand as a Conservative candidate in my ward. After a certain amount of soul-searching (I had never even been a member of the party, let alone a supporter of the Tories) I agreed to do so and Ron Hewett and I won the two seats with a large swing away from the sitting Liberal Democrats.

And here I am!

Next time: What have the last 18 months been like?