John's Jottings for April 2003

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.

Crunch time for Medway

Another long one but this is too important to be chopped..

In a month's time (as I write this) all of us living in Medway will have the opportunity to vote for those who will represent us on Medway Council for the next four years. We should not miss out on this: it is not something that, for example, is a permitted practice in Iraq or many other parts of the world.

We should cling to this freedom to choose and make full use of it, so that no-one ever has the excuse to scrap it because it looks as though "only a minority of people use it, and it costs money that we could save".

So, which way to vote?
Well, in many cases voting—especially at a local level—is based on two components: a candidate's personal standing (and any track record) and political party (or lack of one). Just like the rest of us, I too have had to think this through very carefully, so let's look at the parties in Medway. I really enjoy this, as it is so easy to cut through all the nonsense and see what is and isn't true.

When watching the other political parties at work I am often reminded of the Joker in the Batman film, where he promises to give away vast sums of money and asks "Who are you going to trust?"

Of course, we the audience all know what the Joker was really all about, but that is from our priveleged viewpoint. Here in Medway we do not have the luxury of watching from the outside and being unaffected by what is being done by our "bad guys".

Right, to specifics: just to be different I shall do this in reverse alphabetical order.

Liberal Democrats
I don't get much time to read fiction these days, but I always make an exception for the local Liberal Democrat newsletters. They tend to read, to anyone who knows what's really happening, as though they were written by the former Iraqi Information Minister, Comical Ali. A surreal experience!

Some of what they try to convince people in the new Rochester South and Horsted ward-to-be is so ludicrous that surely no-one will believe it. Other material is more cleverly handled, using techniques such as partial truths, selective truths and hiding untruths within truths.

One obvious example is the latest FOCUS that takes the Conservative administration to task for raising Council Tax by (as they rounded it) 10·9%. Wow! We obviously should have done what LibDem councils up and down the country have done and kept to an increase of merely, er, 18% or higher? Oh dear...

Try to find a LibDem council anywhere in the country with a Band D under £1,000—you'll have a job. In Medway it's just £824·49. 'Nuff said.

There are plenty more examples, including the usual oddball slant on Rochester Airport. How the LibDems deduce that hard-paving a runway (to enable planes to take off in a shorter distance and reduce noise at ground level by being much higher when reaching housing) equates to "concreting-over" the site is a mystery. Anyone can see that the green space is vastly greater than a narrow strip down part of its length!

Oh, and their quality of English, spelling and grammar haven't improved over the years I notice. For example, to quote from their March 2003 FOCUS, what is a "plastic staking ring"? Years of experience has consistently shown that this group operates in a sloppy, careless and dishonest fashion—there is nothing that inspires any confidence in them. They do not even take the business seriously. Even in these elections we can easily see that, no matter where they are standing, most LibDem candidates come from Gillingham, so know nothing of the area in which many of them are standing. Last time they didn't even put up any candidates in nine wards...

What can I say about Labour? Dear oh dear, what a mess they are!

Their desperation has become ever more evident in recent months as they have realised that the Medway public at large is no longer being taken in by them.

Blatant lies over such issues as care homes, and their behaviour over the Cozenton Nursery incident, have backfired on them, and they have apparently known for some time that they have no realistic hope of regaining control of Medway Council. We know this from inside information, and there are also clues that the well-informed will be able to spot.

They are likely to lose a number of seats in this election.

They have also tried to manipulate just about every aspect of the Council's activities for their own ends, including the new style of administration as has become obvious to anyone watching what goes on in several of the Overview and Scrutiny committees they chair.

Increased secrecy and lack of transparency all round (for example, scrapping the customary pre-meeting briefings and dropping last-minute "urgent" items into meetings) are an area that shows this clearly to those of us who are on the inside, but craftily isn't at all obvious to the general public.

There are far too many other examples I could cite, but as the public has, by and large, already woken up to many of them I do not need to list them all here. It would probably double the length of this Jottings...

Overall, as I so often find I have to say, don't be fooled!

Other Parties
Although we in Medway lack the delight of the Monster Raving Looney Party (who have some quite good ideas mixed up with their more way-out suggestions!) we do have the UK Independence Party contesting just one seat in each of 21 wards. Their policies are almost exclusively national and international, and they have next to nothing to offer (apart from rather predictable waffle) in the context of local issues. They will undoubtedly get a few dozen votes average per candidate, but probably no more than that—too out of touch with local communities.

There are also four British National Party candidates. Each of these is bound to pick up a handful of protest votes, but it is extremely unlikely that any of them will come close to winning a seat. In the case of the BNP in particular, this is just as well, as a party based on hatred and division has no place anywhere in British government at any level.

Non-party based candidates are an interesting idea, as they have freedoms that the others do not have. However the rules of proportionality mean that they can have very little involvement in committees and they are unable to command a large enough vote to have real influence. They can also represent only a small minority view overall, even though on single policies they might (or might not!) be in accord with many Medway residents.

In the case of Independents who were formerly Liberal Democrats, the behaviour and policies of such individuals have been shown to be just as unappealing and untrustworthy as those of the party they have left behind—once a LibDem, always a LibDem at heart, it would seem.

The remaining such candidate re-standing this time has not endeared himself to the residents of Walderslade (where he is standing) by being the only member of the planning committee to vote in favour of a mobile phone telecomms mast in Dargets Road, against the strong wishes of local people. He is also more generally out of favour with just about everyone in Medway for once again pushing hard for a high increase in Medway's Council Tax—this year he wanted at least a 20% rise!

Yes, Independents can so easily be completely out of touch with the people they claim to represent, even on important issues like these.

Well, that's my own group, so it's probably best for me to make no comment except to suggest you look at what really has been happening in Medway over the past three years. Note in particular changes in trends—some negative aspects of modern society had become so entrenched that it takes time to halt them and turn them around, just like a nose-diving aeroplane, but the signs are there. Lay the foundations first, and build solidly on top of those—that's the only way forward that will work.

Anyone who knows me at all well will already realise why I stand with the Conservatives, knowing that I would not do so if there were any doubt about that party's integrity, ability and relevance to the majority of Medway's residents.

Personal reputation
I haven't covered this here, as it is something that every one of us will perceive from our own viewpoint. It is an important consideration, but not overridingly so. Also, none of the candidates is perfect, and we do need to be realistic in our expectations.

So, whom will you trust?

Next time: How did it turn out?