Fear and loathing on the campaign trail
Last minute attack leaflet hits Fort Pitt, plus Rochester car parks get barriers, former Gillingham MP Paul Clark jailed, and more
Editor’s note: Thanks for reading Local Authority following one of our biggest weeks in terms of numbers. So many of you chose to become paid supporters in the past week, and I can’t stress how appreciated that is. Lots of time and effort went into our election coverage, and we have lots more big stories currently brewing, so please consider taking a free trial of the full-fat version of Local Authority! Now, on to this week’s news which, I’m not going to lie, is pretty heavy in places.
Fear and loathing on the campaign trail
About a week before Medway’s local elections, we commented that it had been a surprisingly clean campaign given some of the scenes we have seen in previous elections.
Then, on election day, we got a message asking if we’d seen “the leaflet” that had been hitting doorsteps in Fort Pitt ward the night before.
We hadn’t, and from the ward in question, there was a grim sense of inevitability about what was to follow. One reader sent me the full thing. Then another quickly followed by another. Clearly, someone wanted to get their message out across the ward merely hours before voters went to the polls.
The leaflet wasn’t in favour of any one party or candidate, but instead opposing one: Labour’s Cllr Harinder Mahil.
Local Authority has seen the full leaflet, which we won’t be reproducing in full here due to the potentially libellous nature of its content.
The thrust of the leaflet accuses Cllr Mahil of being involved in a murder a decade ago. Before we continue, these are the facts that we know to be true:
On 25 February 2011, 21-year-old Gagandip Singh was beaten, before being kidnapped, driven to Greenwich and burnt to death in the boot of a car.
One man was jailed for murder, another for manslaughter, while Harinder’s sister Mundill served three years for GBH with intent. Cllr Mahil faced no criminal action.
This is of course an objectively horrific incident with no winners. The grief that must be felt by Singh’s family is incomprehensible.
The leaflet attaches Cllr Mahil to the incident by suggesting that he was involved in the plan to harm Singh and that he encouraged her to lie to the police. It does this by citing quotes from the Court of Appeal case, which imply some of the horrific events of that night were egged on by Mahil.
There is no formal evidence that places any responsibility for the crime on Mahil. The case was investigated at the time, and the police brought no charges against him.
This isn’t the first time this event has been used against Mahil politically. Similar accusations appeared around the 2019 campaign, though this leaflet suggests an escalation in the campaign.
The leaflet claims to be published and paid for by ‘The Justice for Gagandip Singh Campaign’. There appears to be no formal organisation with that name, and the lack of formal imprint revealing who is behind the leaflet likely makes it a breach of electoral law.
So who is behind the leaflet? A telling indicator may be the assertion that ‘Labour members have been attacked and hounded out of the party’ in Medway. Cllr Mahil has clashed with certain wings of the local party and has been involved in getting those involved in crimes and questionable behaviour removed from the party.
It’s clear that certain parties are adamant that they will keep using this horrific incident as political capital against Mahil, but in this case, it doesn’t seem to have had much impact. Cllr Mahil was soundly re-elected to Medway Council, going on to win in Fort Pitt ward with a majority of over 600 to the nearest Conservative candidate.
We reached out to Cllr Mahil about the leaflet and the events surrounding it, but he told us he was unable to comment due to an ongoing police investigation about the matter.
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NHS in numbers
999 calls: South East Coast Ambulance answered 79,137 calls in April. The average time for a call to be answered was 1 second. 10% of callers waited longer than 33 seconds for an answer.
Ambulance response times:
South East Coast Ambulance Trust improved response times for all categories in April. While target times are still not being met for the most urgent calls, they are now being met on average for category 3 and category 4 calls.
Data for ambulance wait times at Medway Hospital, how long people are waiting in A&E, and how long they wait for treatment no longer seems to be published in the same place and we haven’t tracked it down yet. If you have any insights on this data, please get in touch…
Car parks: now with barriers!
Exciting news for fans of car park technology as Medway Council announced this week that two major car parks in Rochester will switch to an ANPR system from 13 June.
You might have noticed in recent weeks that barriers and machines have been erected at the Corporation Street and Blue Boar Lane car parks, with these set to become operational next month.
The new system will use ANPR cameras to track number plates on entry, and you won’t be able to exit again until you’ve paid the appropriate fee. This allows drivers to only pay for the exact time they use the car park, while Medway Council doesn’t need to bother sending parking wardens around looking for vehicles that haven’t been paid for.
Local councillors have secured a short period at the Corporation Street car park where drivers can avoid paying, as that location is regularly used for dropping off and picking up passengers from Rochester station. Drivers will be able to enter and exit the car park within 20 minutes for no charge. Similarly, a 15-minute window will exist at Blue Boar Lane to allow you to get back out again when you drive in and discover there’s nowhere to park, which happens quite regularly. All of which seems fair enough and worryingly sensible for once.
Covid in numbers
Hospitalisations: There are currently 4 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with 1 of them on a ventilator. This is up from 3 patients last week, but we do seem to be in a fairly good place for covid admissions at the moment.
Deaths: No new deaths were recorded this week, keeping Medway at 1,031 covid deaths in total.
Former MP jailed for child sexual abuse material
Former Gillingham MP Paul Clark has been jailed for more than two years after pleading guilty last year to downloading and distributing over 1,000 images and videos of child abuse material.
Clark was arrested in May 2021, following years of downloading, making, and distributing images, many of which were in the most serious category of child abuse imagery.
The former MP didn’t contest the charges and admitted his guilt upon his arrest. He now faces 28 months in prison.
Clark was the Labour MP for Gillingham between 1997 and 2010. In more recent years, he served as the chair of the Oast Community Centre in Rainham.
🗳️ Former Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett has written for Conservative Home about his party’s defeat in Medway’s local election. He has a lot of blame to go around, but primarily focuses on the government, the boundary review, and the disunity within his party as their downfall.
🚔 A man was stabbed at the Star Hill end of Rochester High Street this morning. Another person sustained injuries during the incident, and members of the public detained the alleged perpetrator at the scene until police arrived.
🚏 A woman died after being hit by a bus at Chatham Bus Station. The incident occurred on Tuesday afternoon.
🍽️ The Prince of Wales pub in Strood is set to be turned into a restaurant. The pub closed earlier this year, and it is unknown what kind of restaurant is attempting to take on the building.
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"I believe in socialist values. Some political opponents throw it around like it's some hand grenade of fear"
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Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: How to Socialise and Make Friends by Camp Cope, Maps by Mixtapes, #3 by Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed by Los Campesinos!
This is the bleakest edition you have ever published. Fucking hell.