Labour take control of Medway Council for the first time
A brutal night for Medway's Conservatives, and the Greens and Lib Dems fail to breakthrough
Good evening from Local Authority Towers, where we’re still recovering from spending the entire night at Medway’s election count. While many other areas now count votes on a Friday morning, Medway clings to the old tradition of counting through the night, so you’ll have to excuse us if we’re struggling a little today.
As last night proved, putting out this kind of local journalism can be difficult and exhausting work, and every single paid supporter ensures that we can keep doing this for the long term. If you’d like to try out the benefits of a paid subscription to Local Authority, you can currently try it absolutely free for 30 days.
Obviously, the big news from last night is the resounding victory for Labour as they took control of Medway Council for the first time since its creation in 1998.
Medway has long been a bastion for the Conservatives, and even through the years of the Blair government, our towns steadfastly remained a blue island in a sea of red.
That was finally broken last night though as Labour saw a surge in their vote locally, taking all of their target seats across Medway, and securing their control of the area for the next four years.
While other parts of the country saw results shifting away from the Conservatives due to a collapse in their vote, the opposite was true in Medway. The Conservative vote remained remarkably consistent, and as the chart below from our good friends at Medway Elects shows, it was a 12% jump in Labour’s vote share that secured their victory.
It was a brutal night for Medway’s Conservative councillors, with a number of significant figures losing their seats.
Cabinet member for education Josie Iles saw herself turfed out in Strood West, and a similar fate befell overview and scrutiny supremo Chris Buckwell in the same ward. Rupert Turpin, a former cabinet member, lost in his efforts to win election in the new Fort Pitt ward, and long-time Rochester West councillor Stuart Tranter provided one of the shocks of the night by being taken out by the Labour insurgency. Tranter didn’t even stick around once he saw how the count was going, packing up and heading home after admitting he’d been defeated.
Still, the picture for the Conservatives was varied across Medway, reflecting the disjointed nature of their campaign. Candidates in Gillingham and Rainham largely held on, with the party retaining control of all of their Rainham seats, even if Labour ran them close without actively campaigning in the area. On the other side of the towns, the party faced a near wipeout in Rochester and Strood.
Elsewhere, while both the Greens and Lib Dems made gains in terms of their vote share, both failed to break through with any council seats. The Greens did come within 50 votes of taking a seat in Cuxton, Halling & Riverside, and with a little more time and resources may well have got over the line. The Lib Dems had a pretty torrid night, managing to come second in their two target wards of St Mary’s Island and Fort Horsted, but still far enough behind that there’s much for the party to do if it wants to get back to the glory days.
As expected, independents control the Hoo peninsula, with the existing formal independent group of Cllrs Crozer and Sands picking up another seat as they are joined by Michael Pearce. In the new All Saints ward, long-time independent candidate Chris Spalding finally found himself elected at the fifth time of trying.
All eyes now turn to Medway’s new Labour administration. As Cllr Vince Maple takes charge of Medway, he is being handed the reins of a Medway in serious financial difficulties, while still trying to deal with a lack of a local plan during a housing crisis, lack of critical infrastructure, and town centres in dire need of regeneration.
Cllr Maple now needs to put together a team to run Medway, from a pool of councillors that are largely new and none of whom have experience running a council like Medway. The task won’t be easy, and it’s going to be fascinating to see what the next four years will bring as we enter a new era for Medway’s politics.
You can get the full ward-by-ward results for last night’s election from our early morning dispatch below…
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🏗️ Diggerland was used as a polling station today. Super jealous of those who got to vote at Kent’s premier construction-based theme park instead of a boring church hall or community centre.
🇷🇺 ‘You’re surely not blaming Putin for losing Medway?’ A surreal exchange on LBC today as Conservative chairman Greg Hands attempted to blame the war in Ukraine for the defeats his party was facing.
📺 Our very own Steven Keevil went on KMTV this afternoon to discuss Medway’s election results. He was surprisingly coherent given he hadn’t slept for 30 hours.
Did voter ID make a difference?
That’s one of the big questions from this election, and it’s unclear how and when we’ll have any answer to it.
Anecdotally, the effects of voter ID in Medway perhaps weren’t dramatic, with only a small number of reports of people being turned away from polling stations.
Polling station staff had to log any potential voters who were turned away, although this data won’t reflect those who just stayed away in the first place because they didn’t have the required ID. This data is also not set to be shared, as while the government are expecting local councils to give it to them, those same councils aren’t supposed to publish it. We - and other outlets - intend to issue Freedom of Information requests to Medway Council next week in an attempt to get a clearer picture.
I voted using a Voter Authority Certificate yesterday, not because I needed to, but to see how well the system worked for those who might lack the appropriate ID. While I can’t fault the issuing of the certificate, which arrived in good time ahead of the election, it was concerning that staff at my polling station hadn’t been shown what one looked like in advance, and were quite taken by the novelty of someone turning up with one. It didn’t cause me any issues in voting, and the staff was all doing a great job, it does raise concerns that Medway Council staff hadn’t been prepared for what is a vital bit of the election process for some.
Did you experience any issues with voting in Medway yesterday? Hit reply and let us know or email email@example.com
Covid in numbers
Hospitalisations: There are currently 3 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with none of them on a ventilator. This is down 87% from last week and represents the lowest number of covid patients in hospital this year.
Deaths: 2 new deaths were recorded this week, taking Medway to 1,031 covid deaths in total.
🧒 Children at Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institute are being kept in solitary confinement. Some have been kept isolated from others for over 100 days.
⚽ Chatham FC came up short in the DFDS Kent Senor Cup final. The team lost to Margate Town on penalties.
👑 30 street parties will be held in Medway over the weekend. Sure, why not?
Paid supporters of Local Authority receive at least two extra editions of the newsletter every week. This week, we published our monthly events guide, as well as the full ward-by-ward results from Medway’s local elections.
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If you hear about any Medway news that might be of interest, let me know! Hit reply to message me directly, DM me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.
Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: Too Much To Ask by Cheekface, Worry by Jeff Rosenstock, and Please Don’t Take Me Back by Martha.
..and now, to sleep.