Seven candidates prepare to fight a by-election. Seven!
Plus new constituency boundaries and a stealthy lottery
Apologies to those of you that read this thing for more general Medway news, but with a by-election underway and a full council meeting last night, this edition is pretty politics heavy. Hopefully, we’ll be back to the usual diet of bollard news and moaning about public transport soon.
Peninsula by-election runners and riders
Following the passing of independent Peninsula councillor Mick Pendergast last month, the race is now on to replace him. With the by-election called for 8 December, candidates now have less than a month to get themselves out there and convince voters to cast their votes.
This is a weird by-election and, unusually for Medway, doesn’t have a clear favourite. The Conservatives are in a tailspin, Labour has the bigger prize of the full council to aim for, so an opportunity presents itself for smaller parties or independents.
So, just who is putting themselves forward to the electorate?
Seven candidates have thrown their hats into the electoral ring.
First out of the gates was perennial candidate Chris Spalding. He was first out of the starting blocks to announce his candidacy, and why not? He certainly has form here.
This will be Spalding’s fourth attempt to win a seat on Medway Council. The first was in 2015 as a UKIP candidate in River ward, where he came 5th with 12% of the vote. Next up was an early attempt at Peninsula under the Medway People’s Voice banner, which was a political party that was until it wasn’t anymore. He fared worse here, coming 8th with 5% of the vote. He next tried his luck as an independent in the Strood North by-election last year, managing 4th with 9%. And now, here we are again.
His campaign didn’t get off to the most auspicious start, as he spent the early days leafleting the peninsula with a link to his website, which he had failed to update from his previous Strood North attempt.
Since then the website has been down for maintenance, which surely can’t do any more harm.
Next came the news that the Conservatives had selected Harold Ogunfemi as their candidate for Peninsula. Unlike Spalding, he at least lives in the ward and is a sitting parish councillor out in Grain. While this might sound like an achievement, he was elected entirely unopposed because apparently, no one wants to be a parish councillor for some reason. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from using the title on his Instagram account, which comes with one hell of a campaign slogan:
Ogunfemi is also a regular in Medway elections, having previously stood for the Conservatives in Strood South in 2015 (6th place, 10% of the vote), and again in Peninsula in 2019 (6th place, 8% of the vote). Still, if you want to prosper, I guess you need to take a few losses before you achieve greatness.
Peninsula ward is a big fan of independent candidates, so they will have two to choose from this time around, with regular campaigner George Crozer throwing his spectacular moustache into the ring.
Crozer has been campaigning on the peninsula forever, and currently serves as the chair of High Halstow Parish Council. He previously stood for election in Peninsula all the way back in 2007, coming in a very respectable 4th place with 13% of the vote. He has already signalled he will stand alongside sitting independent councillor Ron Sands and another seasoned campaigner, Michael Pearce, in the local elections next year. This will prove an excellent trial run for how well an independent group can perform in the ward.
Labour has announced David Hodges as their candidate. He seems to be taking a different stance from the NIMBY positions of the independents, instead focusing on how difficult it is to access GPs in the ward.
Other than his seeming inability to spell the ward that he’s standing for, he appears to be amiable enough.
For the Liberal Democrats, Ben Rist has been selected, who has been on quite a political journey. Ben has released several records and is also apparently an actor.
Perfect. No notes.
Rounding out this veritable “who’s who? no, really, who?” of local politics, we have Julian Sutton for the Medway Greens. Julian apparently grew up around the peninsula and likes to cycle there, so what could qualify someone more?
His launch video is currently setting the social media world alight, with 36 views in the four hours since it was put up.
Finally, nomination papers suggest a mysterious seventh candidate. Sharon Jackson is listed as a candidate, but it is not clear whether she is standing as an independent or for a political party. Jackson is behind Medway’s Much Laughter organisation and is a Pride in Medway award winner. It will be interesting to see what platform she is tackling the election on.
The full and final list of candidates will be posted on the Medway Council website on Monday.
Again, the strange thing about this by-election is that there’s no obvious favourite from this group. It’s going to be a fascinating campaign and an interesting indicator of where the electorate of Medway might be as we head to full local elections in just a few months.
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Covid in numbers
Cases: There are still no specific data, but 2.3% of the population in the south east are estimated to test positive for coronavirus this week, down from 3% last week.
Hospitalisations: There are currently 24 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with 1 of them on a ventilator. This is up 4% from last week.
Deaths: 3 new deaths were recorded this week, taking Medway to 989 covid deaths in total.
Vaccinations: 81% of the 12+ population in Medway have now had at least one vaccine dose, 77% have had two doses, and 60% have received a booster dose.
78% of those eligible for a spring booster received one.
10% of those under 12 have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
54% of those aged 50+ have so far had their autumn booster.
Know your boundaries
What’s more exciting than an electoral boundary review?
Well, most things, let’s be honest.
But after all those, it can only be one thing: two boundary reviews!
Following on from our local council boundaries changing in 2023, the Boundary Commission has now published its latest proposals for what our parliamentary constituencies should look like for future elections.
You win 10 Local Authority Nerd Points if you can identify the changes just from looking at this map:
Overall, not very much is proposed that directly impacts Medway. Gillingham and Rainham will stay absolutely identical to how it is now, putting paid to previous suggestions of moving Lordswood into the constituency.
Chatham and Aylesford is set to lose some of it’s area from Ditton, but as that’s outside of Medway it’s hard to even acknowledge that’s a place that exists.
So most of the Medway changes revolve around this small area:
The surrounding area in the centre of the map, contains Rochester Airport, the Davis Estate, Horsted Park, Warren Wood, and that weird bit of Chatham around Patterns Lane that can’t decide if it’s in Rochester or Chatham. This whole area is set to move from the Rochester and Strood constituency into the Chatham and Aylesford one.
What does this really mean? Probably not much, to be honest. It’s hard to imagine it doing much to the electoral calculation in Rochester and Strood, but there’s a chance the changes make the geography a little more favourable to Labour in Chatham and Aylesford.
But, as ever, only time will tell.
It probably won’t be you
Interesting bit of digging from Local Democracy Reporter Katie May Nelson who has been looking into just how much money the Medway Lottery has raised.
Yes, Medway has its own lottery, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing given how little it’s promoted, and how few people are playing.
The Medway Lottery was launched last year and has so far sold just shy of 38,000 tickets. Those figures suggest around 500 tickets are being sold for each draw, which is fine, I guess. But it hardly seems very much for an area with nearly 300,000 residents.
Full disclosure: I have dabbled in the Medway Lottery, and it seems like an okay way to support local charities and organisations while still standing the chance of winning a big cash prize. Not that anyone has won the jackpot in the first 16 months of operation. But I’m sure my day is coming soon.
This week, paid supporters of Local Authority received a lengthy sit-down interview with the man who wants to run Medway, Cllr Vince Maple, as well as my monthly planning update. Both are good reads!
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Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: Probably Nothing, Possibly Everything by Pat the Bunny, Calf of the Sacred Cow by Chemtrails, Bringing the Backline by Trust Fund, and You’re Gonna Miss It All by Modern Baseball.