The man who wants to run Medway
An exclusive one-on-one interview with Medway Council's leader of the opposition Cllr Vince Maple
When I started writing long-form pieces for Local Authority, I knew one of the things I wanted to do was one-on-one interviews. 60-minute sit-downs covering a range of topics, political and otherwise. Thankfully the first two big subjects both instantly said yes, and today we bring you the second of those. Following on from my big interview with Medway Council Leader Alan Jarrett, today it’s a conversation with the man who wants to replace him - Medway Labour leader of the opposition Vince Maple.
I sat down with Vince for an exclusive one-on-one interview to talk about his life, being in opposition, why he doesn’t support proportional representation, his election lows, and his hopes for change in May 2023.
Where were you born?
So, I was born in North London, in Islington constituency, somewhere in-between Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornbury, at the Whittington Hospital, 45 years ago and a week as we are recording this as it was my birthday last week. And then Medway became my home pretty soon after that.
As people have heard before, but I will say again, my dad was in the Royal Navy and stationed here in Chatham (Vince helpfully points towards Chatham Dockyard). My mum said we don’t want to move again, so we moved to what was then naval accommodation, and is now Lordswood. From there moved to Luton Road and lived there for the first 20 years of my life.
What job did your mother do growing up?
My mum did various things. She worked for the Post Office when she was young, worked in a factory which is now part of the Rochester Riverside development. Most importantly, she was a great mum and gave me a lot of my values. She was a Labour Party member too.
How did you find school?
School was good, not the best days of my life. I went to Luton Infants and that was great and then went to the Howard School after passing my 11 plus. I went round other schools that still exist and thought these weren’t for me, and ended up going to the Howard and I enjoyed that a lot. At Luton Junior School was the first time I stood for the Labour Party in 1987. I was 9, my policy at the time was there are two many cars on Luton’s roads, we need more buses and less cars. Nearly 40 years on that policy remains the same, and we need to do more work. Politics moves pretty slowly, even from those school days.
Did you go to university?
I didn’t. I took my A-Levels and said that’s enough education for now and never went back. I went to the university of life as they say, which is a terrible cliche. Ned (Vince’s son) recently graduated from nursery at four, so he is already one ahead of me for graduations.
I went to sign on for a week, and there was a job at what is now known as the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and started there the following week. I went from there to do other stuff for the Civil Service. I worked for a union and now I’m doing this.
Apart from at birth, where have you lived outside of the Medway towns?
I moved to Edinburgh for a very short period of time. Wasn’t there long. Medway is absolutely my home, and long may that continue.
What event or issues first got you involved in politics?
Some of it is around trade union activity. I’ve always been a trade union rep since day one. I remember vividly the union rep Andy coming up to me, for what was the then PCS union. He asked me to deliver some union leaflets on my floor. The floor become several floors, then became the whole building. That developed until it became that you could sit in with someone who has an issue at work. From the trade union work, there is in my view a natural progression to wanting to make a change in the community, wanting to make change in our country and our planet. You do that through politics and the natural home for someone in the trade union movement in politics I firmly believe is the Labour party. The link between the Labour Party and the labour movement is historic and well-documented.
Do you own your own home?
Me and Mary (Vince’s partner), yes, we own on Chalk Pitt Hill. There is still plenty of mortgage to pay on it, so actually, Nationwide owns the home, but they let us stay there while we keep paying them. I know I’m in a fortunate position for someone of my age. There are lots of people who aren’t in that position. I bought my first home when I was able to run up quite a lot of debt to try and get that deposit together, which I think is probably an experience that many people have had. Trying to get on the housing ladder is a nightmare, and renting is a nightmare as well. Whatever you do from a political perspective, you will always bring your experiences. Housing is a real problem for people and actually, there is no way me now could get the level of deposit that’s required because the housing system has exploded. The kind of level of cost it takes to just get in there and I think there’s, not to move on to policy because it is about being a human being, but actually, there is something fundamental in our system that says we’re quite happy if you can pay £1,000 a month to a landlord but you’ve got to jump through a whole bunch of different hoops to pay maybe £700 a month for a mortgage provider. That needs sorting. I hope a future Labour government will look at that. It’s something that people have talked about over the last couple of years. Having that recognition of being a good tenant and keeping up your payments will mean you will be able to keep up with a monthly mortgage.
Who has been the best Prime Minister of your lifetime?
Of my lifetime, I would probably say Tony Blair. I mean I think that he made a massive mistake with the Iraq War. It’s well documented my position on that, but he did a load of really good stuff. I was at a community event last Friday in my ward and we were talking with a couple of parents, and they were saying the centre there is great, but it’s nowhere near as good as the Sure Start used to be. The amount of different programs and options are just not the same. Things like the Sure Start service, things like having a minimum wage, things like the Good Friday Agreement, frankly all of those things take the skill of politics to get done. Did they do everything I would’ve wanted them to do as a Labour government? No. We still have a predominantly unelected second chamber, for example. I regret that they didn’t make more change there, from a democratic perspective, but the investment into our public services, changes that mean people aren’t getting paid just over a pound an hour working in a supermarket, and that’s a fundamentally good thing.
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