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John's Jottings for July 2002

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.

Electioneering

One entertaining pastime is watching the various political parties' behaviour as an election approaches. There can be quite marked changes even a year before an election date, as we in Medway are seeing right now.

For several weeks certain parties have been "electioneering" as it's called, and the local elections won't occur until May 2003!

Some of this is harmless enough, especially as the public have become more aware of this kind of activity in recent years and take it with a pinch of the proverbial Sodium Chloride. However it can be quite nasty at times, and can even jeopardise the Council's decisions, as happened several weeks ago when a Liberal Democrat member tried electioneering at a planning site visit.

Now, planning is a quasi-judicial function of a planning authority such as Medway Council, and as such is required to make planning decisions on a non-political basis. By the activity at the site visit—and further electioneering at a subsequent planning meeting—the member in question (with others joining in at that meeting) laid our decisions in those cases open to challenge, and they could have been overturned at appeal because it could be claimed that the Planning Committee was not concentrating on planning issues but was making decisions based on other matters. The chairman and another experienced Conservative member of that committee had to remind both the Liberal Democrat member who had started all this, and the others involved, of these facts.

If you have been following the local news, you will no doubt have encountered recent examples of electioneering, and there will equally undoubtedly be many more to come. Examples already seen include the Cozenton Park Nursery incident involving UNISON and a couple of Labour members (this was almost certainly intended mainly to appeal to UNISON and other Trades Union members), the non-existent threat to Riverside Country Park Rangers (probably done for the same reason, i.e. to ensure Union members' support) and the re-emergence of the long-discredited Labour tale of the Conservative administration closing the four Linked Service Centres (care homes).

I personally have debunked both these falsehoods by presenting the facts in an irrefutable way, though getting the local media to print what I have written has been an uphill struggle—but that's not unusual in Medway...

Meanwhile, should my group join in? Well, I suppose we ought to, just to promote a kind of balance, but we tend to be too squeaky-clean to pull any stunts or put out deliberately-slanted propaganda. Whether or not that is a good thing is for the public to decide, but it does leave us open to some really quite vicious attacks, no matter how unfounded the allegations are.

One can see why new, idealistic politicians tend to get hardened and just as cynical as their predecessors when it seems to be the only way to keep the liars and cheats out of power, but I strongly believe this to be an unhealthy attitude and will no doubt continue to put up with all that the opposition parties sling at us.

At least you now have—hopefully—a good enough insight into what is going on, so that you will not fall into the trap of actually believing some of the oh-so-plausible propaganda that will continue to be spread around the Medway Towns during the next ten months or so. This, after all, is what I had to learn during the early days of the Save Rochester Airport campaign, and many other facts came to light during that time. What I learnt then can never be undone, thankfully, and I'm sure you'll find the same happens to you.

Welcome to the Eyes Wide Open club!


Next time: Peninsula Airport Threat