Rehman Chishti backs vote to leave EU

Rehman Chishti
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Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti has today come out in favour of leaving the European Union.

Mr Chishti, who also represents Rainham Central on Medway Council, has spent the past few months “speak[ing] to many residents at my MP street surgeries … and I have considered all the correspondence I have received from constituents” in relation to the 23 June referendum.

After a considerable amount of time considering how to vote, Mr Chishti said today that “a clear majority of the views that I have heard were for leaving the EU. I respect that and on balance, after taking these views into account, I will be voting to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum.”

The delay in learning Mr Chishti’s position on the matter has frustrated some journalists and commentators, and there are still a small number of Conservative MPs who are yet to publicly declare where they stand on what is the single biggest vote the UK will face for a generation.

In the 2015 General Election, UKIP’s Mark Hanson received over 9,000 votes in Mr Chishti’s constituency (representing one-fifth of all votes cast), but pressure from the Eurosceptic party ahead of the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner election earlier this month, where UKIP’s Henry Bolton received the most votes in Medway, could not push the MP into making an early decision.

Mr Chishti said “I have kept an open mind on whether we would be better off remaining in the European Union or that Britain would have a better future by going it alone. I have said from the outset that I would take into account the views of my constituents before making my final decision.”

According the Kent Messenger Group’s Political Editor, Paul Francis, there is still a (small) majority of Kent MPs who are backing the status quo:

EU kills menthol cigarettes

Menthol Cigarettes
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European Union Directive 2014/40/EU comes into effect in the UK tomorrow – and it’s bad news for smokers.

EU DIRECTIVE 2014/40/EU will come into force in the UK on Friday, bringing with it a total ban on the sale of flavoured cigarettes.

The EU Directive became The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, which was laid before the UK parliament on 22 April.

Article 7 of the EU Directive states that:

Member States shall prohibit the placing on the market of tobacco products with a characterising flavour

This is carried forward to Regulation 15 of the UK Regulations as:

No person may produce or supply cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco with a characterising flavour.

Article 2 of the EU Directive provides the killer definition:

‘characterising flavour’ means a clearly noticeable smell or taste other than one of tobacco, resulting from an additive or a combination of additives, including, but not limited to, fruit, spice, herbs, alcohol, candy, menthol or vanilla, which is noticeable before or during the consumption of the tobacco product

However, smokers of menthol cigarettes can breath a small sigh of relief – due to their immense popularity, menthol cigarettes are being treated as a special case and a four-year transition period is authorised by Regulation 56 (3):

The provisions of regulation 15 (flavoured cigarettes etc.) do not apply to menthol cigarettes until 20th May 2020.

EU nannying fussbucketry at its finest!

Medway Council tried to use social media for their #MedwayBeacons competition – and it didn’t go very well

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This year marks the Queen’s 90th birthday, becoming the only British monarch to ever reach the milestone.

In honour of the special occasion, Medway Council are lighting six beacons across the towns and invited residents to enter a competition to light the main beacon at the Great Lines Heritage Park in Medway:

The republican (that is, anti-monarchist and most certainly not pro-Trump) co-author of the local political blog The Political Medway was the first to enter:

Soon after, a respected local activist made the first of not very many serious entries:

Before talk turned back to the anti-monarchist Jennings:

Never one to miss an opportunity, I’m sure I didn’t stand a chance when I referenced both the EU and British politicians in not a very good light:

The eventual winner is undoubtedly an asset to the Medway community:

Long-term Medway resident Glenn Moore was the last to enter (and, yes, I have included *all* of the entries on this post):

In all, since the competition was launched in the evening of 13 April and the winner was announced yesterday lunchtime, the competition attracted just six entries – and you can judge for yourselves how many of them were “serious”.

Six entries in six days suggests that the answer to my question is most definitely “yes”.

Better luck next time, Medway Council!

I’m supporting Henry Bolton for Kent Police and Crime Commissioner (but my second preference candidate may surprise you)

Politics
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The candidates have been announced, the election is underway, and I am today officially endorsing Henry Bolton OBE to be the next Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent. For the first time in any election, I am also endorsing a second preference candidate – and regular readers may be somewhat surprised by where that second “X” will be going.

Henry Bolton OBEHenry Bolton OBE is UKIP’s candidate for the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) election taking place on 5 May – and I would encourage each and every one of you to lend him your vote.

The full list of candidates to appear on the ballot paper has been published, and I have updated the 2016 Kent PCC Election page on Medway Elects with the same. Of those standing, I believe Mr Bolton is the best choice for Kent.

Given the fact that I left UKIP around eight months ago, some readers may be surprised that I am endorsing a UKIP candidate, but, for me, the Police and Crime Commissioner role is not about party politics; it is about electing somebody with the necessary skill and experience to manage Kent Police so that they work in the most effective way for us, the people of Kent.

For all her faults, Ann Barnes had racked up many years on the Kent Police Authority before the PCC superceded that body, and that direct experience with the police stood her in good stead. Despite being a walking PR disaster (especially in the early days), there is no denying her results; for Kent Police to receive the best HMIC rating out of 43 police areas is a remarkable achievement, and must be congratulated.

On paper, the Conservative Party candidate appears to be a career politician. Since studying Public Policy, Government and Management at the University of Birmingham, Matthew Scott has been a local councillor and currently works as a Parliamentary Manager in Westminster. You can read the biography on his website and make up your own mind, but, to me, it seems Mr Scott’s credentials stem from liaising with the police from the outside, rather than any direct experience of the running or day-to-day affairs of the Force. Whilst not wishing to unfairly undermine his own skills and experience (which I am sure are many), if Mr Scott is the most experienced candidate the Conservative Party can put forward for Kent PCC, then one must wonder about the credentials of those who didn’t make the cut.

Steve Uncles is the only 2012 candidate making a return appearance. As the English Democrats’ candidate, Mr Uncles achieved a remarkable 5.3% of the vote, only being beaten into last place by independent Dai Liyanage, who attracted 3.7%. This time round, Mr Uncles is awaiting trial for an alleged election offence dating back to April 2013 – and even (successfully) applied to have his trial postponed until after this election. Whilst I am a firm believer in the principle of being innocent until proven guilty, what must it say of a man when he is more concerned with chasing elected office than clearing his name? I will let readers decide the answer to that question themselves.

David Naghi, the Liberal Democrat candidate, represents East Ward on Maidstone Borough Council. Otherwise, I honestly know very little about his experience or credentials for this role. Indeed, despite being on the Statement of Persons Nominated, at the time of going to pixel, he was not listed on the Lib Dem website’s PCC candidates page. Equally, I’m sorry to say that I know very little about the independent candidate Gurvinder Sandher, besides being the Director of the Kent Equality Cohesion Council.

Of the six candidates on the ballot paper, that leaves Medway Councillor Tris Osborne, who is standing for the Labour Party, and Henry Bolton OBE. Both have frontline policing experience, but, in my opinion, Mr Bolton’s background makes him the best-suited candidate for the job. That said, I am not completely dismissing Tris as a possible PCC, as you will see later on in this article.

For the first time, I am heading into an election without being constrained by membership of a political party, so I am free to publicly support whoever I wish. I have decided to be so open about endorsing the UKIP candidate, despite no longer being a member of that party, partly because of his experience, but also because UKIP’s stated policy is that their PCCs should be answerable to the needs of the people who elect them, and not to a national party whip. That independence is crucial in such a key role.

Henry Bolton has spent 21 years in the military, as an infantry and intelligence officer with the British Army. Upon leaving the Army, Mr Bolton spent six years as a civilian police officer with Thames Valley Police, before being seconded to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office by the European Union as Security and Defence Planner for Georgia, Libya, Ukraine, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

You can read Mr Bolton’s full biography for yourselves (if you can forgive the website looking like something from the early 2000s – no one is perfect, after all!), but of particular note are his work as the Head of the International Police in Croatia, leading “a number of international diplomatic missions to help various governments to reform their police, border guard and other security services” and assisting “governments in building cross-governmental, multi-agency coordination and strategies to enhance national security and the rule of law”. He was awarded the OBE in 2013 for “Services to International Security”.

If ever there were a candidate for whom the role of PCC was created, it must surely be Henry Bolton. If the voters of Kent wish to repeat the 2012 result and elect a candidate on the strength of their skills and experience, rather than their party, then, on 5 May, they should mark one of their crosses next to Henry Bolton and ensure that their next Police and Crime Commissioner is a man with the experience to get the job done, and get it done right.

Don’t lose your second vote

Don’t forget that you have two votes in the PCC election and can support a first- and a second-choice candidate. If no candidate has more than 50% of the vote after all first-choice votes have been counted, then all but the two highest-polling candidates are eliminated and any second-choice votes from those ballot papers will be added to the remaining two candidates. In the 2012 election, Ann Barnes, the ultimate victor, attained 46.8% of first-choice votes and won thanks to favourable second-choice votes.

Tris OsborneI will be casting my second vote for the Labour Party candidate Tris Osborne. Again, this is not because I have suddenly started supporting Labour (far from it), but because he is local (to Medway) and also has front-line experience in policing as a former Special Constable. He is very approachable and I believe he would be a strong voice for both Kent residents and Kent Police.

Government’s £9m EU referendum propaganda is a betrayal of trust

European Union
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Her Majesty’s Government is to spend £9.3m of your money campaigning for the UK to remain a member of the European Union.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced last night that the British Government will spend £9.3m of taxpayers’ money on a targeted campaign to win June’s referendum on EU membership.

In a clear example of a broken promise, the Government is to spend £6m on a 16-page glossy brochure which will be sent to every household in the UK warning:

If the UK voted to leave the EU, the resulting economic shock would put pressure on the value of the pound, which would risk higher prices of some household goods and damage living standards. Losing our full access to the EU single market would make exporting to Europe harder and increase costs.

Last June, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stood in the House of Commons and said:

It will be for the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ campaigns to lead the debate in the weeks preceding the poll . . . I can assure the House that the government has no intention of undermining those campaigns

It seems the Government’s idea of not undermining the Leave campaign is to also spend £500k on design and a further £3m on producing a website and promoting it via social media. Facebook adverts have already appeared on some users’ News Feeds.

Given the strict spending limits (imposed by the Government) on both campaigns, the use of taxpayers’ money to campaign to remain in the EU gives the status-quo supporters a significant financial advantage. The Times claims that Remain’s total spending power will, therefore, be in the region of £33m, while the Leave campaign will only be able to spend £18m. The group which receives the official designation for each campaign will have their spending limit capped at £7m – over £2m less than the Government is spending on their own campaign.

Chairman of the Public Administration Committee Bernard Jenkin (a Tory MP) said:

Of course this is completely outrageous. In this one act, the government is going to be spending more than the official Leave campaign will be allowed to spend. It’s not as though the government isn’t already influencing the debate. This is not about a level playing field . . . and there’s a whiff of panic about it.

Meanwhile, one of the co-founders of the Grassroots Out campaign (which is hoping to be awarded the Electoral Commission’s designation as the official Leave campaign) Peter Bone (another Tory MP) said:

[This is] immoral, undemocratic and against what the government has promised. Many recent polls have shown that the majority of the UK public are actually in favour of leaving the EU so to spend their money on a pro-EU propaganda exercise is an inexcusable waste. The prime minister promised parliament that no taxpayers’ money would be spent promoting remain or leave. If this is not reversed it will seriously damage the prime minister’s reputation.

Despite promising that the Government would not interfere in the campaign in an official capacity, we have already seen that pro-EU cabinet ministers have been allowed to be briefed on pro-EU matters by their (taxpayer-funded) civil servants, while pro-Brexit cabinet ministers’ (taxpayer-funded) civil servants are not permitted to assist their political masters in preparing arguments for Brexit. This pro-EU propaganda, however, is on an entirely different level.

Whether you agree with Remaining in or Leaving the EU, you must surely agree that there are many, many better ways the Government could have spent £9m of our money. British voters were promised a free and fair in/out referendum, the result of which would be legally-binding. Free it may be, but, if the Government is using taxpayers’ money to favour one side over the other, then it is certainly not a fair fight.

And, if they can go back on their word with the Government now undermining one side of the debate, how can anyone trust them to honour the wishes of the British people if they vote to Leave the EU on 23 June?