Medway Messenger: Thursday, 25 May 2017

Letters
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Over the past 12 months, I have used many more NHS services than most 27-year-olds, including emergency care, routine investigations and invaluable support form my GP.

I have accessed help from both a physical and mental health perspective and the care I have received has always been first class.

However, my experience has also allowed me to see first-hand just how stretched the NHS is.

For the service to survive into the 21st century without risking back-door (or even open) privatisation, a serious increase in spending is required.

But that increase must be sustainable against a fragile economy facing the uncertainties of Brexit.

Adding additional borrowing puts our nation’s financial security at risk, and cutting funding from other vital areas such as education or welfare would lead to separate funding crises in those departments as our population continues to grow.

I would, therefore, fully support the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to a 1p increase in personal taxation, providing the additional £6bn generated is ring-fenced for health and social care expenditure.

Adding 1p to personal taxation would have little impact on most people’s disposal income but it would make a huge difference to securing the future of one of the country’s most-loved – and most-needed – institutions.

Alan Collins Pérez de Baños
Goudhurst Road, Gillingham

Battlefield Medway 2015: Too Close To Call

Politics
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In the run-up to the 2010 General Election, I developed a computer model to project the vote share among the four main parties in Medway, which was largely accurate.

On the eve of polling day, I published my final projection results via Twitter, then sat through the count watching with interest to see how accurate my computer model had been.

The results were impressive:
 

Chatham & Aylesford
Party Candidate Projection Result Margin
Conservative Tracey Crouch 46% 46% 0
Labour Jonathan Shaw 36% 32% -4
Liberal Democrats John McClintock 15% 13% -2
UK Independence Party Steve Newton 4% 3% -1

 

Gillingham & Rainham
Party Candidate Projection Result Margin
Conservative Rehman Chishti 47% 46% -1
Labour Paul Clark 29% 28% -1
Liberal Democrats Andy Stamp 19% 18% -1
UK Independence Party Robert Oakley 5% 3% -2

 

Rochester & Strood
Party Candidate Projection Result Margin
Conservative Mark Reckless 50% 49% -1
Labour Teresa Murray 35% 29% -6
Liberal Democrats Geoff Juby 14% 16% +2
UK Independence Party Did not stand

The model, which combined local and national polling to provide a local picture, was, in most cases, correct within a reasonable margin of error. The only exception was in Rochester & Strood, were UKIP’s decision not to field a candidate against Mark Reckless made projecting the vote share there a little more complicated.

Over the weekend, Liberal Democrat blogger Chris Sams released his predictions for Battlefield Medway 2015. His analysis is quite detailed, and I would urge readers to take a look for themselves, but in essence he claims Rochester & Strood will be a Conservative hold, Gillingham & Rainham will be a Labour gain and Chatham & Ayelsford could go either way.

I thought this a little optimistic, and couldn’t see Chatham & Ayelsford being too closest to call, so I resurrected my computer model and updated the figures to calculate projections on where the votes currently lie:
 

Chatham & Aylesford
Party Candidate Projection Margin
Conservative Tracey Crouch 41% 38% – 44%
Labour Tristan Osborne 42% 39% – 45%
Liberal Democrats To be confirmed 4% 1% – 7%
UK Independence Party To be confirmed 11% 8% – 14%
Projected Result Labour Gain

 

Gillingham & Rainham
Party Candidate Projection Margin
Conservative Rehman Chishti 41% 38% – 44%
Labour Paul Clark 43% 40% – 46%
Liberal Democrats To be confirmed 4% 1% – 7%
UK Independence Party To be confirmed 9% 6% – 12%
Projected Result Labour Gain

 

Rochester & Strood
Party Candidate Projection Margin
Conservative Mark Reckless 42% 39% – 45%
Labour To be confirmed 40% 37% – 43%
Liberal Democrats To be confirmed 10% 7% – 11%
UK Independence Party To be confirmed 5% 2% – 8%
Projected Result Conservative Hold

The results speak for themselves. Rochester & Strood is projected to be a Conservative hold, Gillingham & Rainham a Labour gain and Chatham & Aylesford closest to call. Mr Sams, I eat my words!

The projection shows that the Liberal Democrat vote has virtually collapsed in Chatham & Aylesford and Gillingham & Rainham (as evidenced in both the national opinion polls and the 2011 local election), but has been largely resilient in Rochester & Strood. Conversely, UKIP has surged in Chatham & Aylesford and Gillingham & Rainham, but remained static in Rochester & Strood (they achieved only 4% of the vote in 2005) – perhaps largely due to the anti-EU nature of the incumbent Tory.

Of course, these projections are based, partly, upon mid-term opinion polling, and the political landscape may change dramatically between now and 2015. However, when you consider the figures involved, and particularly the margins of error included in the tables for information, one thing is clear:

At the moment, Battlefield Medway 2015 is too close to call!

Party identities in the coalition era

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As we enter the Party Conference season, I have already seen the predictable Liberal Democrat comments against the Conservatives, and Conservative comments complaining about the same.

I may be in a minority, or I may be in a majority, when I say: er, so what?

Throughout the duration of their existence, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats have been two separate parties, with two differing sets of policies and driven by two different sets of ideologies.

In May 2010, despite a swing to the Conservatives of 5%, David Cameron’s party fell 19 seats short of achieving an overall majority in the House of Commons. As a result, Mr Cameron offered to enter into negotiations with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrat to form a coalition government in the national interest.

After concessions were made on either side, the new coalition government took power on 11 May, led by the Coalition Agreement hammered out in the days preceding.

Note the terminology used: coalition, agreement, national interest.

On 11 May 2010 the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats did not merge as political parties and cease having two differing sets of policies driven by two different sets of ideologies. No, these still exist, and there is no reason why they should not continue to do so.

After the election, both parties recognised the need to form a strong, stable government to take the difficult decisions necessary for Britain. For the Liberal Democrats, that meant stomaching cuts and, most controversially, tuition fee rises. For the Conservatives, a referendum on AV and a constant voice of conscience from their junior partners.

More than two years on, and following a few setbacks, it would be fair to say the honeymoon is a near-faded memory. Each party feels reason to feel annoyed with the other, though are (usually) careful when considering whether (or not) to make their feelings public.

Being in government under such an agreement is not a reason to stifle free speech, the bedrock of British society. The Liberal Democrats feel aggrieved over reform of the House of Lords, let them say so. The Conservatives feel aggrieved over their response in opposing boundary reforms, let them say so as well.

It may make good reading in the media, it may even play in the hands of the Labour Party, but it is not going to stop the business of coalition government and making the important,difficult decisions between now and 2015.

And, crucially, sitting in a circle around a purple dinosaur singing “I love you, you love me” is not going to change the fact that, in 2015, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are going to be fighting two different campaigns, with two different sets of policies driven by two different sets of ideologies.