Rochester and Strood by election

Tomorrow’s Rochester and Strood by election will see a victory for UKIP and an absolute trouncing of the Labour candidate.

That’s a shame (for we Labour party members).

However, this result will signal a wake-up call for all politicians in the UK.

It is pretty tricky for David Cameron and the Conservative party. I’m not sure what it means really, except a rejection of politics as a whole (big factor) and a rejection of moderate Conservatism in particular (small factor).

photoFor Labour I don’t think it is a rejection of Ed Miliband in particular (although I may be wrong there) but a rejection of the fact that Labour doesn’t appear to stand for very much these days.  I rather like Ed Miliband, and I voted for him in the leadership contest (not so many people will admit that these days).  Yes, he is nerdy. No, he isn’t at all wildlife-aware. But I feel that not only is he a thoroughly good person (and no I don’t think beating his brother in a democratic election makes him bad), I also have a feeling he will make a much better Prime Minister than Leader of the Opposition.  I hope I get to find out, and I hope I’m right.

I’m sure that the Labour candidate in Rochester and Strood is a talented and gifted person but she clearly hasn’t won over the voters of Rochester and Strood, and she hasn’t won me over either.

By Noel Reynolds (Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Noel Reynolds (Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I contacted Naushabah Khan a while ago to ask for her position on the Lodge Hill development. She was quite quick to get back to me and sent me an email which I will not share with you but I didn’t find it very convincing. I suggested she posted her points on this blog but they have never appeared so you can’t judge them for yourselves.

There has been a persistent rumour that Ms Khan works for a company engaged by Land Securities who are the proposed developers for Lodge Hill. Ms Khan certainly works for Curtin&Co and Land Securities certainly have engaged Curtin&Co to work for them just down the road in Ebbsfleet. Looks a bit like the rumours could be true.

I want to believe in Labour – I’m finding it quite difficult right now (but I will still be delivering leaflets soon for my excellent local MP Andy Sawford who asked an excellent question of David Cameron – see below).

It doesn’t seem very long ago that I was spending a lot of time on the Hoo peninsular fighting the proposal to build an airport there. The Labour MP at the time was the character, the rebel, the thinker, Bob Marshall-Andrews who held onto the seat by the narrowest of margins in the 2005 general election.  He was a character who seemed to stand for things.


From Hansard:

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): Which Prime Minister showed up for the UK in the negotiations at the G20 on climate change—was it the Prime Minister who told the public that he wanted to hug a husky or the Prime Minister who tells his own right-wing Back Benchers that we ought to cut the “green crap”?

The Prime Minister: It was the Prime Minister who introduced the world’s first green investment bank, which is now being admired and potentially copied around the world; it was the Prime Minister who supported and helped to put on the table the legislation that made a big difference in this country and that is delivering cuts in carbon emission; and it was the Prime Minister who has restarted the nuclear programme, by going ahead with Hinkley Point C, after 13 years of a Labour Government who talked and talked about nuclear power but never did anything about it.


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36 Replies to “Rochester and Strood by election”

  1. I'm thoroughly depressed by the total lack of understanding of the natural world (both in terms of its 'usefulness' to people and its intrinsic value) by all political parties and most individual politicians.

    I'm similarly depressed that people who have previously voted Labour can change their mind because of a single issue and vote for the most right wing party in mainstream British politics. It makes me question my belief in democracy or perhaps it's an issue based on lack of real information expressed clearly.

  2. Mark - I agree with you on most things, but I draw the line at Ed Miliband.

    There is no way on this earth that he will make a good Prime Minister.

    His brother on the other hand...

    1. Ed - well it's interesting isn't it? I did say a better Prime Minister than Leader of the Opposition - but I think he really might be good.

      Would David have been better? I didn't think so at the time of the leadership election but who knows? It's tempting, in any walk of life, to look at the present incumbent and, if they are having a tough time of it, to think how much better things could have been if another had got the job. But that's maybe wishful thinking. Both Milibands are clearly bright, talented and dedicated, but I always thought David a colder, less 'human' version of Ed. If David had got the job, would we all be wishing for Ed by now? It's quite possible I think. Football managers suffer from this a lot - ask David Moyes.

      1. I think David has already proved himself to be a good statesman as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. He certainly has presence and that's an essential quality for a Prime Minister. I've never seen even a flash of it in Ed.

        How was David Miliband as Environment Secretary in 2006? I can't remember.

        1. Ed - DC was a very impressive SoS for Environment although showed precious little interest in wildlife. If you have a copy of Fighting for Birds close to hand then have a look at pp219-20 for a short account of how impressive DC was, and p234 for a less complimentary view of him from me.

        2. Ed - by the way. You recently passed 100 comments on this blog. I believe I have enjoyed every one of them. Thank you for your valuable contribution.

          1. Mark - what a milestone! Thank you. I'm glad my, often brief, contributions have been appreciated.

            Will refer to 'Fightings for Birds' later.

          2. Your comment appears to have drawn a 'dislike' Mark. Someone clearly hasn't enjoyed my comments, nor deemed them a valuable contribution.

            I wonder if they have the balls to say why below? They'll probably just 'dislike' this too.

          3. I don't know why you bother with the 'Likes/Dislikes' Mark. It gives the trolls the opportunity to vent their spleen incognito and is all rather unhealthy in my opinion.

          4. Ed - I wonder sometimes too. But actually, overall, I find them quite informative. If I could ditch the likes/dislikes on comments without losing them from the blogs themselves, then I might (but I might not). However, that doesn't seem to be possible (although if i chose some different software and spent ages uninstalling and installing then I'm sure it would be).

            I'll 'like' your comment right now.

    2. If David cared about Britain he wouldn't left his constituents in the lurch after losing the leadership challenge.

      Its also fair to say the right wing press would be going just as hard at him as they do with Ed one only has to look at the banana picture to know things would be little different.

      DC is probably is a better PM than Ed but DC is too under control from the extreme elements in his party.

  3. I think unfortunately David Milliband would have made a better leader of the Labour Party and indeed he was the selected candidate of the main party and members but was rejected by the Trade Unions I believe. Ed was perceived as being more pro Trade Union at the time. What a short sited decision. Ed Milliband may be a niece guy but the Labour Party and its policies do need pulling together "pronto" and why they do not embrace nature much more than they do I just don't know.

    On a wider front, I am constantly appauled by the lack science based people in politics and the media. They seem to be almost all lawyers, economists, historians, or journalists with zero scientific knowledge. This must be at least part of the reason why there is so much "mumbo jumbo" and erroneous statements made by the politicians, the TV and the press. The discipline of science makes one check one's facts and make sure the issue is properly understood before making statements and writing articles. Politicians and the press in Germany and Holland, for example, seem to suffer far less from a lack of a good science base.
    I think it is is truism, that when science is lacking then politics poliferates and when science is properly applied then there is far less room for politics, which must be to the good. Sadly, we see little science application by the press, the media and politicians in this country,

  4. Hi Mark, a very interesting blog as ever. I agree fully with the first comment here on the lack of understanding by politicians of the importance of the natural world and am deeply concerned by the continued shirking of responsibility in this regard.

    As a North Kent resident (but unable to vote tomorrow) I feel continually let down by local parties' attitude to the environment and the immense development pressure this area is experiencing. It's a brilliant place to live and our rich landscapes and natural heritage is right at the heart of that.

    In one sense it has therefore been pleasing to see certain parties take strong stances against the Lodge Hill development. However this commitment will only mean something if it is backed up with a proactive, responsible attitude to wider environmental issues. Then we might see some real leadership. Given Naushabah Khan's reported links to Land Securities I would find it hard to give her my vote, instead I'd like to wish the Green Party good luck tomorrow!

  5. As a woolly liberal I'll be voting for Nick Harvey + not much point voting Labour in North Devon. I don't think Labour will get in, you have to look at the opinion polls and however much one might like Ed I just don't think they can see him as PM. Politics is a vicious business but there you go. I have always thought they should have Alan Johnson as a leader post Blair and also post Brown.

      1. Mark - I suspect probably we agree on quite a lot - you just find it hard to admit it :P. People always like to focus on what separates them rather than what unites them don't you think?

  6. I'm going to stick my head above the parapet here. Sort of. Let me start by saying that I can't imagine ever having a long enough spoon to consider voting for UKIP. There's a long list of reasons why this is the case but their anti-environmental ignorance is near the top of the list.

    But...but. There is a very direct connection between recent high net immigration and development pressures. Building enough housing (and the associated roads, and schools, and water supply etc) to relieve existing unmet demand cannot help but have a serious impact on wildlife and landscape. But the growth of population, due almost entirely by net immigration, in England over the last decade or so means that we need to build at least 100,000 new homes each year just to stand still.

    The obvious link between pressure on the environment here and the surge in net immigration seems to be an elephant in the room that no-one in the environmental movement is willing to address. If we do continue to have population growth at this rate then lowland England as we know it will face destruction on a scale at least comparable with the Industrial Revolution and the 70s - 80s agricultural intensification. It's unavoidable.

    One very good thing about the EU is that it is now possible to talk about immigration without it being a cypher for race. It's about numbers. I think the numbers are a big problem.

    Anyone else willing to accept that the scale of net immigration is an environmental issue for the UK? or if not, why not? UKIP certainly isn't the answer but that doesn't mean that we should pretend that net immigration on this scale is sustainable without huge damage to the landscapes and wildlife we love. And it's very hard to see how the level of net immigration can be addressed while we're in the EU. I wish it were not so, but I think that's the reality.

    I've said it now...

      1. Circus, I never claimed there was only one factor. There's obviously demand and need (not the same thing) for a variety of reasons. But there's not a lot to be done about more single adult households, for instance, nor about the fact that people live longer than they used to. Etc. But at some level it all comes down to supply and demand, and having well over 100000 new people a year to house doesn't make that easier to solve. There are all sorts of things to be done if there was the politcal will (I which I don't see any party having right now); address the issue of second homes, address empty houses, try harder to have jobs where there are houses available rather than where they aren't, etc etc,. But while we need another 100000 homes a year just to stand still, none of these could do more than buy breathing space even if there was the political will.

    1. I wonder what other factors directly correlate with "development pressure and the need to build housing etc"???? Can there really only be one??

      1. Richard - I'm no UKIP supporter. But if we did leave the EU I can't see the rest of the EU wanting their c.2.4 million citizens already living in the UK forceably repatriated and looking for non-existent jobs back home, so I can't see why they'd want to forceably repatriate our 1.8 million citizens living in the rest if Europe either. The Scots never proposed removing all Englishmen post independance or vice versa either - you start from where you are. I don't think anyone left of the BNP is proposing expelling anyone already working here here. It's a bit of a scare story straw man argument.

        By the way, the number of UK citizens living abroad is about 1.8m according to the FT, not 3 million. It's a roughly static figure, if anything falling as the Eurozone economy stays shakey. Meanwhile the net immigration figure is still about 200,000 people a year, hence my figure of 100,000 new homes just to stand still.

        There's lots of unhelpful emotive politics on both sides of this argument - can we stay on topic re the environmental impacts of having another 200,000 people a year to house, year after year?

    2. What UKIP hasn't and dare not say is if (increasingly likely when) we leave the EU, what they will do with the c. 3 million UK citizens currently living in other EU countries that will suddenly have no right to live there and potentially be required to return. I wouldn't mind suggesting that a much higher proportion of these will be post-retirement and therefore have a greater demand on the NHS, let alone housing demand than those who come here to work.

      As for Lodge Hill. It has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with local politics. Medway, like all Councils, are now required by law to draw up a plan on where they will allocate housing. I have heard that allegedly all the Councillors on the planning committee represent wards that don't include Lodge Hill. So, knowing 1000s of new houses in their ward would be unpopular and possibly cost them their seat, they were, I suppose, more than happy to vote for a huge housing development in a ward none of them represent. The fact that the site is a SSSI would, in their minds, mean it would get called in by the SoS (normally Mr. Pickles but he's extracted himself from this decision as he is an RSPB member). If so, local councillors can absolve themselves from the final decision. If the public inquiry confirms the decision, it was central Government. If the public inquiry overturns the decision then back to square one. Either way, local Councillors can avoid responsibility.

      Such is life.


  7. How Ironic... I was having a wee sentimental moment.... as I was reading this blog I was listening to the old Genesis album Foxtrot...ah the 70's....and on came the track "Get 'em out by Friday", just at the moment I found out what service Curtin&Co did for a living. Nice bunch.

  8. I must say of the Milliband brothers I much prefer Ed to David, if nothing else David was too tainted by being a promoted by Blair, the best tory ever to lead the Labour party. The unions probably preferred Ed because he and his policies are about people not big business. As to tomorrow if I lived there I certainly couldn't vote labour, I'd certainly not vote UKIP or Tory even with a gun to my head so it would have to be green. Yes they may well not win but democracy is often not about winning but having the courage to do what you think is right. But whatever happens I want the nightingales to win!

  9. Even the thought of either Milliband becoming PM is depressing. Not as depressing (or frightening) as Boris Johnson or George Osborne but still profoundly sad. When did we start to set our sights so low? I could personally train any trainee manager from Sainsbury's (maybe Waitrose?) to be at least as convincing as Ed. To anyone who thinks that it's not that easy to match David Cameron on form I'd remind them that he never had to do a late shift on the till on a Friday night

  10. Luckily every voter with a social and environmental conscience has one very well fitting choice (and it is strange why more don't take that choice).
    There is time for Labour to win me back over before the general election but if I were voting tomorrow it would certainly be Green, I guess my dream would be for enough Green MPs for a Lab/Green coalition and my nightmare would be for a Conukip one...

  11. I'm afraid Labour have gone down a blind alley with Milliband in complete denial about past mistakes and hazy, even worrying policy- particularly on the enviroment. If they had any passion and vision Alan Johnson would be leader. In contrast to the rest he shows humility and good judgement. He's also come from a background most of us can relate to.


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