Scrolling Stories

The Market Place Massacre

By Richard Fleury and Frank Monroe

Something momentous just happened here.

For a long time, the people of our town have demanded to be heard. Nobody in power was listening. So, on Thursday, we turned out in record numbers to deliver our message at the ballot box. And that was the end of Tory Faversham.

When it came, the Conservatives’ extermination was so complete it surprised everyone. Not one single Tory was left representing Faversham on Town or Borough council. All gone. A clean sweep. Total wipeout.

Former Swale Tory Leader Andrew Bowles blamed his party’s annihilation on Brexit and the antics of Theresa May. As we saw from his glib responses to the racist retweet scandal, Bowles blames other people. It’s what he does. But while she may be the most bone-headed and incompetent Prime Minister in living memory (a hotly contested field), neither May nor Brexit had any significant impact on the vote here in Faversham.

The simple fact is that this complacent bunch of preening, self-absorbed Tories brought their mass defeat upon themselves. By running Faversham as their personal fiefdom they dug their own graves gradually, over a generation. With each self-serving decision and every pompous, sneering display of contempt for the community, they edged closer to erasing themselves from power.

They squandered millions of pounds of rate payers’ hard earned money on vanity projects including the Shoe Shop/Town Hall and the war memorial. Meanwhile they presided over needless austerity, standing by as cultural and social facilities such as the library, the swimming pool and activities for the town’s teenagers were underfunded or neglected.

They ignored their legally binding obligations as councillors. They obstructed positive grass-roots initiatives.They were secretive. They were petty. They engaged in vendettas against their critics, attempting to silence them with legal threats or a knock on the door from the police. They refused to explain their decisions. They behaved as if they believed they were answerable to no one and entitled to run our town as they wished. In short, they forgot that they were part of a democratic process and instead treated the electors with disdain.

They have paid the price for their arrogance. The people of Faversham had enough. As a community, we turned out to vote in impressive numbers to make sure that we finally saw the back of them and their like – never to return again.

In their place, we have a new Liberal Democrat-led town council and Lib Dems, Labour and Greens representing us on Swale. Both groups are younger, more diverse, more than one third female and full of new faces. The Faversham Eye congratulates and welcomes them all.

These people represent Faversham’s best chance yet to fulfil the enormous potential of the most vibrant and creative town in Kent.

But they have an uphill task. The responsibilities are great, as will be pressures from central government, from powerful developers and local vested interests. The ongoing weekly interest payments on the Town Hall alone will put a big hole in the public purse. But they start with a clean sheet, noble aspirations and hopes we can all share.

Let’s all hope that our new council seizes this opportunity to achieve something amazing. Perhaps now traditional tribal politics can make way for a more inclusive, collaborative, cooperative way of doing things, with people from all parties working together as they did to unseat Andrew Bowles.

The Faversham Eye will play its part. Where the new council performs well in the interests of everyone, we will celebrate. When they fall short, we will hold them to account. A moment like this may not come along again. If they throw it away, they will never be forgiven.

The politics of the past should not define our future. Democracy has come to Faversham. Let’s make it work.

Categories: Scrolling Stories

Tagged as:

17 replies »

    • Thank you for celebrating the demise of the Tory mafia. I have lived in or near Faversham since 1990 and when I arrived immediately loved it. I had begun to lose hope of stopping it’s decline as a real market town. Now I am optimistic and hope the whole community can rise up and support a new community approach.

  1. Very well said, and all of it can be applied to the whole of Swale (apart from the total annihilation, unfortunately), the people of Sittingbourne delivered a similar verdict on the Tories’ shocking record.

  2. You have very vividly described the dreadful situation in Faversham which lasted so long and led to such poor decisions. It wasn’t just one or two people who were responsible either. They were supported by a much wider group (many of whom were not standing this time) and it’s very exciting that that era is finished. Seeing so many younger people, and women, in office is good news. We wish the new councillors very good luck – they have huge challenges in front of them.

  3. How sad that the Faversham Eye has revealed itself to be just another fervent left-wing rag. What the town really needed was an impartial investigative journal without a party political agenda that we could all trust to apply scrutiny to all without favour, not a tiresome anti-Tory political pamphlet.
    The idea that “democracy has come to Faversham” is laughable rhetoric and just exposes the skewed underlying agenda. How do you think the Tories got into power in the first place?! Or does democracy only count if it means getting rid of the Conservatives? I guess so.
    The Faversham Eye is a wasted opportunity. What a shame.

    • There is a certain sort of person so far to the right as to disparage any criticism of Tory politics as ‘fervent left wing’. Similarly, any newspaper printing information which cast the Conservatives in a poor light is described pejoratively is a ‘rag’ or ‘political pamphlet’. Then, after this preposterously partisan display, they demand ‘impartiality’.

      We used to have a council like that.

      Can you name one impartial news source? The Daily Mail? The Telegraph? The BBC? The Guardian? They all have an inherent bias, however balanced they purport to be.

      Better to be independent. To hold views of your own and be honest about them while reporting the facts. As we’ve said many times before, we don’t bang the drum for any single political party. We have opinions, just like anybody else. But when we print a fact, it is a fact.

      We started the The Faversham Eye because our town needed information it wasn’t getting from any other source, certainly not from the local council. Democracy runs on information like an engine needs fuel. The better the quality of information, the better the quality of democracy.

      Ultimately our readers will decide our paper’s future. If you don’t want to be one of them, that’s your choice. The Faversham Eye is free, in every sense of the word.

      • I’m certainly not far right. I would feel just as disappointed if you came out in favour of the Tories and bashed all the other parties, as it happens, because it is a missed opportunity to serve the whole community.
        You compare yourself to national news outlets which operate in an environment where there is enough choice for readers to select one or more which reflect their world view. Properly done, local journalism is very different and traditionally serves a different purpose to an audience which will have varied political views but share an interest in what is going on in their community.
        You are of course spot on that some of those sources you quote – the Mail, Guardian and Telegraph – have inherent bias. However, they do not DENY they are politically biased. They openly declare that they are left-wing, right wing, pro-Labour or pro-Conservative, Indeed, their readership usually buy the papers specifically because of it. They certainly don’t claim to be politically impartial or unbiased!
        On the other hand, the BBC do strive to be objectively impartial – and while that is clearly unachievable in reality, have you ever seen them recommend to people which way to vote in an election?! So which of those two camps are you in? You can’t claim to be impartial AND tell people how you think they should vote, or indulge in such overt Tory-bashing!!
        You may well be independent, but that is not the same thing as impartial. You only have to read the language and opinions in the article above to see that. Singling out Tory councillors as “preening, self-absorbed”, “pompous, sneering” are not facts. They are interpretations based on a certain world view.
        By all means be a left-wing product and tout your political opinions in a freesheet. You pay for yourself, so it’s up to you. But please don’t pretend to be impartial or unbiased, or to represent the whole community, when you have clearly nailed your colours to an anti-Tory mast. That would be duplicitous,
        As I said, at this point in time with communities more divided than ever, it’s a missed opportunity to represent the whole community.
        Whether that is by design or simply by naivety, I don’t know. But it’s a great shame because the town needs a credible, impartial voice, and Faversham Eye could have been it. Sadly, it isn’t.

      • We don’t pretend to be a traditional or ‘proper’ local newspaper. We are a new kind of newspaper. We say so on our masthead. We agree that impartial and independent are two very different, although often confused, terms. That’s why we have never, do not and never will claim to be impartial or unbiased – because, as you quite correctly say it is unachievable in reality. We all have our own political biases, often based on experience. After living under Tory controlled councils for many years in Faversham, we have quite reasonably formed certain opinions about councillors’ behaviour, many of which have been vindicated by our investigations. That’s not the same as supporting a particular political party, which is why our voting recommendations included candidates from almost every party, Conservative Peter Flower included.
        We don’t claim to represent the whole community either. That would be impossible precisely because the community – nationally and locally – is so divided, as again you quite rightly say. We won’t get into which political party might be responsible for that…
        Finally, although we don’t pretend to represent the whole community, we do seem to be in tune with the majority. The recent election results do rather bear that out. As to whether we are credible or not, our 2,500 print issue readers and the 10,000 or so who read our work online think so and that is good enough for us. If you personally don’t enjoy our paper or find it valuable, that may be a shame for you but makes no difference to us.
        Other local news sources are available. Perhaps the Faversham News is more up your street.
        By the way, are you any relation to the journalist Brian Flynn who used to write for Rupert Murdoch’s rabidly right-wing national tabloid The Sun? The Brian Flynn who once wrote: ““A free society relies on journalists who do not know their place, who do not kow-tow to authority, refuse to give up in the face of pressure or intimidation (internal or external), and brave the frontline – both literal and metaphorical – to tell you what is actually happening, as opposed to what the people in power want you to believe is happening.”
        No, can’t be. Or surely you would have said so, in the interests of honesty and transparency, right?
        What was that famous Sun Falklands headline again…Gotcha?

  4. Absolutely brilliant article and spot on. Lived in The area for 37 years and at last not a Tory councillor in sight. Over the moon👏👏

  5. Well written and exciting times lay ahead. So glad to be rid of this greedy bunch. How did Bowles get back in after he was suspended for his Marxist comments? Did his pay his way? I have every confidence in our new council members .CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  6. Yes, I was a professional journalist and wrote for local and national papers across the political spectrum for decades. Much of my career was spent at The Sun, though for much of that period the paper supported Labour so if that is your perception of rabidly right-wing, perhaps it says plenty about where your idea of the centre is!
    I am fervently in favour of a free Press and of people’s right to express their opinion, and if you check my responses above you will see that I support yours, as you might expect. I wish there was more freedom of expression, not less.
    My point is merely that by choosing to take a left wing Tory-bashing stance in a local newssheet you needlessly cut yourselves off from much of the community you could serve, which is a great pity and a wasted opportunity. Your credibility among many as being able to assess issues in an even-handed manner is damaged by your overt position as a left-wing freesheet (just as it would if you had taken a position as a right-wing freesheet, incidentally). I don’t think that’s a particularly controversial point to make. But good luck with it – as you say, there’s an audience out there who support your political stance.

    • How many of your 20 years at the Sun did you spend berating Rupert Murdoch for publishing a divisive, biased, fervently political, tiresomely unbalanced rag with a skewed underlying agenda full of laughable rhetoric that failed to represent the whole of Britain, a national embarrassment of a ‘newspaper’ that hacked people’s phones and hired dirty private investigators?
      Such a wasted opportunity. What a shame. How sad.
      What was that Frankie Boyle joke? You can be a journalist or you can work for the Sun. You can’t do both.

  7. Brian you are missing the point. It just happens to be the Tories that have made a mess of Faversham Town Council. The Eye can’t be expected to criticise anyone else for that. They aren’t anti-Tory, they are anti-shambolic local government. Your comments make as much sense as labelling horse fans as anti-donkey.

  8. Well done Faversham Eye…good riddance to theTory Council! Power to the people, right on.

Leave a Reply