Some months ago the country was gripped with election fever, and a lot of focus was placed on South Thanet. After all, the leader of UKIP was standing as a parliamentary candidate in the constituency. As ever, opinions were divided in Thanet between whether to vote for or against Nigel Farage. The alternatives, however, were not ideal.
The Labour candidate, Will Scobie, created quite a stir and led a good campaign; however the voting public chose not to back him. This could well be due to his age and lack of experience, as many commented that while he was positive and appeared to have good intentions he hadn't held a proper, paying job. He did complete an internship, then became Mayor of Margate and progressed to local Councillor, so perhaps people felt he was attempting a career in politics rather than trying to actually make a difference. He said all the right things, though, and did well, considering the hurdles he had to climb.
Other candidates who received a very small share of the votes included the Liberal Democrat representative Russell Timpson, along with Ian Driver, who seems to change political parties more than most people change TV channels, something which probably worked against him when running on behalf of the Green Party. There were the independent candidates who all put up a good fight but were left trailing in the aftermath of the main three; Tory, Labour and UKIP. Then there were the alternative options such as Al Murray in full pub landlord mode and the Al-Zebabist Nation of Ooog.
The real decision was between Farage and the Conservative candidate, Craig Mackinlay. Either you voted for UKIP or you chose the one candidate who had a real chance of beating him. As it turns out, after over 70% of the constituency voted, the Tories won.
On the one hand, choosing to vote against UKIP was probably a very smart move. Nigel Farage publicly stated he would only serve the community part-time, instead focusing on his national UKIP work. Who wants an MP that doesn’t actually represent the people? Plus, for a lot of people, there was the entire UKIP policy to worry about, along with Farage taking credit for things like the HS2 that he had nothing to do with. Oh, and some casual racism.
On the other hand, Craig Mackinlay seemed to be the best option only because he had the biggest chance of winning. His campaign was vague at best, picking up on local issues without really understanding them, only moving to the area shortly before the election, and hiring a campaign manager from the Medway area. You would have assumed that he would hire local people, and he did, but not enough of them.
Ultimately we are now left with an MP that was really only voted in to prevent Farage taking the seat. The real challenge for Craig Mackinlay is to win over the local population.
It doesn’t matter what party he is aligned to, or whether you voted for him, we have to make the best of the choice we democratically made as a constituency. This man is representing us in government. The trouble is it doesn’t feel like he’s done enough to keep us on his side. If anything he has turned some people against him; from fracking to fox hunting, condescending replies to comments on social media, not having a clear and publicly visible point of contact as he has moved offices without telling anyone. It’s a shame.
The trick to public office is to represent the people. In the last few months since winning his seat, what exactly has Craig Mackinlay done? That’s not a rhetorical question. Admittedly it’s easy to criticise when the writer is not in the same situation as the subject of the article, so instead let’s end on a positive note.
Craig Mackinlay is our Member of Parliament, and has a fantastic opportunity to continue the progression that South Thanet has already seen in recent years. There are many issues that need to be addressed; considerably more than Manston airport, which seems to be the sole media focus. Now is the time for Craig Mackinlay to rise to the occasion and show us we made a sensible choice. Will he do it?
About Seb: When he is not writing guest posts for Thanet Star Seb Reilly
is a fiction writer and occasional musician from Thanet. Seb maintains a website at www.sebreilly.com