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Clegg’s in Kent, complete with dancers

Off the Record
Behind the scenes with political editor Paul Francis, Regional Press Awards weekly newspaper journalist of the year

• As if Ukip didn’t already have problems with some of its candidates, the expulsion of would-be Folkestone and Hythe MP Janice Atkinson over her
expenses was a new nadir. But you can’t say the party didn’t act quickly. The unfortunate Janice was suspended on Thursday, expelled on Friday and replaced on Tuesday. Talk about ruthless.
• As to her replacement Harriet Yeo, a former Ashford councillor, there were some grumbles about the lack of involvement of party members in the selection process, which was crowbarred into a weekend and decided by association officials, no doubt watched over by party apparatchiks. Still, any simmering resentment was contained and the discontents persuaded not to go public with their views. Not like the other parties, then.
• We didn’t expect to see much of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in Kent during the forthcoming campaign. But he has already been down once and is scheduled for another another three visits. No, it is not because Kent is a prime target area – far from it, if truth be told – but his appearance is down to the decision by the party to use north Kent as the location to film its party political broadcasts. Mr Clegg was at one stage seen walking past a troupe of dancing girls and smiling at them. “I wanted it to be a bit of fun,” he said. Judging by the opinion polls, fun may be In short supply for his party by May 7.
• The outcome may be uncertain but you can rely on Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who is standing in South Thanet, to be consistent. His first official visit on the campaign trail in Kent was, inevitably, in a pub – although not one in his own constituency but in the adjacent one of Dover.
• While the main party leaders have let the camera crews in to their kitchens to show they are normal people, sadly Nigel Farage is not among them. Off The Record was firmly told by his team that he wasn’t going to let anyone near his kitchen. Shame, we will now be deprived of the chance to plunder the political pun machine and refer to political pledges collapsing like souffles, mixing the right ingredients and undercooked policies.
• Kent’s longest serving MP Sir John Stanley of Tonbridge and Mailing bid farewell to the Commons last week and did so with a rather melancholy speech. In it, he spoke of how the most important job of MPs was to provide proper and effective scrutiny of the executive. “I have to be quite blunt…this House in relation to the executive has had its position weakened very, very substantially.”

• Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulOnPolitics for all the election news and gossip from the campaign trail.

Herne Bay Gazette, April 2nd 2015

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