Having completed the first stage, at least, of the six constituencies I volunteered to do, I have decided unless anybody objects to carry on laying the foundations of some more Kent constituencies, starting with F&MK, which is another seat neighbouring my own and where I have in the (now fairly distant) past done quite a bit of campaigning work, largely in the Maidstone end of this constituency. After all this is only the 24th South East constituency to get an entry and there are 60 more to go! I hesitated with this one originally as I thought the Swale contingent on here might like to pick it up but maybe Pimpernal et al are too busy running their own council to stoop to this stuff
Faversham and Mid Kent constituency was created in 1997 when the former Faversham constitueny was abolished, and it comprises the eastern (Faversham) end of Swale borough and the eastern end of Maidstone borough. It is an overwhelmingly rural constituency with no large urban centre- Faversham is the largest town with a population under 20,000, but F&MK does include a sizeable part of Maidstone town and suburbs even though the centre of the county town is in the next constituency, Maidstone and the Weald. It does have a bit of a feel of a "bits and pieces" constituency with very little to give it much cohesion.
It is also very strongly Conservative. Given that the Maidstone end of the constituency is roughly double the size of the Faversham end (12 Maidstone wards to 6 Swale ones), and given Lib Dem overall strength in Maidstone, you might expect a stronger Lib Dem showing here than is actually the case. However if you look at local election results you will discover that these twelve Maidstone wards in F& MK have not returned a single Lib Dem in the last decade-Lib Dem strength in Maidstone borough is entirely in the other constituency. Labour is not much better- only the Maidstone ward of Shepway South occasionally returns a Labour councillor. Otherwise the only limits on Conservative hegemony will be a few villages returning Indies, and a flurry of short-lived Kippers elected around their peak at 2014-15. Generally, one might expect a similar Conservative dominance in the Faversham area, except for the Priory ward which has often voted Lib Dem, but in May 2019 there was something of a local revolution on Swale BC and as a result those 6 Faversham wards produced 5 Lib Dems,2 Greens,2 Labour and a solitary Tory. It made relatively little difference to the general election result those few months later.
The town of Faversham is more important commercially and industrially than its relatively small size might suggest. It has a history going back to pre-Roman times, and was quite an important port until the creek silted up. Faversham was a major ecclesiastical centre in medieval times, as perhaps suggested by the fact that two of the four wards making up Faversham town are called Abbey and Priory ( Davington Priory is better known in some circles these days as the home of Bob Geldof). It was particularly known for two significant industrial activities, brewing and the exposives industry, both of which really got going on some scale in the seventeenth century. Some of the breweries have come and gone, but Shepherd Neame, founded in 1698, remains a major employer. The explosives industry survived until well into the twentieth century, but never really recovered from the major accident of 1916, all 3 gunpowder works finally closing in 1934. In some ways the town has a rather different vibe to much of Kent, with its close links to London by road , rail and especially river. In some ways it feels more like a Midlands town. Against that, its surrounding countryside is classical Kent with a great dominance of orchards and market gardening.
That last aspect is one of the few common threads between the Swale part of the constituency and the Maidstone part. There are two great fruit farming areas, the one along rthe Swale around Faversham and the second in the low Weald south and east of Maidstone. They are separated by the high chalk ridge of the North Downs with its maze of tiny lanes linking and minute villages,, another separate world, but one with few people. Once down on Low Weald there are big bustling centres of a specifically Kentish sort of agriculture, which maybe makes for some similarities between, say, Ospringe near Faversham and somewhere like Headcorn, which otherwise seem worlds away.
The other world included in this rather oddly put together constituency is suburban Maidstone. At least three of the Maidstone wards here are definitely part of Maidstone town, south and east of the town centre. They are the two Shepway wards, North and South,and Park Wood. To the east of those lie three more wards which were once a group of separate villages now suburbanised to a greater or lesser extent: Downswood & Otham, Bearsted maybe , and even more arguably Leeds. Between them, these six wards form the third and roughly equal component of the constituency, to match the rural Weald area and the Faversham area. If places like Bearsted and Leeds are being pulled into the Maistone urban zone, there will be increasing pressure on some villages a little further out, particularly Harrietsham and Lenham, and this is where the greatest development pressure is now being found.
Shepway has a lot of council estates, and would have been solidly Labour in earlier times.
It certainly was when I canvassed it in the 60s and when we converted one Labour councillor to defect to us. His daughter sold records in Week Street music shop and we briefly went out together. It was a big estate and had confusing circular roads with awkward numbering systems which we only fully cracked by us with the aid of a postman member.