Published: 06:00, 29 December 2019
| Updated: 11:00, 29 December 2019
Political Editor Paul Francis picks out the highlights and the lowlights.
Delayed: The new franchise to run Kent’s train services won’t be arriving shortly —
It wasn’t a case of leaves on the line but value for money that prompted the government to scrap the bidding competition for the rail franchise held by Southeastern.
Transport minister Grant Shapps shunted the competition in to the sidings.
Why? In government jargon “no certainty that this would deliver envisaged benefits for passengers in a timely fashion.”
Kent MPs were unimpressed, saying the government had made a mess of the whole thing. Rail passengers, meanwhile, faced another year of eye-watering season ticket prices.
Nigel Farage: The Reboot —
Just when you thought he had finished with politics, Nigel Farage stepped back into the ring to launch the Brexit Party. In characteristically flamboyant fashion, he vowed to change politics “for good.”
He pulled off a coup by going on to win the European election and managed to persuade former Maidstone MP Ann Widdecombe to sign up.
But after deciding the party would not contest seats held by the Conservatives, he faced a backlash from members and four MEPs elected in May left and announced they were backing Boris Johnson.
Farage remains undaunted and announced plans to launch another party - the Reform Party. Which will campaign for voting system changes and the abolition of the unelected House of Lords under his leadership.
Theresa May calls time:
Sometimes in politics you need a bit of luck. Unfortunately, Theresa May found it in short supply during her stint in Downing Street and bowed to the inevitable, leaving office in June with an emotional final address.
Support among Kent MPs steadily drifted away with Tom Tugendhat, Tonbridge and Malling MP, summing up the feelings of many by declaring: "Leadership matters and it has been absent for too long."
High points? There weren’t many. Lowest point? That calamitous conference speech when she lost her voice, part of the set fell down and she was handed a P45 by a prankster.
At least she showed a sense of humour when she sashayed on to the stage at the following conference to the Abba song Dancing Queen.
Boris seals the deal in leadership battle:
After a lengthy series of hustings events which culminated in the two Conservative contenders pitching up in Maidstone in July, Boris Johnson waltzed to victory over rival Jeremy Hunt.
In a typically rambling acceptance speech, he road tested the slogan that he would deploy incessantly during the general election: “We are going to get Brexit done on and take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring with a new spirit of can do.”
He missed the October deadline but is back on track.
A changing of the guard at County Hall:
After 14 years - longer than Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair - the Conservative leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter decided it was time to stand aside.
He was not everyone's cup of tea but no-one could fault his commitment to the job or championing of Kent’s corner even if it left a few bruised and battered bodies along the way.
His successor was Sevenoaks county councillor Roger Gough, who described his predecessor as “a legend.”
Affable and popular among his colleagues, he beat off three rivals for the top job.
Operation Brock: A pantomime rehearsal —
There was derision over a dry run of the contingency plan to park 6,000 lorries on the former Manston airport site in the event that it might be needed as part of Operation Brock and a no-deal Brexit.
Just 89 lorries turned up to participate in a practice run that involved travelling to Dover and back again.
And it hardly mirrored what actually might happen — it was pre-planned and the police knew all about it.
Still it was a nice earner for the lorry drivers who took part who got paid £550. Not bad for being stuck in a traffic jam.
The Liberal Democrat flip flop in Canterbury:
Few parliamentary hopefuls could have had such a short career than Tim Walker.
Picked to fight the Canterbury seat, the journalist lasted barely a week. After appearing alongside Labour hopeful Rosie Duffield on KMTV's Paul On Politics and then sharing a lift back to Canterbury, he concluded he had no hope of winning.
As a consequence, he withdrew and urged people to vote Labour.
But party chiefs insisted there should be a Lib Dem on the ballot and hurriedly parachuted in Claire Malcomson from Dorking. An actress, it emerged that she had once appeared in a racy TV advert promoting a Belgian casino dressed in very little.
Where do you start? While Labour was confronted by an electoral meltdown and losing seats in supposed stronghold areas, the political map of Kent saw no change whatsoever.
The Conservatives made a clean sweep of all the constituencies in the county bar one: Canterbury, a lone citadel for a Labour party that was otherwise crushed; the Lib Dems imploded.
Canterbury also saw the first live broadcast election interviews with parliamentary candidates in a general election, watched by thousands.
Quotes of the year: