P-8: The city of Stoke doesn’t change, but its voters might

Some things in politics never change and always make you giggle. The other morning I was out delivering some addressed envelopes and I found the house number I was looking for and dropped the letter through the door. As the envelope dropped through the door I twitched. As I got back to the gate there was the street sign telling me I had got the end of the previous street mixed up with the start of the next, yet the number on my envelope had matched.
This morning I laughed I delivered the same round before breakfast.  I realised that this little dilemma had foxed me back over twenty years ago when I was first active in Shelton politics.  Where The Parkway ended and Ridgeway Road started had always tripped me up.  So to the residents of 89 of both The Parkway and Ridgeway Road a request “can you swap letters you got from the Lib Dems as I mis-delivered them the other day?”
But thinking of things in Stoke-on-Trent that don’t change – two others come to mind.  Fred Hughes – former political animal, local historian and all round good egg.  I have been reading his musings in the Sentinel and was delighted to bump into him at one of the election night hustings.  Largely unchanged I was cheered by his warmth, charm, smile and friendship. It had been along time since I last saw him and it was lovely to catch up albeit briefly.

Equally unchanged and equally good to reacquaint myself with, was Mick Temple of Staffordshire University.  Ever real, gritty, with a deep intense smile, Mick is a constant of the commentary of Stoke’s politics.  But when he writes his columns in The Sentinel I was struck by three fond memories – one was his narrative was always spot on, second was that his conclusion is invariably wrong and third was his unflinching understanding that the answer was going to be the Labour Party.  Let me add as by-line and by way of public declaration that Mick is a member of no-party, but his wife was a candidate to be the Labour nominee this time but was beaten by Gareth Snell.
Now whenever I was involved in Stoke politics Mick was someone to whom I turned for advice and as a sounding board – I always value other political traditions and even if we disagreed I wanted to listen.  Now Mick accepts he often wrongly predicts election results, but in illustrating his example with the Eastbourne by-election he cannot bring himself to name the Liberal Democrats.  When I told him I was going to try and win a ward in Stoke,  he said I couldn’t win, it was a Labour town.  I was duly elected and served Stoke West ward from 1998-2002.  When Independent candidates started standing for the first time in the City under the Stoke-on-Trent Alliance, Mick said they would crash and fail.  Cllr Janine Bridges and Cllr Lee Wagner still serve on the Council 20 years later.  When the mayoralty was created he told me Labour would always win and an independent candidate would not have the party machinery. Mayor Mike Wolfe was duly elected as the first Independent Mayor.
But despite this I find Mick’s analysis challenging, interesting and thoughtful, but my fear, and this was repeated in the pages of the Stoke Sentinel and on the platform at Staffordshire University is that his own progressive left leaning commitment to society blinds his understanding of the views of the electorate.
So when Election Day comes round on 23rd February, you can make your own mind up.  One thing is unchanged – the City is yet again able to throw off the yoke of Labour, as they did for me in my ward, as they did for the Mayoralty, as they did for the independent councillors and as they can again this time.  But if you see my friend Mick Temple, chat about politics, do, but whisper the words Liberal Democrats gently to him… he’s not confident in predicting our success. But as he admits himself, he often gets it wrong.

* Ed Fordham is a councillor on Chesterfield Borough Council and runs Brockwell Books of Chesterfield, selling many thanks, not least ephemera he bought from Liber Books over the last 25 years.

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5 Comments

  • Fred Hughes – good guy!

    And good to catch up with one of my postcard customers today, Ed … 🙂

  • Chris Bertram 15th Feb '17 - 9:29pm

    Well, UKIP’s campaign is collapsing in a heap, the Labour candidate has had to apologise for off-colour tweets, and the Tory campaign is said to be invisible. What’s our strategy to capitalise on this?

  • The turnout will be low and the Brexit vote will be split 3 ways. You have to thiroughly target the 30% who voted Remain and get them to turn out in droves. 70% split into 3 is less than 30%. Even split into 2 gives only a 5% lead which can easily be overcome if you consider the ethnic vote going to LibDems. It’s only the lack of confidence that will defeat the LibDems.

  • “As I got back to the gate there was the street sign telling me I had got the end of the previous street mixed up with the start of the next, yet the number on my envelope had matched.”

    I trust you were either shot or at at the very least sent the re-education camps (AKA the RISO in the basement). Simply no excuses 🙂

    On a more serious not – absent any email to ask this via – where does Zulfiqar stand on Part 3 of the Digital Economy Bill. Will be back Baroness Benjamin’s amendments?

  • Maurice Leeke 16th Feb '17 - 12:56am

    “How do we capitalise on this ?”

    Boots on the ground. I have booked 4 days in Stoke before the 23rd. The more people helping Zulfiqar Ali the merrier. Do join me.

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