P-9. What Labour just don’t get about Stoke-on-Trent

So tonight was the biggest single hustings that will take place in Stoke-on-Trent Central. Hosted by Staffordshire University and The Stoke Sentinel this was 8 of the invited candidates – including the British National Party and the Monster Raving Looney. It was quite an affair.

But at one point, having stumbled previously, the UKIP candidate was challenged to name again the 6 towns of the City and he managed it just. He didn’t forget Fenton (damn you Arnold Bennett), but he still called it Stoke not Stoke-upon-Trent. I suspect he doesn’t know the reasoning or the difference of the Stoke-on-Trent versus Stoke-upon-Trent. And then the Labour candidate followed it up a bit later by saying he would “fight for the City”. I groaned as he said it. And there in a nub is the fundamental issue here.

I’m sure the Labour candidate wants to “fight for the City”, in the way that he fights for the village of Silverdale where he lives or Newcastle-under-Lyme where he is on the Council. But repeating the mantra and by just blandly fighting for the City he perpetuates the mistake of 70 years of Labour before him.

Stoke-on-Trent is a complex places that grew up over time, is a federation and has a complex industrial heritage. In geographic terms it is a linear city, not a radial city. Yet for year, Labour nominees, unaware of the reality and the history just “fight for the City” because that is their short cut for not being from here or of here. The drive to push Hanley as a city centre is false, wrong and stupid. It has sought to break the other five towns and lead to years and millions of wasted pounds in marketing and false economies. Shopping centre yes, City centre no.

In fact what is available in this by-election is the chance to look again at this proud, localised, federated City and plot forwards an industrial strategy based on localism, community, ideas, heritage, entrepreneurial instinct and proud people who work hard. What I fear will happen is the blunt instrument of political ambition – “fighting for the City” blind to the opportunities available, blind to the uniqueness of Stoke-on-Trent and ignorant of the realities on the ground.

Instead of being depressed about these fears however, I have decided to do something about it and have taken time off to come and work for Dr Zulfiqar Ali – he is of this city, it is his home, he lives in the towns and he knows the local area. He was on the council representing Shelton, Etruria and Hanley – he understands the importance of the canals, the railways, the communities and the diversity and he will be thorough and assiduous in standing up for the residents. What he will not do is make bald statements that lack understanding, nuance or reality. That is why I am supporting him. I hope you will too.

* Ed Fordham is a party member and activist in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

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  • Chris Bertram 14th Feb '17 - 10:50am

    All very interesting, but how did Zulfiqar Ali do at the hustings? Did he come across as the best of the lot? How did the assembled audience react?

  • Thank you, Ed Fordham, for reminding us (or at least some of us like me) that Liberalism is not just about great national and international issues; it is also about love of locality.

  • Zulfi was the best i have seen him, considered, slow, calm, clear, articulate and on health head and shoulders above the rest – i was proud to be there with him. and having done exactly the same debate at the same university in the same seat exactly 20 years ago against mark Fisher MP i know how hard it can be and Zulfi was superb.

  • Maria Pretzler 14th Feb '17 - 2:11pm

    Sorry…. random comment from somebody who does Ancient History.
    The fact that anybody (let alone a LibDem) still represents Etruria gives me great joy.

  • Guardian this morning as reported in by “Political Betting” web site:
    “Snell’s controversial Tweets won’t cause switching to UKIP but could depress turnout

    In this day and age I had take it almost as read that before a candidate is selected for a high profile by-election defence then there is some serious examination of what he/she has published on social media to check wther there is anything that could prove problematical.

    As the Guardian reports:-

    “..Labour’s candidate in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election has apologised for a series of offensive tweets aimed at women on TV programmes including BBC Question Time, Loose Women and The Apprentice.

    In unguarded posts from several years ago, Gareth Snell called panellists on ITV’s Loose Women “squabbling sour-faced ladies”, described Janet Street-Porter as a “polished turd” and said a “speccy blonde girl” on BBC’s The Apprentice should “piss off”.

    After Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, appeared on BBC’s Question Time, Snell tweeted: “Diane, you are great, then you say something incredibly arsingly stupid.”..

    UKIP, which has had its own problems in the past of candidates saying sexist things, has been quick to go on the offensive. After the statements by its candidate, leader Paul Nuttall about things he’s done/not done UKIP was quick to seize on the Garth Snell Tweets.

    This sort of thing can depress turnout. If any campaign will be helped by this it will be the LD one which has been running an extensive ground operation and its candidate, a cardiologist at the local hospital, has been a councillor in the area.

    In addition apparently Monsieur Nuttall has been caught out on a radio interview over Hillsborough again.

    There will be vacancy for a Doctor at University Hospital once Z A has been elected!!!!!
    Question will it be filled or the post lost.
    Mike Smithson

  • Nuttall continues to unravel. :
    “Ukip leader admits claim that he lost close friends at Hillsborough was false” i hour ago,

  • nvelope2003 14th Feb '17 - 3:52pm

    I understand that it is Mr Nuttall’s hat which is putting many people off. I am not surprised.

  • Labour’s biggest strategic mistake in Stoke and nationally is to regard UKIP as a threat whilst ignoring the fact that a third of potential Labour voters are abandoning them for either the Lib Dems or Tories.

  • Is this the same Mr Nuttall as Dr. Nuttall, the ex-Tranmere Rovers star and long-time resident of Stoke?

  • “Labour’s Stoke byelection candidate apologises for offensive tweets aimed at women”


    I don’t think it will cost the labour party many votes, but it might send a few over to the Lib Dem side.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Feb '17 - 5:11pm

    The Tories already have a Nuttall. Two would be two many.

  • I’m now confused about the Labour candidate in this by-election. Is the Labour Brexit convert who has tweeted offensive remarks about women the same person as the progressive candidate anointed by “More United”?

  • George Flaxman 14th Feb '17 - 9:24pm

    For what it’s worth, which may not be much, the Internet poll doing the rounds today shows an interesting situation…

    48% Zulfiqar Ali (LibDem)
    41% Gareth Snell (LAB)
    03% Jack Brereton (CON)
    08% Paul Nuttall (UKIP)

    Total Votes: 146

    Interesting because these kind of things rarely show the LibDems doing well !.

  • Chris Bertram 14th Feb '17 - 10:23pm

    @George Flaxman – Excellent, make sure The Sentinel hears all about it.

  • In the world of fiction, Nuttall is a name that is reserved for belligerently authoritarian characters and miscreants.

    For instance, when Harry Worth went into the Labour Exchange (“So you don’t have any truck with the Conservatives?”), he met Mr Nuttall, whom he insisted on calling “Mr Nutter”, much to Mr Nuttall’s intense annoyance.

    Then there was an episode of Z Cars where a Borstall abscondee by the name of Raymond Nuttall chanced upon a factory occupation. “Win a little, lose a little,” was his motto, though I doubt if he was referring to election campaigns.

    As for “Dr” Paul Nuttall, I am unable to recall a by-election candidate implode so completely mid-campaign. Even Deirdre Wood in Greenwich succeeded in holding on to her core supporters.

  • I am sure that Ed is right about ‘getting’ Stoke on Trent and its 6 towns. It is even important to be aware of the other communities, like Meir, where we lived. It is not just Longton overspill, and the same will be true of Chell and Etruria. The No 3 bus used to go from top to bottom of the city and the No 6 similarly. Very confusing to people used to radial cities with their ‘city centre’ and their ‘inner city’ and their suburbs and green belt. But yes, there is ‘nice country round’ as they say.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Feb '17 - 9:52am

    Help your local hospital: “get some medical students, dress them in medical greens and deploy them at reception in a cancer ward” Michael Lewis “The Undoing Project, a friendship that changed the world ” based on the work of psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. ISBN 978-0-241-25473-8 Penguin Random House 2017
    The author quotes Voltaire “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.”
    Hospitals are dangerous places, the most dangerous part is the elevator button, because of the risk of spreading contagion.

  • Michael Berridge 18th Feb '17 - 4:47pm

    Let us not blacken the name of Nuttall @Sesenco. I grew up with Nuttall’s English Dictionary, “Compiled by the most eminent Lexicographers”, and as an appendix it had a short account of Esperanto of which I remember only the sentence
    Donu al mi la plej dolcan orangon
    “Give me the sweetest orange”.
    A forerunner of “have one’s cake and eat it”?

  • @Michael Berridge: I think, Michael, that “the most eminent lexicographers” were close personal friends of Paul Nuttall. Paul Nuttall’s most recent statements certainly sound like desperanto.

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