Stoke-on-Trent Central is important beyond the Liberal Democrats

It’s gone midnight and I’m sitting here in the Wheatsheaf Hotel, on Snow Hill in Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent and I have been worrying about a number of things.

1. How do I get more hours in the day so I can deliver leaflets for longer?

2. How do we build the winning formula to get all our supporters out on the day on what will be a very cold day…

3. What will entice the hundreds and thousands of Liberal Democrats and, critically,  newbies to come and help here in this great and glorious city?

4. And most of all how do we make the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election the most positive and unexpected good news of 2017

I know this City, I love its heritage, I love its story, I love its structure and I love the unexpectedness.  And walking around you see the examples everywhere . Come out of the railway station and see the statue of Josiah Wedgewood, go up Hanley to see statues of Reginald Mitchell and Sir Stanley Matthews, the tributes to the Steel Workers, the Miners, the Potters and you can get lost in the myriad explanations of why Northwood is not Hanley or Birches Head and where Oakhill starts and Boothen ends.

But more than just that, the people here are just wow, lovely and very dear to me.  All are warm, open and welcoming.  There is an astonishing inclusivity about this place that is different, that is real and that is sincere.  Walking out to get some food tonight my ears  soon picked up accents and lilts from Dublin, from Poland, from Pakistan and yes from across the City of Stoke-on-Trent itself.

Now this all makes for a great political mix, but Stoke has had tough economic times and wages can be low and housing stock often unchanged.  When I was a councillor back in 1998 one of the campaigns I ran was the end of outdoor toilets in council and housing association properties within my own ward.

This is a city that Labour boast has always elected Labour MPs and they resent the suggestion that it might do otherwise.  I was here when the City’s political structures cracked and there was surge of first protest votes, then Independent candidates and councillors and subsequently an elected Mayor that would solve all the issues.  In different ways these hopeful moments failed and in fact raised a spectre of a far right movement of disenchantment.

It is that past story, put to bed 10 years ago with the defeat here of the BNP,  that Paul Nuttall and UKIP now wants to re-awaken and make his own personal gain.  I have been involved in many campaigns some party political, many not – but if I do nothing else then seeing Stoke-on-Trent as the line in the sand, the ground war, the battle that finally stops UKIP will be my proudest hour.

But stopping  that nasty grasping ambition of Paul Nuttall and UKIP needs your help and not just my desperate fears and concerns.  We need you here on the streets in numbers not seen before

Please, be under no illusion.  The Liberal Democrat campaign here in Stoke is about asserting our pride in this city, about making a commitment to be different, to hear the concerns of all residents and address them head on.  The Tories and UKIP and somewhat bizarrely Jeremy Corbyn and Stoke Labour Party seem determined to drive us down a hard Brexit.  That might meet their timetable and their personal prejudices, but it will do nothing but damage the local communities across this city.  In fact it will put at risk the factory jobs of the surviving Pottery industry and threaten the brilliant development of Staffordshire University and its international recruitment, placement and links.

So if any of these things matter to you please come up, come down or across and help even for a few hours – in one hour you can do at least 100 street terraces – literally.

If like me you believe in justice, inclusive communities, tolerance and a society that is based on respect and equality – come to Stoke-on-Trent and stop the UKIP political opportunism.  There will not be a better chance, and we have a great candidate in Dr Zulfiqar Ali and a strong positive message.  I’m here now, not sure what you are waiting for..?  From the bottom of my heart can I say, in advance, thank you.

If we win here and UKIP lose, we will do more than elect a Liberal Democrat MP – we will send out a message about what this country is, should be and will be.

* 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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  • Paul Griffiths 25th Jan '17 - 10:33am

    What I’m waiting for is the address of the campaign office.

  • The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Sheaf Street, Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent. ST1 4LW open 7 days a week from 10am

  • Paul Griffiths 25th Jan '17 - 11:56am

    Great! See you this weekend.

  • David Evershed 25th Jan '17 - 12:02pm

    Ed. If your objective is to stop UKIP winning then Lib Dems should not be fighting the seat and taking votes away from Labour, since that is what our campaign will do.

    However, my view is that Lib Dems should oppose all other parties equally. It is because none of the ideologies of the other parties are entirely liberal on both economic and social issues that the Lib Dems exist.

    If all you want to do is stop UKIP in the Midlands and the North then join the Labour party.

    Better though to be respectful of other political parties. Better to be positive and promote Lib Dem beliefs rather than be hateful towards one particular political party which holds different views.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Jan '17 - 2:12pm

    Ed and David Evershed

    There is within this excellent and informative article and the response from David , something we need to think about. By elections are not general elections. It is important for each , that each party rallies around. But outsides must not politically colonise a constituency if the mood within it is for rejecting outsiders ! We need to understand what at this juncture is going on in each area before we flood it with visitors or even leaflets.

    I know the traditional campaign rallies on leaflets, and this party emphasises that. But I heard of too many leaflets , too often in Richmond! Sarah won because she was also well placed to do well. And that constituency has a history of electing our party.

    Stoke and Copeland are not the same as each other , and nothing like Richmond.

    David makes a point about unity across parties if defeat of UKIP is paramount. I favour us standing , and campaigning to win. But what is the mood , and therefore as a result , what is the way we can appeal there, as not before ?!

  • Dear David Evershed, i think we are likely to take votes from ukip as labour. Many ukip voters are protest against establishment voters that used to come to us. Look at Sleaford, they are returning to us. One more week in Sleaford and we would have overtaken ukip

  • Andrew McCaig 25th Jan '17 - 2:41pm


    I suspect Stoke is a place where lots of leaflets will be a distinct novelty (much more so than Richmond Park). That is probably one reason why it had such a low turnout in 2015…

    I think you should trust the people in the Party who know how to win by-elections though

  • David Evershed: you lose me sometimes. The party that is currently taking most votes from UKIP seems to be the Conservatives.
    Lorenzo Cherin: Ed Fordham is talking about the Lib Dems winning the seat. To do that we have to defeat UKIP and everyone else, but primarily UKIP because the dramatic fall in the Labour vote will mean UKIP could win unless we strike and strike hard. If UKIP lose here they will probably collapse nationally. Labour, even if they lose, will not collapse in the same fashion. I live in the area, the seat has had 22% Lib Dem voting as late as 2010 and second place it is only due to the Clegg coalition and the seeming blindness that infected the party in 2013/4 that the vote fell so heavily in 2015, nothing else. With a really strong campaign resurrection is more than possible. People I am speaking to round here have more or less written Labour off, there will be a low poll and Labour could well finish third.Nobody thought we had a chance at the neighbouring Newcastle Under Lyme by election in the 80’s but it was very close and we actually won the votes on the day, losing because of Labours postal organisation. I
    was out delivering early morning leaflets at a local by election a few years later, a seat in Stoke Central, again “you’ve no chance”, well we won. We have been coming from nowhere, fourth place or no previous candidate and winning in the last 6 months using the intensive campaign methods. This is not a moment for self doubt but belief in our ability to succeed.

  • Having moved here in 1994 I wrote the articles precisely so you understood what could be done and why leaflets and a street campaign will work.

  • ‘Too many leaflets’ is a familiar cry in every by election. There will always be people who say that. But remember, many of them are Tory, Labour and UKIP voters. Of course /they/ don’t like getting a well-produced, persuasive LibDem leaflet every day, but they were going to vote against us anyway! Our top campaigners (I include Ed in that group) know what they are doing. An intense leafleting campaign is a key part of getting a good result.

  • Leekliberal 25th Jan '17 - 6:32pm

    Threakes is a local and says ‘ This is not a moment for self doubt, but belief in our ability to succeed.’ I also live nearby and share his regard for ‘potherbs’ and their willingness to embrace any party that genuinely wants to improve their lot in life after years of neglect by Labour. So if enough of us can put in the effort to support Ed’s splendid team anything is possible!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Jan '17 - 8:38pm

    Folks , presuming my lack of trust in those fighting these seats is missing the point!It is because I read what Ed says , and by the way I praised the article , in which he talks of the self respect and belief there in this city, that I was asking, as a result of comments made during the recent by-elections, whether local opinionated media, might spin it the the area was flooded by outsiders pushing against Brexit , scuppering the local democratic view and all the stuff lately ! Of course locally the street campaign and leaflets are key , anybody would think I was freshly minted in politics this afternoon !

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Jan '17 - 9:39pm

    Eh, Lorenzo, you always seem freshly minted! I hope Stoke, along with Copeland, will indeed be ‘flooded’ with Liberal Democrats and that soon. Ed, you write very well and should inspire support, and you do have the geographical advantage! But since the day I spent campaigning, partly with you, in the Witney by-election, I have waited eagerly to see if that splendid organisation could be reproduced elsewhere, and was sorry not to get to help your fine effort in Sleaford. Well, today (albeit a bit late), Rebecca’s agent arrived, so I hope all will be as dynamic now here as it was in equally rural Witney. We have in both constituencies a really good chance to beat the Kippers, for what have they to offer but threadbare swagger? Ask them why their MEPs have been living it up in the despised EU, for example! And how about Farage cosying up to Trump, ugh?!

  • Yellow Submarine 26th Jan '17 - 4:30am

    I’ve made a small donation to the Stoke campaign as I agree with most f what Ed says in this article. Nuttal must be stopped and progressive Britain has the resources to do it for it wishes. If I lived in the seat the previous result makes a tactical vote for the Labour party attractive. As I don’t ‘m spared that dilemma. However as the Lib Dems are providng an hypothecated donation link for Stoke ( an excellent thing which increases donor choice ) I’ve used it. Funding progressive campaigns in the seat is an investment. Stop Paul Nuttal. We must.

  • We lived in Stoke 1970-75 in the South constituency which had the admirable Jack Ashley as MP. I wrote to him to apologise for voting Libdem. What wouldI do in 2017 ?Vote Libdem and not apologise. There are Jack Ashleys around, I am sure, but we are not hearing or seeing them. They deserve to lose, but UKIP do not deserve to win.

  • Paul Kennedy 26th Jan '17 - 10:19am

    We need to counter the Labour-UKIP narrative that UKIP are a threat in Stoke. UKIP are not a threat to Labour: the Tories may have ‘given up’ on the seat, but with Theresa May pursuing Brexit, many Leave voters will still back the Tory candidate not UKIP. We should be aiming to leapfrog both, and reassert ourselves as the main challengers to Corbyn’s defunct Labour party.

  • There is a long way to go, but the bookies currently make Labour and UKIP joint favorites at even money. If anyone does think UKIP will win, the 10/1 at Ladbrokes for UKIP to get more than 30% of the vote seems good value. I don’t rule out any of the other parties – I think the Lib Dems could cause a surprise – but I think this is the best chance UKIP have of taking a seat.

  • “the 10/1 at Ladbrokes for UKIP to get more than 30% of the vote seems good value”

    My apologies to anyone ringing their bookies – I made a mistake it’s 10/11 not 10/1, I thought it was to good to be true.

  • I’m not in a position to comment on the possible voting tactics of locals, but I’d say that it’s always worth making a reasoned case for voting LibDem, especially in the current climate. Given the state of current politics, that can and should include why UKIP shouldn’t be trusted, and if that means someone votes for Labour instead of UKIP, then it’s not a wasted conversation.

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