We have to stop the far right in Stoke-on-Trent Central

One of the things I most enjoy about elections are the old war stories – the poster board wars of Kincardine and Deeside, the Brecon and Radnor story about out candidate not being from these parts, the mattresses, fridges and dumped litter of Brent East.  Then there are the by-election which are so small and were so poorly attended by activists that they are worn as badge of real veteran status – Ogmore, Hemsworth I and Hemsworth II, Wirral South – campaigns where the focus was on flying the liberal flag in territory or times that were unfavourable.

What is less spoken of are the by-election deep-scars. Where we could have done better, could have won, should have won.  With four or five more people could Sleaford and North Hykeham have been a second place rather than third, with more people could Leeds Central have been a Lib Dem gain and thwarted Hillary Benn, and what if what if what if in West Derbyshire or Newcastle Under Lyme or Birmingham Hodge Hill.

Those latter by-elections are a category all of their own and the effect and impact lasts long and the stories are told in more hushed tones.

My challenge and question to you is simple.  Will you make Stoke-on-Trent a glorious boast or a whispered story with deep scars?

Jeremy Corbyn is doing all he can to make Labour unelectable, the Stoke Labour Party is split, demoralised and riven. The people of the City of Stoke-on-Trent are fed up to the back teeth of the legacy of Labour complacency that straddles this city after 70 years of failure.  There is a mood for change on the streets of Stoke.

In this context we have the nasty right wing UKIP led by an unsavoury rabble rouser who has arrived in Stoke with the sole aim of giving himself and UKIP a platform.  He has no desire to represent Stoke and knows nothing of the city, in construction and its history and promise.  But as well as the mood for change there is a mood of fear at what this right of the far right might mean in a city already abused by political arrogance and complacency.

With Labour apparently so set on losing this constituency the Liberal Democrats have a direct responsibility to fight and fight and fight again to win the battle of hope, aspiration and constructive opportunity.  In Dr Zulfiqar Ali we have a superbly able, articulate and passionate candidate who wants to represent the residents of Stoke-on-Trent.   This is this City’s liberal hour. There will not be another chance.

The Conservatives have diverted all resources to Copeland and the City Independents have decided to not field a candidate.  We have a responsibility to rise to the challenge and seek to win this seat when Labour lose.  We cannot fail the people of Stoke Central, of Staffordshire and indeed of the whole UK in allowing the far right to succeed.

So if you don’t come and help, if you don’t get on the phones, if you don’t donate today this will be a scar election – an ‘almost won’, or worse a far right gain.

This weekend we did well – but this coming week we need more people, three, four, five times as many people to get in their cars, book their trains and come.  Nothing could be more important.  Please, come and see for yourself, stop sitting at home and making a table top judgment – come and sample the City and the campaign for yourself. This is a campaign we are seeking to turn into a win, but it needs you now.

The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Sheaf Street, Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent. ST1 4LW is open 10am-9pm every day.  You can donate here https://libdems.nationbuilder.com/stoke-donate and there is plenty of phoning available – get the details in the Facebook page of the Virtual HQ as well as the myriad of other ways to help.

Or you can stay at home, and see Britains political system riven by fear and hate or overshadowed by complacency and wilful neglect.  I don’t want to see that happen and I want to see the words Lib Dem GAIN flash up next to the name of Dr Zufiqar Ali and the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central.  The team here are working hard and growing by the day, but the reality of changing this campaign from strong to compelling lies in your hands. Hope to see you here soon.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Evershed 30th Jan '17 - 6:17pm

    If we don’t want to “see Britains political system riven by fear and hate” then rather than a campaign “to stop the far right” surely Lib Dems should have a positive campaign for liberal and anti-authoritarian positions.

  • Corbyn;s Labour are far nastier than UKIP. We should be reminding people at every opportunity of his collaboration with the Fascistic Sinn Fein.

  • I would suggest that, particularly right now, stopping the far right is right at the top of any campaign for liberal values.

  • nick cotter 30th Jan '17 - 9:48pm

    Will be up there within the next week or two – I Agree that this could prove to be a real surprise but there doesn’t appear to be much of a buzz about the party for this (or Copeland) Is there a Facebook page ? Can we see some of the literature going out ? Nick

  • Nick Cotter – There are Virtual HQs for both on Facebook and have been for a while.

  • Andrew McCaig 31st Jan '17 - 12:36am

    Yes, but I applied to join both Virtual HQs about a week ago and have been ignored… Possibly because I don’t use Facebook and have no profile.. but it does rather defeat the purpose…

  • This is not the first article on Stoke-on-Trent and I think I have been fairly vocal and public about the challengers and the reality and how to help and engaged and and not entirely difficult to locate on social media and even via traditional media. If you are genuinely saying we are not doing enough I’ll revisit everything…

  • clive english 31st Jan '17 - 8:43am

    I am afraid that whatever the rights or wrongs of the matter people do not largely care about Sein Fein in the sense that E Bourne thinks they should and see the argument as very much about a past they don’t want to rehash. There is very little political gain in pursuing Corbyn over this particular issue, and wont be,unless god forbid,the whole settlement is brought down and the “armed struggle” recommences.
    Secondly although Labour contains some very unpleasant people UKIP contain, as a percentage, a far high amount of outright National Socialists, Racists, Bigots and anti Semites. One of their local members on the planning committee was the only member to vote against the modernisation (not expansion) of the local mosque, and he is one of the most moderate. I was at a funeral for one of their councillors, he was quite pleasant, but their members there.
    I have never heard such filthy racist, homophobic rants from an any one ever, even football hooligans, and this was at a funeral.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 31st Jan '17 - 9:08am

    Ed Fordham, You have written several inspiring articles about the by-election for Lib Dem Voice, and you are obviously working tirelessly in the constituency. I am sure no-one is suggesting that you could or should do more.
    But there does seem to be a feeling that the party as a whole is putting less effort into Stoke-on-Trent (and also Copeland), than was the case with Witney and Richmond. Obviously Richmond was a target seat as it had been held by the Lib Dems quite recently and was clearly very winnable. But I don’t see why Witney should have been regarded as more promising than Stoke-on-Trent. The situations in Witney and Stoke-on-Trent seem in some ways very similar. Both are seats where the Lib Dems had come second in the past, but did very badly in 2015. So I don’t really understand why the party threw “the kitchen sink” at Witney, but don’t seem to be doing so in the same way with Stoke. There were constant emails appealing for members from all over the country to come to Witney, and people responded. There don’t seem to have been similar emails about Stoke.
    It would be tragic if Ukip were to win this seat.
    You may be wondering what I am doing to help myself? I’m afraid I haven’t been to Stoke yet, although I did go to Witney which is a longer journey for me, and I do feel a bit guilty about that. I will certainly be making phone calls from home, and perhaps can achieve as much that way as by coming in person, but I do hope to be able to get to Stoke at some point too.

  • Further to Catherine Jane Crosland’s remarks, there has not been a single article on LDV specifically devoted to our Copeland campaign since the original article some weeks ago announcing the adoption of our candidate there. If we cannot effectively publicise what is going on there on LDV, what hope has our campaign there of getting any sort of traction ?

  • Too much London and Home Counties centrism – from London and Home Counties ?

  • My train ticket is booked 🙂 Looking forward to the visit 🙂

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jan '17 - 11:34am

    Catherine Jane Crosland:
    Richmond was a “scar”, won by a young conservative who went on to be a cabinet minister. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond_(Yorks)_by-election,_1989
    Richmond Park was a win. Winning Eastbourne was not enough, we needed to do it again (Ribble Valley) again (Kincardine and Deeside) and again (Bath).
    Part of the politics at Witney was the personality of the outgoing MP, who gambled with the national interest and lost, putting party before country, as is happening now under his successor.
    HB ISBN 978-0-00-821515-6,
    TPB ISBN 978-0-00-821620-7

  • Andrew McCaig 31st Jan '17 - 11:36am

    Well, I have been to Stoke on Saturday, an enjoyable day delivering 500 leaflets with some nice views, cake and tea! I can tell people they will get a warm welcome and plenty to do, in a headquarters paired with a pub in rather Irish style! I have also had two or three emails from the National Party asking me to help or donate to both Stoke and Copeland (and I donated to both!), and Ed has done a great job of publicising the Stoke campaign on here and above all telling people where to go. Given that Hunt only said he was resigning on 13th January, I think the campaign has got off to a good start, and my impression was that we were ahead of the others in leaflet delivery at this early stage.

    In Copeland the response of the Party has been less dynamic however. Reed announced he was going on 21st December and the Tories were already delivering a newspaper (based on Twitter) 2 days later. If someone had asked me to take a trip to the Lake District when I was at a loose end at the end of December I might well have gone, but the address of the physical HQ still seems to be a closely guarded secret, and the door of the Virtual HQ has so far been barred to me… Stoke is much easier to get to for most people including me in West Yorkshire, and if we have to pick one to prioritise it probably has to be Stoke, even though we clearly have an excellent candidate in Copeland…

  • David Allen 31st Jan '17 - 7:26pm

    The Tories are targeting Copeland, and would treat a win as a famous victory for their Brexit policy. They would see it as cancelling the “bad” memory of Richmond Park. From our point of view, a less bad outcome would be for Labour to hang on to Copeland.

    In Stoke the Tories are not really trying and the threat is from UKIP. Whoever wins, a big Lib Dem vote will matter. Even in the worst scenario, that UKIP manage to squeak in between a declining Labour vote and a rising Lib Dem vote, that Lib Dem vote will matter. Let’s hope that a seat which six months ago voted heavily to Leave will nevertheless deliver fewer than half its votes to the gung-ho Brexiteer parties, UKIP and the Tories. That would knock “Doctor” Nuttall out of his stride!

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