Let me start by saying, I am applying to be the Labour Party candidate in the upcoming by-election for the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central. I think I’m ideally placed to takeover from Tristram Hunt.
Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no right to stand whatsoever, I’m not a Labour Party member – but I just hate missing out on things!
Seriously though, did you know there are about 100+ expected applicants from across the party membership?
Some you would expect, some not, some you really wish wouldn’t and some you think really shouldn’t!
But I hope all those throwing their respective hats in realise that UKIP are the threat here and their candidate will probably be UKIP Leader Paul Nuttall. I have said this to many people since Tristram resigned – it’s just to good an opportunity to miss for the Bootle born working class scouser.
It’s more or less been confirmed by an increasing number of media outlets this afternoon.
Not convined? Have a listen to this clip broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday 17th January:
The UKIP hustings are this weekend and their Stoke North & Central Chairman Mick Harold is expecting to win at a canter but there is a proviso that the NEC can impose a candidate if they think their choice has a better chance of winning.
Getting back to Labour – locally the party has an abysmal record of fighting by-elections. The last two, Springfields & Trent Vale and Baddeley Green, Milton & Norton, they fought the wrong campaign and got thumped both times.
There is always a presumption that the Tories are the enemy and of course they are, but they are not the only enemy and if Labour discount UKIP they way they did the City Independent Group, they will have a real problem.
So out of the 100 or so applicants who are the serious runners and riders?
There are two who definitely shouldn’t apply – Mohammed Pervez & Mark Meredith – both suffer massively with legacy issues.
Mark will always be tainted by the Dimensions issue and unfortunately this will always come into play when his name is mentioned in despatches. He was seen out campaigning in Stoke Central this past weekend even though he has been off the scene for a couple of years.
Pervez – how do you solve a problem like Pervez? I’m not sure you can is the answer.
It is time the Labour Party locally and regionally faced facts.
Pervez is HUGELY unpopular with the voting public in our city. The issues are purely one of charisma and personality. They don’t think he has either. He lost the local elections for Labour in 2015 single handedly. Why do I say this? It’s easy – if you total the number of votes cast for our three city Labour MPs at the last general election and compare them to the number of votes cast across the 44 wards of the city in the local elections, which was held on the same day, there are over ten thousand fewer. Yes,voters went into the polling booth, voted for a Labour MP, but would not vote for a Labour councillor.
Someone in authority needs to have a quiet word and convince him not to put his name forward to save his embarrassment and to avoid defeat to UKIP.
Worryingly if he does get through to the selection meeting in front of the CLP members, he can get a large number of members from particular areas in Stoke Central, out to support him.
Other names that have been talked about are, Clare White, Zaeba Hanif, Steve Funnell (never trust a guy who ends every sentence with yeah), Cllr Darren Price who fought for the Congleton seat in 2015 and Mike Stubbs a former leader of Newcastle -under-Lyme BC. All these names are credible but probably won’t make the selection meeting.
There are also Olwen Hamer, Candi Chetwyn and Andy Platt – these will be the also ran’s I think.
There are two names being banded about from the Corbyn wing of the party and neither could be described as ‘hard left’ – Chris Spence and Ruth Rosenau – let’s deal with the easy one first.
Chris Spence is a top guy, unashamedly left wing, former member of Momentum and current member of Red Labour. Chris is a relatively unknown quantity in Stoke. He’s a Borough Councillor in Newcastle-under-Lyme but has never held high office or a key cabinet roll.
Ruth is a controversial character and although she is my mate, I don’t think that she deserves that label if I am brutally honest.
Ruth has a national reputation among the Corbynistas. She along with Chris, was responsible for bringing Jezza to our city but unlike Chris, she got on that stage in front of thousands and chaired the whole gig.
Ruth has her problems though.
Locally she sits outside of the local Labour Group following a suspension from the party. She challenged Pervez for the leadership and has since been ostracised by the vast majority of the group. Region and the local party leadership, which maybe include the two remaining MPs, will do everything in their power to exclude her from the process. Unless she gets some intervention at a national level, they may succeed. I firmly believe one of these two (as it stands, probably Chris) will make it through to the selection meeting (see timetable below).
So who do I think is the favourite to succeed Tristram?
Well when you consider the timetable – drawn up to favour the ‘preferred’ candidate:
Two names leap out at me – Trudie McGuinness PPC for Staffs Moorlands in 2015 and former Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council Leader Gareth Snell.
Both are the kind of candidate that region prefer and I mean NO disrespect to them when I say that.
Both are rising stars and both are seen as moderate.
Trudie is Staffordshire born and bred is a trade unionist, a member of the Fabian Society and a member of Progress. Her only downside is that she is isn’t that well known in the City, although she has done some campaigning here and has given talks so some CLP’s.
Gareth Snell is a no nonsense kind of a guy who isn’t afraid of telling it like it is. He works for a trade union, has worked for Tristram in Stoke Central and is very familiar with the area. He isn’t locally born and bred but has made the area his home for a number of years. He had a good reputation as a council leader and he was elected back to the borough council following a by-election victory after tasting defeat in the last full borough council elections.
If my money was on any local candidate at this moment – it would be on Gareth even though his name hasn’t officially been confirmed.
Nationally, Ed Balls has been mentioned (shut up -I’m serious!) and The Labour Party’s 2015 Executive Director of Strategy and Communications and Guardian Journalist Seamus Milne.
Both are nationally recognised but given the furore caused by Peter Mandelson’s endorsement of Tristram Hunt in 2010, it remains to be seen whether the party want to open up that particular can of worms.
Jack Brereton, councillor for Milton, Baddeley & Norton who is also Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group & Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transport & Heritage, is likely to stand for the Conservative Party.
Other candidates from a wide range of parties, including some independents, are expected to declare over the next week or so.
It’s my belief that the election will take place at the end of February.