Stoke-on-Trent Central – The ‘Sorry’ By-election

I don’t ever think I’ve seen such an interesting, intense and at times completely pathetic election campaign as the one being played out in Stoke-on-Trent Central.

In fact I’ve wondered if any of the main contenders are really trying to win it, when it looks to all intents and purposes as though they are doing their level best to lose it!

I mean, two of the so called favourite candidates have issued more apologies than you can
shake a stick at.

Firstly let’s consider Paul Nuttall’s campaign to become UKIP’s second MP in the House of Commons:

  • He has been forced to apologise over remarks made on his website in 2011 that he had lost close friends in the Hillsborough disaster.
  • He has had to defend accusations that he wasn’t at Hillsborough at all
  • Two senior Merseyside UKIP officials have resigned over Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims.
  • UKIP’s Mr Moneybags Aaron Banks has poured petrol on the flames by suggesting that people are ‘milking’ the tragedy and that he is ‘sick of hearing about it’
  • Nuttall issued a further apology to the people of Merseyside over his Hillsborough claims on BBC Radio 5 Live’s by-election debate
  • He has faced a police investigation over listing an address on his declaration form when, at the time, he did not live there.
  • UKIP have doctored Labour pictures on Social Media and have claimed a photo showing lot’s of UKIP activists ready to hit the doorsteps in Stoke was actually taken in Bolton
  • He has been forced to defend comments applauding ‘a whiff of privatisation’  in the NHS by stating he has now changed his mind over the issue
  • A UKIP activist was caught urinating up an elderly residents fence and then was aggressive to her when challenged over his behaviour
  • Panned for being unable to name the 6 towns of Stoke-on-Trent in two different media interviews

Meanwhile in camp Labour their candidate Gareth Snell seems as if he has been doing gareth_snelllittle else other than saying sorry:

  • Sorry for tweeting that Deirdre from Corrie should be given a ‘good slap’
  • Sorry for tweeting that Janet Street-Porter is a polished turd
  • Sorry for tweeting a rhyme describing Brexit as shit
  • Sorry for tweeting that Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is an ‘ IRA supporting friend of Hamas’
  • Sorry for tweeting sexist comments about ‘Loose Women’ and ‘The Apprentice’
  • Has had members of his own Labour press team telling Channel 4 that they are reluctant to let them film Gareth campaigning because they were fearful of ‘another Gillian Duffy moment’

img_1303Tory candidate Jack Brereton is as dull as dishwater in comparison. This cardboard cut out of a politician has spoke of nothing else but the ‘credible 12 point plan for Brexit’ espoused by his beloved Prime Minister. The Tories are the only party with a clear idea of how to deliver Brexit he claims. Shame the rest of us, including everyone in the Conservative Party, have absolutely no idea what this clear plan is.

He also claims to have delivered 1000 jobs in the ‘Ceramic Valley Enterprise’ – this would be the same jobs that were forecast under the previous Labour administration at Stoke-on-Trent City Council but they called it the ‘Etruria Valley’ scheme? He bangs on about his achievement at regenerating the old ‘Spode’ factory in Stoke – this is plan was also announced by the previous Labour administration.

This is not me being supportive of Labour by the way – this is me being factual as I was inside the Labour Group at the time.

He has said very little on the NHS however. I wonder whether this is because he can’t possibly defend his party’s performance on health and social care over the past seven years while they have been in government? The caring Conservatives have been called out over today’s revelation that hospital services in two thirds of England face major cuts.

But at least Jack Brereton has nothing to apologise over!

The Liberal Democrats candidate Dr Zulfiqar Ali his campaigning on behalf of the 48% of dr-alipeople who voted to remain a part of the European Union. Smart thinking – until you consider that the constituency he is looking to represent voted leave by 70/30. Some wards were 85% in favour of saying goodbye to our European neighbours. My Lib Dem sources are saying that the campaign is going as well as they expected – thing is they didn’t expect a lot.

Dr Ali is a respected cardiologist and has panned the other candidates over the NHS. He has attacked the Tories over lack of funding and the cuts in social care. He has hammered Labour over the Private Funding Initiative (PFI). He has also lambasted Paul Nuttall and UKIP over comments about introducing privatisation.

Ironic that he carries out private work himself isn’t it? Have a look at this – he isn’t against privatisation when it lines his own pocket it would seem.

The Green candidate has done well. Adam Colclough has performed well at all the hustings and has attracted some favourable comments from the watching public and interested observers. He and his party know that they will not win this election – not by a long shot. But it has given Adam the chance of promoting the Green agenda. He has had a platform and he’s used it well and I think we’d all agree we now know a little more about what the Greens stand for.

And so to my prediction of the result:

I think that Gareth will hang on to the seat for Labour by the slimmest margin. It could be reduced to just hundred’s. I think that Gareth has performed well over the past few weeks and while Paul Nuttall has had an horrendous week which has cast a shadow over his suitability to be a Member of Parliament – Gareth has been pretty consistent in the media, at hustings and out on the doorsteps. There has been no real faux pas recently. He seems to have been allowed much more access to the media and I’ve always thought he has a strong enough character to take Paul Nuttall head on if you like.

Another possible indicator of a Labour win is the predicted low turn out. This helps Labour tremendously. UKIP will take votes off the Tories and vice versa. Labour just need to get their voters out.

This is my honest prediction based on talking to those on the inside of the campaigns, research, Social Media activity and my own small amount of polling.

I’m not doing what some other commentators are doing which is to tell you what the relevant parties want you to hear. Some have been way too quick at saying ‘our campaign is great – move along, nothing to see here’. Fact is the exact opposite has been true at times. If anyone tells you different you are being spun lies and propaganda by those who really should know better.

Some of the stuff I’ve read at times during this campaign gives me a real insight as to why people feel disengaged with politics.

I’ll have more to say on this after the result is known – now is not the time.

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