The Challenge for Labour in Stoke on Trent

In today’s article, Guy Cooper gives his two cents on the Stoke By Election.

Well its official, its Paul Nuttall.

The UKIP leader will be standing in Stoke-on- Trent Central to replace the departing Labour MP Tristram Hunt. This really does look like make or break time for UKIP. If its wins in Stoke, then arguably it will be confirmed as a serious political force and if it doesn’t, well, it is unlikely to win a seat anywhere.

Since 1935 the people of Stoke have always elected a Labour candidate to be their Member of Parliament. It therefore seems unlikely that they would suddenly develop an appetite for a party that is too conservative to be part of the Conservative Party. No matter how they present themselves, what accent they speak in or what clothes they wear, UKIP is a more Thatcherite version of the Conservative Party!

The whole of the UKIP machine was set up and is being run by Tories who are now trying to appeal to traditional Labour voters. Paul Nuttall is a failed Tory politician. The sole UKIP MP Douglas Carswell sat as a Tory for 9 years. The leader of UKIP in Wales is Neil Hamilton. Neil Hamilton. Remember him?

Even the silent men that are funding UKIP’s by-election in Stoke were Tories once upon a time. Aaron Banks and Stuart Wheeler both supported the Tory party and have now donated over a million pounds to UKIP. The former Conservative Party Treasurer and working class hero Lord Hesketh is now a member of UKIP alongside former Tory MEP Roger Helmer and former Tory MP Mark Reckless.

So the people of Stoke should not be in any doubt, UKIP is not the party of working people. It is the bankers party. It is the party of the millionaire class and it doesn't give a damn about working class people. A vote for UKIP in Stoke is a vote for the Conservatives. It is a vote for more austerity, more cuts, more privatisation and much weaker public services.

Stoke of course voted overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit, and therefore it is no surprise that UKIP feel that they have a chance of winning a Parliamentary seat there.  I sat down and watched Paul Nuttall’s speech to announce his candidacy and I was unsurprised with what I heard. He was espousing typical right wing politics but attempting to disguise them in the language of working class patriotism.

To beat UKIP the Labour Party must select a working class candidate and one who lives and works in Stoke. Once in place this candidate then needs to pick apart the nonsense being spouted by Mr. Nutall whilst at the same time making a really positive case about what a Labour Government can do for Stoke.

It is pretty clear that Paul Nuttall is not the right man for Stoke. He is a  Thatcherite who wants to see a privatised NHS, lower taxes for the richest in society and fewer workers rights. Owing to his pro-Brexit stance though, he has gained some credibility in Stoke and that should upset those of us in the Labour Party.

For working men and women to be turning to UKIP they must feel very let down by us and that needs to change. The Labour Party does not have an automatic right to votes in any constituency in the country. The Labour Party has only ever won votes and been a force for good when it has presented an inspiring, progressive vision to people and we desperately need to do this again in Stoke. Whoever is chosen as the candidate in Stoke needs to demonstrate, very clearly, what a Labour government and a Labour MP can do for the people of Stoke.

I think it would also be wise for the party to apologise for taking Stoke for granted for so many years, and pledge that under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership things will be very different. Under Jeremy Corbyn the Labour party has a solid policy platform to go and sell to the people of Stoke. Corbyn’s 10 pledges demonstrate our vision of a fairer society, where wealth is spread more equally across the regions and not centred on London and the South East. A guarantee of a good job, a good home and a properly funded National Health Service is exactly the positive vision of society needed to counter Paul Nuttall and his old school conservative politics.

By promising the people of Stoke better childcare, more rights at work and more dignity in retirement we can reach out to everyone in the constituency who has felt abandoned by mainstream politics for too long. I do not believe that the people of Stoke want to vote for UKIP but many believe it is their only choice.

Labour must prove them wrong, and soon.

Guy Cooper

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