Why The Ellie’s of the World Must be Applauded

There is no doubt that Cllr Ellie Walkers resignation from the BNP and her joining Community Voice has become a major talking point in the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

I must say since breaking the news of her application to join the Community Voice group and her subsequent acceptance, I have watched the debate unfold with interest.

Opinion is split, some say you can not turn from hard right to hard left, some say it is a case of her coming to her senses.

My own thoughts on the subject have ebbed to and fro.

It’s no secret that I am anti- BNP, always have been, always will be. To me any party or politician that discriminates by race, religion, colour, gender or sexuality is not going to be good for the future of our diverse multi-cultural city, or on a wider note, our nation.

That said, I would campaign for the BNP’s right to exist, and society’s right to vote for them. That is democracy and I would not accept cheap imitations. It’s all or nothing.

I was a proud member of the Labour Party, became a little disillusioned, left and joined the Liberal Democrats for a short time.

You see I had changed my opinion of the Labour Party. I no longer felt that they represented my views. I did not like the actions that they were taking or the decisions that they were making, so I walked the walk.

I ask you what is worse someone who follows their heart or someone who just follows party orders and says nowt? I want politicians with the courage of their convictions.

Ellie Walker has turned away from the BNP. She has denounced their policies and branded them racist. She will look the BNP councillors in the eye across the chamber and say ‘I no longer support your ideology’.

Simply put, she has changed her mind.

I ask you, where would our families, our society, our city, our country be if we lived in a world where you were not allowed to have a change of heart.

More importantly, what would the world be like if no one were allowed to say, ‘I was wrong’.

What Ellie Walker did was commendable. She came out and admitted that she was wrong and that she now believed that the policies of the BNP did not sit comfortable with her. She was unable to continue with them due to her inner turmoil.

What if she did once believe the BNP were the party for the future? What if she did once think that immigration was out of control? Would she have been the first to think that? Do we really believe that members and supporters of other mainstream political parties have not thought that at one time or another?

Let me make it clear, I have come across more racist comments from councillors outside of the BNP than I have from Ellie Walker.

My dad lived in Abbey Hulton all his life and was a life long Labour voter. He had some mobility issues in the last couple of years of his life. Ellie Walker went out to him on a Sunday lunch time to assess his needs and then fought hard to get the alterations to his house that were needed. Sadly he died before they were implemented. But Ellie was on the case and did not let up.

Some say that she ought to stand down as she was elected on a BNP ticket. I have some sympathy with that view. But, we are less than a year away from the all out elections and the electorate of Abbey Green will get to pass Judgement on Cllr Ellie Walker then. A by-election now would be nonsensical and a criminal waste of public money in a time of the ConDem cuts.

The BNP are facing oblivion in this City.

Alby Walkers attack on them when he resigned his position left the far right party mortally wounded.

Ellie Walkers recent comments could well result in the drawing their last breath, time will tell.

I have stated in this article that I defend the BNP’s right to exist, to seek power and to share the political platform.

By the same token I defend Ellie Walkers right to walk away from the BNP and to say that she was misguided in joining them. I defend her right to express the opinion that they are racist, based on her time on the inside.

Most of all, I celebrate her words:

“I commit sincerely, wholeheartedly and genuinely to actively support those that promote equality, diversity and tolerance and oppose discrimination, hate and the racist BNP.

“I totally renounce all forms of racism and discrimination and actively commit to promote equality and diversity at every opportunity.

“Stoke-on-Trent and its communities are a fantastic diverse and tolerant place to live and represent which is reflected in my own family with my son’s wife being Sri-Lankan and my mixed race grand children being both intelligent, happy and take a full and active part in the community.

“If Stoke-on-Trent is to move forward it must continue to be so. I wish to focus all my efforts on helping and representing everyone in my community.”

Isn’t this what we all want from our elected representatives?

I don’t hear many truly racist or extreme voices in our great city apart from a certain mouthpiece for a crackpot ‘Community’ group.

The BNP vote was made up largely of frustrated mainstream party voters who were making a point.

I can see those voters aligning themselves with Labour, Conservative & Liberal Alliance, City Independents, Community Voice or the Liberal Democrats at next year’s council elections.

If a few more were to follow Ellie’s example, we would be well on the way to making a difference to our great City.

I am proud of the cultural diversity in Stoke-on-Trent. Sure there needs a bit more work to promote integration between the various communities, but Ellie Walkers story makes all that a little easier.

I love this City, most of our councillors do too, but we need a City united to face up to the difficult times ahead.

All the communities together can make a difference.

Ex BNP Councillor Joins Stoke-on-Trent’s Newest Political Group

Ex British National Party member and Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Ellie Walker will be confirmed as the latest recruit to the city’s newest political group Community Voice.

Mrs Walker represents the people of the former BNP stronghold Abbey Green. She is the wife of former BNP Group Leader Alby who left the far right party amidst a storm of publicity surrounding the selection of the party’s PPC for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Mr Walker was defeated in both the General Election, where he lost his deposit, and the local elections, where he was heavily defeated by the Labour Party candidate.

Ellie Walker contradicts the stereotypical image of a BNP activist. She is described as a caring and compassionate person and has often denied being racist.

Many of her fellow councillors are respectful of the work she carries out in both the Abbey Green ward which she represents and her committee work at the Civic Centre.

Some of the electorate may be surprised at the union between members of Community Voice, which is seen as a haven of old socialists and a former far right activist.

Alby Walker is set to join Community Voice in the near future ahead of next year’s all out council elections.

The Community Voice group’s number could be boosted even further in the near future.

Pits n Pots have learned that City Independent Group member Cllr Barbara Beeston could soon be crossing the council chamber.

Emergency talks are due to take place between Cllr Beeston and CIG Leader Cllr Brian Ward.

If those talks fail and Councillor Beeston’s concerns are not addressed, the Community Voice Group will be just one councillor behind the second largest political group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

There are growing rumours that the CIG could lose more members when the Budget consultations take place if the group back unpopular cuts that will impact on communities and services across the city.

Community Voice have refused to comment on the on-going speculation that their numbers may well swell in the near future.

Stoke-on-Trent Politics – A Current Snapshot

As Stoke-on-Trent politics is entering the summer recess, I thought I would give my opinion on the state of our City’s politics as it stands at this moment in time.

Community Voice

The new kids in town. Two groups [Potteries Alliance & Non-Aligned] amalgamated into one. They launched last week and my understanding is that they have had considerable interest through their website. They have incurred the wrath of the racist elements of the Potteries Community Federation. Craig Pond, was banned for life from this site for an outrageous slur on a member of Community Voice. This delusional racist had the audacity to suggest that Community Voice had ‘gone behind his back’ as he had, in the past, attempted to rope them into the PCF. What this one brain cell wonder did not seem to understand was that no one in their right minds would hook up with a known extreme racist, it would be political suicide!
As it stands at the moment, Community Voice have 5 councillors in the chamber. Rumours are reaching us however that there are other councillors about to join this merry band. This time the rumour is that this does not just include members of the City Independent Group. It will be a busy summer for the newbies. Whilst every other group enjoy the summer recess, Community Voice need to busy networking and building support. What they need to be conscious of is not to come across as a one trick, anti-Labour, single issue group. Reminds me of the Eagles classic – ‘New Kid In Town’

British National Party

Mike Coleman’s group, although lower in number, are still throwing themselves into ward work and worthy causes. They are perhaps not seen as the force that they once were. There was a nasty taste left In Stoke BNP by the resignation of Alby Walker that permeated at a national level. Walker was subsequently shown the door in both the local & general elections, even by his beloved followers in Abbey Green. The BNP locally and nationally has disastrous election campaigns and results in the locals and the general. There were massive scandals all the way through with the infighting, the webmaster dispute that saw the national website pulled on election day. There was also the ill-thought out election broadcast featuring the jar of Marmite which has opened up the party to possible bankruptcy through the possible legal action by Lever. Nick Griffin has always accused the government and media of trying to bring financial ruin onto the BNP, especially over EHRC ruling. He has been strangely quiet over the Marmite fiasco as it all points to him for the debacle that may result in oblivion for the far right party. All these issues have got to have an effect on the local BNP group.
Mike Coleman has a massive rebuilding exercise on his hands yet national party shenanigans may well consign the already suffering Stoke BNP to the ‘political has’ bin! Reminds me of the Clash classic ‘I Fought The Law’

Liberal Democrats

If I was to believe all I was told, the Lib Dems thought long and hard before allowing Kieran Clarke to join the ruling coalition on Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Pity Nick Clegg didn’t exercise the same caution before he leaped into a political bed in his ‘Brokeback Mountain’ moment when he consigned the national Liberal Democrats to potential political wilderness. Recent polls are suggesting support is down to an all time low of around 12%. Senior Lib Dem figures are saying it ‘doesn’t worry them’ but surely they understand that it will worry the hell out of local Lib Dem party’s, especially in areas like Stoke-on-Trent where no one ever hears from them anyway. With a party membership of around 70 in Stoke-on-Trent and a repetition of getting rid of any member that voices dissent [David Jack & Paul Billington] The Lib Dems locally are frankly a non event. Kieran Clarke and his party are desperate to cling on to the coat tails of the other mainstream parties locally, but if the poll ratings keep falling, they themselves will guilty of nailing their own coffins permanently shut. If that doesn’t work the ConDem cuts will! The local and national picture reminds me of the Godley & Creme classic – ‘Under Your Thumb’

Conservative & Liberal Alliance

The elections saw some outgoings and some in comings in this group. Abi Brown is building a great reputation for herself and will no doubt reach the top in at some point in the future. In Trentham, Mark Wright is doing very well indeed according to sources in the ward. There is a rumour of a possible defection from this group but it remains to be seen if that particular council has the balls to make the move. I get tired of people moaning and threatening all sorts. Actions speak louder than words, I say. This group are in for a difficult time in the near future. Given the fact that their group name contains the description ‘Conservative’ – every upcoming cut and there will be many, could result in the loss of support and all Abi Browns hard work to get the City of Stoke-on-Trent Conservatives looking like something of a force, will all come tumbling down. Their demise could resemble a game of Jenga.
Ross Irving is still the leader the Group and is running the City Council on a daily basis in consultation with Council Leader Mohammed Pervez. Their relationship is steadfast and they are committed to making the right decisions in these desperately difficult hard financial times under a government coalition committed to slashing funding of up to 25%. The old Nat King Cole classic springs to mind – There May Be Trouble Ahead>

City Independent Group

All has not been well in this group for a long while now. Basically it is split into two factions, those who are for the coalition and those who are against it. Leader Brian Ward is fighting to convey unity to the outside. Privately I have been told by sources that meeting are a bit fractious. The basic problem is that when you are a part of a ruling coalition, your partners want loyalty. When you campaign in elections that you are independent and then follow like sheep and show that you are independent of no one or from anything, people start to question your credibility. The CIG will be severely tested by the Budget consultations. When ‘Independent’ councillors are asked to support difficult decisions that may result in a cut of a service, they may well have a problem convincing the public that they are Independent of that decision. It is a that time I think we will see some CIG councillors walk, especially now they have a place to go to. Reminds me of the Paul Young classic – Wherever I Lay My Hat!

The Labour Group

The Labour Group are stronger, more settled and better organised than I have ever known here in Stoke-on-Trent.
The elections saw them make 12 gains and they now have 26 councillors in the chamber. This is still 5 short of an overall majority. They answered the claim that they were given a mandate by the people of Stoke-on-Trent to take power with a 4 way ruling coalition.
The Labour Group have been criticised for non attendance at meetings. There are quite a number of the Labour Group who hold full time jobs. Should we moan at them or the system? We are constantly told that we employ highly paid officers, would it be wrong to have the committee meetings after the working day as they do in neighbouring councils? Surely evening meeting is the way to go when we have single member wards, wouldn’t this be conducive to more effective ward work?
Now, during the last coalition under the elected mayor system, things went horribly wrong for Labour.
Most people put this down the fact that particular elected mayor because he was Labour.
One fact constantly overlooked was the fact that the position of Council Manager had the ultimate power and could command and force through any decision. It has been alleged that the EMB were under the constant threat by the then Council Manager that unless they did it his way and delivered his agenda, he would call government in to take the running of the council over.
The difference now is that it is the Council Leader who holds the balance of power and it falls upon his shoulders, along with his coalition cabinet, to make the right choices.
This coalition are backing CEO John van de Laarschot’s proposal to bring in Vanguard at a cost of some £190, who along with DECATS [£120k] have the task f saving some £4million. I think Pervez and his cabinet have this spot on. This has to be done before the city loses a single public service. It could be this decision that saves Shelton Pool. There are thousands of people who have signed the petition to save Shelton Pool who would agree. Time will tell if the right decisions over cuts are made. This coalition can not hide behind anyone or point the blame elsewhere, in them we have to trust and we must have our say and input.
We are part of a big society whether we like it or not.
Puts me in mind of the Beatles/Joe Cocker/Wet, Wet, Wet classic – With A Little Help from My Friends’

We have three councillors who plough a lonely furrow:

Gavin Webb [Libertarian] – Gav is a good guy, nutty as a fruit cake some say. He does is bit to free of what he sees as the oppressive regime of government and the increasing amounts of legislation. Reminds me of the Sex Pistols classic – Anarchy In The UK.

Alan Rigby [Christian Independent] – Alan has decided that party politics are not for him and questioned whether the CIG are really independent. Always speaks from the heart and is always well meaning. Reminds me of the Mario Lanza classic – I’ll Walk With God

Ellie Walker [Non Aligned] – Ellie seems a bit lost since she quit the BNP. She left and boy did she have her say. She has an excellent reputation both in her ward and in the council. There is not one person who I have met who speaks negatively about Ellie. Some say she would be better off in a group and that she needs other councillors around her. Time will tell if she seeks re-election next year. Reminds me of the Kylie Minogue classic – I’m Spinning Around

Well that’s my summer report done and dusted. The opinions expressed are mine alone. You may have yours, so feel free….

What Now For The BNP Nationally And In Stoke-on-Trent?

As the dust settles on both the General and Local Elections, the various parties will start analysing their performances and making the changes they need as a result.

Questions are being asked of the party leaders, particularly those who failed to deliver.

Gordon Brown is facing calls from a few of his MPs to step down and the same can be said of the British National Party Leader Nick Griffin.

There are many calls for Griffin to stand down and it is thought that Eddie Butler who is head of the Party’s Election Department could challenge him for the party leadership.

Contributors to a number of far right Internet forums are also questioning Griffin’s leadership. There have also being a number of high profile fall outs within the party in recent times.

First came the spat between Alby Walker and the BNP.

Walker accused Griffin of using the party to make himself rich and famous. He also claimed that there was a vein of holocaust deniers and members who display Nazi-esque sympathies within the party.

Then came the very public falling out between Griffin and Mark Collett, who at the time was the party’s publicity Director.

There was no shortage of publicity when it was revealed that Collett was plotting to overthrow Griffin as leader.

The result was that Collett allegedly threatened to kill Nick Griffin. The Police were called in to investigate the matter.

Finally, just two days before the election, another fall out rocked the BNP.

As a result of a dispute between Nick Griffin and former BNP webmaster Simon Bennett, the latter shut down the Party’s Website, Facebook and Twitter pages. The result was that the party was left with just a single temporary holding page on their home page on Election Day May 6th.

At the BNP’s recent election manifest launch, Nick Griffin was at pains to point out that his party no longer needed the mainstream media as their website had more hits than that of the Labour Party’s, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems put together. Those words must be coming home to roost right now.

Griffin failed to make any impression what so ever through the ballot box in Barking. He finished a distant 3rd behind Labour’s Margaret Hodge, who doubled her vote and Conservative Simon Marcus.

The BNP did increase it’s share of the national vote by 1.83% but failed to deliver the Member of Parliament it claimed was within their grasp.

In Stoke-on-Trent, BNP Deputy Chairman Simon Darby staged a massive campaign. He worked the constituency tirelessly. But his work failed to materialise into votes and he crashed to a humiliating defeat in Stoke Central.

Darby finished 4th behind Tristram Hunt [Labour], John Redfern [Lib Dem] and Conservative Norsheen Bhatti who is of Asian heritage.

The electorate often described as the BNP ‘jewel in the crown’ chose an ‘Asian belly dancer’ as the BNP often refer to her, over the Deputy Chairman of a nationalist party. Surely there can be no greater insult to their policies?

Mike Coleman failed to oust Rob Flello in Stoke South whilst Melanie Baddeley failed to make any impact in Stoke North and managed to go through the entire campaign without giving a media interview on her chances and her party’s core aims and values.

The only time she did engage with the media was in reaction to the news that her husband had been arrested and subsequently charged with possessing cannabis. He is currently on Police bail.

Mike Coleman is keen to get the message out that his party is not defeated and will pick themselves up and work towards the all out elections for Stoke-on-Trent City Council in 2011.

But, the BNP will have their work cut out if they are to halt and reverse their apparent decline.

At the local elections they lost 26 councillors across the country including all 12 from Barking and Dagenham.

They now have just 19 councillors in total across the country and are 15 behind the Green Party who have 34.

To put their task of challenging the 3 main parties into context you need to realise that the Conservatives have 3369 councillors, Labour have 2865 and the Lib Dems have 1665 across the country.

We managed to catch up with Stoke BNP Group Leader Mike Coleman earlier today who remains upbeat about his party’s performance and future prospects.

Listen to the Audio Interview below:

SOT Central Parliamentary Candidates Speak to CSAG

Stoke-on-Trent Central parliamentary candidates attended an open Community Schools Action Group Meeting at Bentilee Neighbourhood Centre on the evening of April 28th.

CSAG chair MARGARET LOWE opened the meeting and introduced the candidates. Active CSAG campaigner WENDY BOOTH sent apologies for absence. BARRY STOCKLEY (CSAG) chaired the meeting. He outlined the background to the CSAG campaign. In 2007 there were surplus high school places. Mitchell High School and Berry Hill High School showed cooperation by volunteering to close on condition that there would be a new build school on the Mitchell site to accommodate pupils from both these schools. The city council then appointed SERCO which was a most disastrous decision for education. The SERCO proposal was to merge Michell with Edensor and Berry Hill with St. Peter’s. The proposals were rejected totally by parents at Mitchell, Berry Hill, St. Peter’s and many from Edensor. Reports from consultation meetings had been grossly distorted. At a meeting for Berry Hill and St. Peter’s a motion was proposed to reject the merger. Every parent and governor voted to reject the merger but this was not reported. Barry, together with Mark Fisher MP, had challenged Ged Rowney, SERCO director of children and young people’s services and Tracey Penrose, project manager for BSF, over this. Tracey said she must have overlooked this. Many councillors are supportive of the CSAG campaign for a school on the Mitchell site but those appointed to cabinet do an about turn. Mark Fisher always supported the campaign. Each candidate was then given 3 minutes to introduce themselves and express their views as follows:

GARY ELSBY (Independent) explained he had been a member of the Labour party but had walked out because of what had happened. He had produced 20,000 leaflets in the 2008 local election campaign, but then the persecution started for standing up for Mitchell High School and Dimensions swimming pool. He had been removed from the membership list. Council leader Ross Irving had made fun of CSAG and of Pat Smith, Mitchell chair of governors. He had been condescending. Gary said councillor Peter Kent-Baguley is right because he says if we keep up the pressure we will win.

SIMON DARBY (British National Party) introduced himself as the deputy leader of the British National Party and said some might think that means he is wicked but he is not a bad man, he is just a normal guy. He does not believe in the BSF social engineering agenda to create an academy with only two parent governors. Schools should not be run by private companies which profit at our expense. He declared himself fully on our side.

NORSHEEN BHATTI (Conservative Party) said Labour had not been consulting with parents and teachers, which is important for schools. She has visited Mitchell High and congratulates the school for winning an award for the most improved school. She was touched by the children and how much they loved their school. There was passion from the teachers. She said there should be social responsibility and parents and teachers should be given the power to set up their own schools. She also said she was there to listen and wants to put people’s views first.

MATT WRIGHT (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) said what we are seeing is the systematic privatisation of the education system. Academies will be a disaster with worse travel to school. The sponsors choose the governing body and are in charge of ethos. It would not be good to have religious fanatics or companies in charge of schools. Tens of thousands of building workers are out of work. We need to rebuild or refurbish community schools. There should be no cuts to pay or conditions of staff and no compulsory redundancies. There should be no private finance initiatives because these result in the tax payer footing 300% of the building cost. He advocates a joint campaign of all schools under threat.

BRIAN WARD (City Independent) introduced himself as leader of the City Independent group on the council. City Independent councillors Rita Dale and John Davis had backed this campaign the whole time and talk about it every day. He said this is not an MP decision, the city council will make the decision. The protest should be directed to the council. He said Labour councillor Adrian Knapper had also backed the campaign at times. Brian said he had first heard of the fight to save the school at a meeting at Mitchell High. He is in cabinet now having previously been in opposition but nothing had been said at cabinet about this issue. Officers have been sent to check the sites and numbers to see if they are right. Brian said he bases his whole ethos on community issues. He said the public wants a school on Mitchell, not on ‘Springfield’ and to know why they should vote for one parliamentary candidate rather than another. He would have liked to ask Tristram Hunt the Labour candidate about the Labour government. Deals had been handed down from a Labour government which underfunds the council by £300 per child.

Margaret Lowe then read statements from the parliamentary candidates who were unable to be present:

PAUL BREEZE (Independent) said it was evident CSAG hearts are in the right place and we have passion. CSAG has a strong and logical case with evidence for the merger and site we want. Paul said he is fully independent and if elected will back CSAG 100%

ALBY WALKER (Independent) said there should be a new school on the Mitchell site and another on an appropriate site near Edensor. He opposed the Park Hall site and had organised the call in of this decision when he was a British National Party councillor. He is now an independent councillor.

JOHN REDFERN (Liberal Democrat) does not want to share a platform with the BNP. He is not happy with a new academy on Park Hall because of fears about safety and busy roads. He does not think it would improve education standards.

TRISTRAM HUNT (Labour Party) said it was already clear the only way forward is to have two local schools and he would fight tooth and nail for a school in the heart of the community. He had attended a previous CSAG meeting and visited Margaret Lowe at home. He is 100% behind us.

CAROL LOVATT (UKIP) had not responded at all.

The meeting was then opened for questions to the candidates.

MIKE COLEMAN (British National Party councillor and parliamentary candidate for SOT South) asked Brian Ward if he was in favour of Mitchell staying or going. Brian replied that it had never been discussed in cabinet and that the decision had been made previously by the mayor. Brian stated that he is supportive of a school on Mitchell.

PAT SMITH (Chair of governors at Mitchell) said she should put Gary Elsby right on his quotation. City Independent councillor Ian Mitchell was the one who was nasty and wanted a bulldozer through Mitchell High School. Ross Irving and Ian Mitchell had been invited to visit Mitchell High School four times, but each time the personal assistant had rang to cancel. It seems they dare not come anywhere near. In trying to speak to them she had just got insults. Stoke-on-Trent College, the intended academy sponsor, want a 1300 feeder school for the college. Pat said the experience with Stoke-on-Trent College is not wonderful. Nobody has spoken about the wonderful results for adults at Mitchell High. 1500 adults have learned in the community learning centre there, the learn direct there works because it is in the community. Mitchell and Berry Hill are happy to merge because they can form a natural community hub.

TERRY CROWE (Chair of governors at Berry Hill) said Ross Irving and his cabinet are trying to destroy education at the two schools. Terry said he had opposed the independent and Labour elected mayors and the Conservative council leader. This is not party political, it is a fight for the children out there. Terry asked Brian Ward to come off the fence because he has the power but has not faced up to his responsibility. He said Mike Coleman had brought up the issues in the council but they had tried to ridicule him. He asked Norsheen Bhatti if she would speak to Ross Irving and tell him to get off his backside and do something. He asked her if she was prepared to tell Ross he has got it wrong.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said if she were elected she would make representations everywhere.

TERRY CROWE asked Brian Ward to speak to Ross Irving.

BRIAN WARD said we must go though a process, we still have Mitchell High today and can not guess what happens after the election.

GRAHAM WALLACE (CSAG) asked Norsheen Bhatti why she said the Labour party had done this. Her Conservative party had been in charge of the council cabinet for 9 months now.

MICK STONE (CSAG) said to Brian Ward that he was sorry it appeared he was being given a hammering but his question was simply that as leader of the City Independents which have a majority of councillors, he should have influence, so what has he actually done since becoming leader of that group for this campaign? Mick put forward his theory that the area is seen as a hotbed of support or the extreme right and the establishment don’t like that. The area is seen as a poor working class area full of thickos on crack. So taking two lumps of the community and sending them in opposite directions was a ploy to water down support for the extreme right. But Mick thinks this could create the reaction they are trying to stop.

BRIAN WARD said there had been umpteen meetings with SERCO and the new chief executive of the council and there are issues so he did not want to give false promises. There was a desire to move the school because education was poor. Brian said he had backed Trentham who ran a good campaign. As he is not the ward councillor he does not know Mitchell High School. The independents have made more waves in the city than anyone.

GARY ELSBY said he had heard all sorts of stories about wanting the land, he didn’t accept the point about the far right, this area is underprivileged so why not build a school here?

SIMON DARBY said they are doing this in Burnley too, trying to mix muslim and white children. They are busing them around and they don’t like it. This government enforced bullying shouldn’t be happening. He said it is good to see support to fight this here, if we fight it he will back us.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said there is nothing British about the BNP.

SIMON DARBY said he was more British than Norsheen.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said if she were elected she would be supportive because children matter.

MATT WRIGHT said this would rip the heart out of the community and with the scale of public sector cuts to come we need unity in communities, not division.

ADRIAN KNAPPER (Labour councillor) said to Norsheen Bhatti that this is a council decision and if the two schools option were put to the council, Labour and the British National Party and others would support a school on the Mitchell site and another in Longton. He said the only thing in the way is the executive; Brian Ward, Ross Irving and Liberal Democrat support. Norsheen should go to Ross and get him to go ahead with what we want.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said the reality is the decisions have been made and the council’s hands are tied.

ADRIAN KNAPPER stated that schools minister Vernon Coaker would not block the two school option.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said it was not a decision made by the Conservatives but if elected as MP she would do as Adrian Knapper had asked.

BRIAN WARD pointed out that it is a cabinet decision, not a full council decision.

BARRY STOCKLEY suggested a vote of no confidence in the council leader.

JOHN DAVIS (City Independent councillor) said he is a governor at Mitchell High School. He had never seen so many lies and distortions of the facts than on this issue. The first time the proposal was discussed was over two years ago. The council have said for many years that this is a government decision and we are not allowed to build on the Mitchell site. At that time there was a Labour elected mayor and Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat elected mayor’s board. Mark Fisher had been brilliant and talked to the minister who said the site of the school is up to the city council. The current minister says we could have two schools. Another lie is that if we don’t agree it will affect funding and other schools. They have tried to set schools against each other. John called this ‘insultation’ not consultation and said the dictatorial decisions are ludicrous. But John said he believes in people power and we can beat them on the arguments. John asked the candidates if they would, like Mark Fisher, ignore the party whip and stand up for the community even against their own party.

BRIAN WARD said he would do better than that because he would save the school.

MATT WRIGHT said he would stand shoulder to shoulder.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said she would put people first.

SIMON DARBY said he would be 100% behind the fight.

GARY ELSBY said for 27 years he had stood by Mark Fisher’s side and Mark had asked him if he would take on the role of MP. He said Rob Flello MP was taking all the credit for saving Trentham High School and yet the community themselves had put up signs all over the area saying Trentham High School not for sale.

ANDY BENTLEY said when SERCO put forward their proposal the socialist party got 5000 names on a petition for no closures, no loss of jobs and new buildings if needed. His suggestion is every councillor should adopt a different strategy, instead of planning cuts they should plan what is needed as sufficient government funding and launch a campaign to force the government to give us the money. This has been done in Liverpool in the 1980s and they even got money out of Margaret Thatcher. Andy asked who would support such a strategy instead of money going to rich bankers.

BRIAN WARD said every child in the city gets £300 less than the average for the country and where have the MPs been to rectify this?

MATT WRIGHT agrees with Andy because the money needed is like crumbs from the table compared to the richest people in the country.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said Labour had said education, education, education so it is scandalous we get less than others, due to the city’s Labour MPs.

SIMON DARBY said bailing out the bankers, gamblers, was a disgrace and we are paying the price. He would abolish investment banks, have no front line cuts, pull out of the war in Afghanistan, having had an illegal war in Iraq, pull out of the EU and stop foreign aid. Common sense is needed and we should look after ourselves more.

GARY ELSBY said laws should be reintroduced to stop the banking fiasco. He had fought all his life for what he believes in. Labour have done some good things. He said national insurance should not be increased. We should demand no special favours but just the same as everyone else has, which should be easily fundable.

NICKY DAVIS (CSAG) said that by the year 2020 the current SERCO plan will mean we will be short of high school pupil places by about 500 for the Discovery school, wherever it is built, 350 for the new St. Peter’s and 300 for Sandon. What is the best plan to deal with these shortages?

GARY ELSBY said an extra high school can be built in Longton. Caps on immigration will come. We must plan properly for the children and if necessary build more schools. He said the answer is simple, they should give us the money.

SIMON DARBY said it is despicable because it involves private companies so it is about profit and he knows the way these people work with their ethos of selling off public assets. He suggested what is needed is an investigation into the private companies involved and who has directorships involved with these companies. Immigration is problematic.

NORSHEEN BHATTI admitted she does not know, to be honest. We don’t have the funding, education is in crisis and we need to take control.

MATT WRIGHT said we should kick private companies out of schools, increase capacity and employ more teachers. Immigration would not be an issue if public services could cope with demand.

BRIAN WARD said the Labour government has done more privatising than Thatcher.

DAWN KELLY (CSAG) said it gets on parents nerves that they are told pupil numbers are going down at Berry Hill High School but the only reason for that is because of the threat to the school. People are sending their children elsewhere but if a school were to be kept on the Mitchell site they would come back.

KEN said there had been underfunding for years and asked if we should blame the MPs or the council.

BARRY STOCKLEY said we are not underfunded in BSF capital funding, it is the way it is used that is the problem.

BRIAN WARD insisted there was underfunding.

TERRY CROWE had attended a meeting to make teachers and other staff redundant because Berry Hill was targeted for closure. Terry backed up Dawn Kelly’s point. He said as Brian Ward had made a statement he would keep a school on Mitchell if elected, then why not do it now?

BARRY STOCKLEY thanked the 5 parliamentary candidates who had attended.

The meeting finished with a video showing how Mitchell and Berry Hill pupils worked together.

Full Council Report Part 1 – Holocaust Memorial Day & A Bombshell By Alby

Thursday’s Full Stoke-on-Trent City Council Meeting started off in a cordial fashion with a good gathering of the general public there to observe, question and petition the council.

Cllr Roger Ibbs received an award for his long service to the Council. The award marked 12 years service, in fact Cllr Ibbs has served for some 14 years. He addressed the chamber and highlighted some of the highs and the lows and some of the characters he had met in his time in the council chamber.

One of the petitions was put forward by Cllr Adrian Knapper who had gathered around 2000 signatures calling for investment in Bucknall Park and the City Farm and a commitment that the popular facility would stay open.

He was accused by Cllr Ibbs of electioneering and of voting for it’s closure when Cllr Knapper was a member of the EMB.

Cllr Knapper strenuously denied he had voted for it’s closure at any time and argued the he had supported the Park and the City Farm for some 10 years.

Cllr Derek Capey questioned why Cllr Knapper had raised the issue again given the fact that the facility had been removed form the proposed Budget cuts and a ‘Friends of the City Farm’ group had been formed who were able to apply for the sorts of funding that the council were unable to.

The council accepted the Children and Young People’s Plan 2010-13 proposed by Cllr Ian Mitchell which can be read on pages 37-60 of the reports pack linked below.

Cllr Barnes then moved that the council accept the report on the Review of Council Constitution 2009/2010 [pages 61-86 in the pack] but he refused to move Appendix F which amended the process for appointing/removing a new council leader. The reason he refused to move this appendix was because it’s recommendations had not been agreed by the Constitutional Working Group, instead it had been agreed at a Group Leaders meeting. The Legal Officer reminded the chamber that it was not essential that this matter had not been agreed at the Constitutional Working Group as the Full Council was the decision making body. After a lengthy debate the council voted in favour of the report including the amendments recommended in appendix F.

The first major debate centered around the following motion proposed by Cllr Kieran Clarke and seconded by Cllr Joy Garner:

“This Council notes that

·Holocaust Memorial Day 2010 has been commemorated throughout the UK with more events than ever taking place in schools, communities, places of worship and many other organisations.

·On or around the 27th January hundreds of thousands of people joined together to become part of The Legacy of Hope and many attended events in their community, others read survivor stories watched the Holocaust Memorial Day 2010 short film and 40,066 people took the time to pause for a moment and light a virtual candle on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website.

·A national event, attended by over 200 survivors, senior government officials, faith leaders and young people from across the capital, was held at the Guildhall, London and included a specially commissioned piece of music by composer Howard Goodall, contributions from Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott and Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks.

and resolves that from 2011 onwards the City Council Organise a suitable event to recognise Holocaust Memorial Day”.

Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley was the first to speak and he informed the chamber that he was happy to support the motion but reminded the meeting that genocides had taken place in many places over past decades and were not all linked to World War Two.

Alby Walker was the next to speak and he used the opportunity to attack his former party and it’s leadership. He also announced that his wife and fellow Abbey Green ward councillor Ellie Walker had decided to follow him across the chamber and out of the BNP.

He told the meeting that he stood by what he had said on the BBC’s Politics Show at the weekend and told those who did not see it that he had said the there were Holocaust deniers in the BNP and among it’s leadership and he also claimed that some of the BNP had Nazi tendencies including a BNP PPC.

He also said that he had been the subject of a BNP smear campaign and that he had been receiving silly text messages from BNP Chairman Nick Griffin. He said that he wasn’t going to respond but that he had ended up texting back saying “Nick, I think some child has got your phone and is sending out silly messages!”

He often seemed to be addressing those councillors who were sitting on the BNP benches>

He told the chamber that he fully supported the motion but would like to add an amendment to it calling on the City Council to prepare a document that was a Pledge Of Hope which should be signed by all the councillors and displayed in a prominent place in the Civic Centre and published on the Council Website.

Cllr Salih, Barnes, Ibbs, Reynolds and many others spoke in favour of the motion and the amendment and paid tribute to Cllr Walker and also called on the BNP to denounce the Holocaust and their leaders who had questioned the facts surrounding it.

BNP Group Leader Cllr Mike Coleman told the chamber that it was important to remember history and those who died in these atrocities. He reminded councillors that it was important to remembers the holocausts caused by the left as well as the right.

The entire chamber voted in favour of the amendment and the substantive motion in probably one of the most moving debates ever heard in our council chamber.

Alby and Ellie Walker showed bravery and dignity in speaking out against their former party and it’s leaders and in moving and seconding the amendment to the motion.

Stoke-on-Trent BNP Group Reduced To Seven

Stoke-on-Trent BNP councillors have been reduced in numbers to 7 from the initial 9 earlier in the year.

After Alby Walker stepped down as BNP group leader in the city the group were reduced to 8 and at todays full council meeting Councillor Ellie Walker was sitting away from the rest of the BNP group and sat with her husband with the non aligned councillors.

During a vote on the nominations for appointment to school governing bodies which included Councillor Steve Batkin from the BNP being nominated as a governor at Endsor High School Ellie Walker abstained from the vote, effectively voting against the BNP group who all voted in favour of all the nominations.

We have been told that Ellie has moved away from the BNP and is just waiting for the paperwork to be completed by Member Services.

Alby Walker confirmed that Ellie has moved away from the party during his speech on item 14 of the agenda asking the council to arrange a suitable event each year to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

In a statement this evening Simon Darby Deputy Leader of the BNP said:

Well it would have been unusual had she stayed considering the circumstances with regards her husband. However, I would like to thank her for all the hard work she has done for the British National Party and for local people over the years. She is a kind and very brave lady and it is unfortunate that her husband has in effect terminated her political career as well as his own.

Simon Darby On ‘That’ No-Show At The Youth Hustings In Hanley

Audio Interview With Simon Darby Online Now!

Many people have commented and given their opinions on BNP Candidate Simon Darby’s no-show at the Youth Hustings event at the Victoria Hall in Hanley last week.

Today we can bring you an exclusive Audio Interview with Simon Darby and get his side of the story.

The YMCA/Sentinel organised Youth Husting was a massive success.

The hustings was brilliantly Chaired by the Sentinel’s Editor-in-Chief Mike Sassi who made sure that all the panelists got a fair hearing and were given equal time to respond to the questions posed.

The audience made up mainly of young people between the ages of 16 – 25 grilled the panel on a wide range of topics and were widespread in their condemnation at the BNP Deputy Leader’s failure to turn up.

Simon Darby claims that he did turn up at 17.45 and sat in his parked car opposite the Victoria Hall. He also claims that he met up with Stoke BNP Leader Michael Coleman around 18.00.

In this exclusive Audio Interview, Simon Darby gives his reasons for not going into the venue and also tells us his views on the event, it’s organisers, the Sentinel, the Police and what life would be like if he were successful in his bid to take the Stoke-on-Trent Central Seat.

His also gives us his thoughts on Mark Fisher, the Labour Party and Alby Walker who he claims may not stand after all.

The Audio is in 2 parts and lasts for around 15mins in total. So make a cuppa sit back, relax and listen……..


Brian Ward Confirms He Will Stand in Stoke Central In The General Election

Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council Brian Ward has today confirmed that he will stand as an Independent Candidate in the upcoming General Elections

Ward, who is a Councillor for the Blurton Ward and is also the Leader of the City Independent Group is currently at a conference in Cannes in France on behalf of the City Council.

The principle reason for his decision to enter the contest is that he does not feel that the City’s 3 Labour MPs have delivered on behalf of the electorate.

He feels that the MPs often get involved in trivial matters that should be passed on to the Ward Councillors to allow the MPs the time to get on with important issues like attracting investment into the City and lobbying for more government funding to help make the City a better place.

Brian Ward joins an ever growing list of names contesting the seat fallowing Mark Fisher MP’s decision to stand down on health grounds.

Other confirmed candidates are Norsheen Bhatti [Conservative], John Redfern [Liberal Democrats], Alby Walker [Ind], Paul Breeze [Ind] Simon Darby [BNP], Matthew Wright [TUSC]. There will be an official candidate from the Labour Party and also a candidate from the National Front who has still to be named.

When asked for his reason for not contesting Stoke South he said that he had an agreement with Cllr Terry Follows not to contest the seat after Cllr Follows had helped in the Trentham High School Campaign.

He also claimed that party politics had ruined the City and in particular the Labour Party. He also feels that the infighting amongst the Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour Party will help his cause.

Mark Fisher MP – Ready For Battle In Stoke-on-Trent Central!

Mark Fisher MP has been serving the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central for 27 years now.

In the past year he has had to endure one of the most difficult period’s in our Country’s political history due to the public outcry at the MPs expense scandal. But, Mark is fiercely proud of what he and the Labour Party have achieved in his time in Parliament.

This week it was confirmed that the BNP’s Deputy Leader Simon Darby, was to fight the General Election for the far right party. Stoke-on-Trent is seen as the ‘jewel in the BNP crown’ and Mr Fishers seat is one that the BNP have identified as definitely winnable.

It was also confirmed yesterday [Friday] the Mark Fisher MP will also face a challenge from former Stoke BNP Group Leader Alby Walker.

Mr Fisher was delighted to hear this news as he believes that this shows that the BNP campaign is in tatters on it’s first day.
Norsheen Bhatti [Conservative] and John Redfern [Liberal Democrat] will also contest the seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central.

In this two-part Video Interview Mark Fisher MP gives his reaction to the news that the BNP are targeting his seat. He also gives his views on a wide range of subjects.