Out of the 199 candidates nominated to fight the upcoming local council elections, 139 represent national political parties.
So, it kind of got me wondering, if we happened to end up with a hung council, who would form the next coalition?
Now opinion is divided as to the chances and plights of the various political parties but I think everyone recognises that Labour are the clear favourites to take an outright majority in the council chamber.
I also think that everyone believes [even the Tories themselves] that the Conservatives could get a bit of a public kicking as the electorate exact revenge for the unprecedented cuts that the whole of the country is facing up to and having to deal with.
Despite fielding 44 candidates, the Liberal Democrats face obliteration from the council chamber. They have just 4 councillors presently here in Stoke-on-Trent. Across the country the electorate are expected to send a very clear message to Mr Clegg that he has got it wrong in joining with the Tories. The Libe Dems have become the political whipping boys following a series of high profile national policy u-turns which some say have angered the public to an extent where they will suffer a huge backlash in the May local elections.
The BNP locally have managed to field just 10 candidates and what is very different to last year is that there seems to be some sort of “Ëœarrangement’ with the England First Party not to field candidates in the same wards which would result in a split in the Nationalists vote. With the 6 England First candidates, far right voters will have an option in 16 of the 37 wards across the city. Of course this is a far cry from the days when the BNP described Stoke-on-Trent as their jewel in the crown but never-the-less the BNP could be another party that suffer at the pens of the electorate. The public feel that there is a genuine alternative to the mainstream parties with a number of credible Independent candidates and groups like Community Voice who actively seek to scrutinise the ruling administration and have become a self styled group of people champions.
It is hard to decipher who is who when analysing the 42 or so Independent candidates. The largest number will be attached to the City Independent Group under the stewardship of leader Brian Ward. They suffered something of a public backlash for joining in the 4 party ruling coalition. They have a reputation out of the mean streets of Stoke has being very hard working community councillors.
But in the event of a hung council just who could work with who?
There has been some suggestion that the Labour Group on the council have over egged the national cuts issue. This has caused unrest among the Conservative element in the chamber. One wonders whether the national Conservative party would allow their Stoke-on-Trent counterparts to take part in another love in with Labour.
An opposition member said to me recently that he thought it was like a scene from “ËœBrokeback Mountain’ to hear the interviews with Pervez and Ross Irving on Pits n Pots.
Well after the election it could be more like “ËœLast Tango in Packmoor’ if Labour don’t get the 23 seats necessary to take overall control of the city council.
I think there will be a few voices of discontent if a coalition between Labour and the Conservatives were proposed.
Any coalition with a far right party will not happen. Both the leader of the Labour Group Pervez and the Leader of the Conservative Group Ross Irving have ruled out working with the BNP in the past and I can’t see that that would change in the future.
The Liberal Democrats are expected to have a poor showing following the election so I don’t expect them to play a significant part unless Labour were short of just a couple of seats.
The prospect of Community Voice playing a part in any future coalition is a fascinating one. Mike Barnes had a very public parting of the ways with the Labour Party. Mick Salih and Peter Kent-Baguley also fell out of favour with the Labour Party and all three have been harsh critics of the coalition and Labour in particular.
Community Voice are tipped to do well in the local elections and could well be the dark horses come May 6th. I would love to be a fly on that particular wall to witness the coalition talks involving Community Voice representatives.
The City Independents will also play a major role in any future coalition and to some degree a coalition agreement with this group would be Labour’s worst case scenario. By the very nature of their group the CIG are made up of Independent thinkers and minds and it is very hard to get them agree to anything which makes a partnership arrangement with a group who operate a whip very difficult indeed.
Even though all this is speculation, we do need to consider what will happen in the event of a hung council.
One thing is for sure, groups like Community Voice, the City Independents, even Independents4U could play a major role in the future shaping of the City of Stoke-on-Trent.
With the exclusion of the far right for moral reasons and the possible exclusion of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on political reasons any coalition arrangements is fraught with danger.
The reason for the boundary changes and reduction in the number of councillors was thought to bring about political stability.
In the event of a hung council, the political gerrymandering and posturing will be no different to what it is now. There will just be less characters involved.
One thing is for sure, the next four years will be very interesting here in planet Stoke.