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.
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’
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….