Ex Labour Member Announces Public Meeting In Stoke-on-Trent Central

Former Labour Party activist Mick Williams has announced that there is to be a public meeting next week which could result in a new group on the political landscape of Stoke-on-Trent.

Mick is standing as a non-aligned candidate in Hartshill and Penkhull Ward following his resignation from the Labour Party after 46 years membership.

This is against a background of heated controversy in Stoke (Central) constituency where Tristram Hunt was selected despite allegations that he had been ‘parachuted in’ after intervention by Lord Mandelson. This has led to several further resignations from Constituency and Branch officers and activists.

Former CLP secretary Gary Elsby has also resigned and is contesting the election of MP for the constituency as a non-party candidate. He claims to be a defender of Labour’s record but feels that NEW Labour has lost the plot regarding Party democracy. Gary has been invited to speak at the meeting.

This situation bears great similarity to that in Blaenau Gwent five years ago after NEW Labour imposed an AWS (all-women-shortlist) on the local party. The AWM (Welsh Assembly Member) Peter Law contested this as an independent socialist and overturned a 20,000 majority in what was the third safest Labour seat in the country.

Following Peter’s sad death a year later the by-election was won by his agent Dai Davies who has served ever since and will be defending his seat on May 6th.

Dai has agreed to address the meeting and also to answer questions on the development of ‘Blaenau Gwent Peoples Voice’ which has enjoyed remarkable success, now also holding the Welsh Assembly seat and having several councillors locally in Ebbw Vale.

Several local non-aligned candidates in Stoke have been invited to say why they are standing outside the traditional party system and it is widely suspected that an announcement will be made after the election of the formation of a new coalition. This is perhaps inevitable given that there are at present no less than nine political groups registered on Stoke Council.

The meeting takes place in the Council Chamber at the Civic Office in Stoke, Tuesday 27th April at 6.00pm.

Labour Threaten Gary Elsby With Legal Action

Stoke-on-Trent Central Independent candidate and ex Labour Party member Gary Elsby has been threatened with legal action by a legal firm working on behalf of the Labour Party.

London law firm Gregory Rowcliffe Milners, acting on behalf of the Labour Party have sent Mr Elsby a letter regarding his use of a red rosette and the use of the word ‘Labour’.

In a statement Mr Elsby said,’They seem to think I am a credible threat if they are sending out this kind of mail. Thankfully my daughter has designed a new rosette for me, the red and white of Stoke, which better reflects my local roots compared to their parachuted in London puppet candidate, Tristram Hunt.’

Councillor Mike Barnes who was confirmed as Mr Elsbys campaign manager last week said, ‘This doesn’t surprise me at all from the Labour Party. It’s just the kind of bullying tactics we are used to seeing when we were members, and one of the reasons we have left. It doesn’t affect us one bit but they must be getting worried. We are getting a great response from the public who are sick and tired of being taken for granted in Stoke. Many agree that this should be about our city and its people, not party political games for Mandelson and Brown’s cronies.’

Mr Elsby has said that he is already suing the Labour Party over his shocking treatment in their candidate selection process.

Gary Elsby Confirms Mike Barnes As Campaign Manager

As reported by Pits n Pots earlier today, Gary Elsby has now confirmed that Mike Barnes will be working as his election campaign manager, for his bid to win the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat from the Labour candidate, Tristram Hunt.

A press release from Gary this evening said:

Former Labour CLP Secretary, Gary Elsby’s campaign to become MP for Stoke Central, against Tristram Hunt, Labour’s parachuted in candidate, stepped up a gear in momentum today as Gary announces that former Stoke-on-Trent Labour Leader, Cllr Mike Barnes, has been appointed as his Election Agent and Campaign Manager.

Gary said, ‘I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people getting in touch to offer support and wishing me well, not just from Stoke but from all around the country – people that I have never even met as well as many people in Stoke. I am very pleased that Mike Barnes has offered to be my election agent and coordinate my campaign. He has a lot of experience in politics and particularly in successful public campaigns. Mike is now working on planning my campaign and bringing together a team from those that have offered to help me including a number of Labour members about to leave the party because of the Tristram Hunt fiasco.’

The press release went on to say:

Mike Barnes is widely regarded as one of the leading public campaigners in the City having led the successful campaign to get rid of the Elected Mayor in 2008, the only Elected Mayor system to be scrapped in the UK, when many professional pundits said it could not be done.

Mike Barnes has previously held the position as Labour Group Leader on Stoke City Council, Deputy Leader, as well as Stoke-on-Trent Labour’s Election Coordinator during 2004 when Labour won 13 out of 19 seats, against the national trend and one of only three councils in the country in which Labour made gains.

Tristram Talks About His Fight For Stoke-on-Trent Central

One of the Labour Party’s rising stars sailed into Stoke-on-Trent Central not so much on calm waters, but very much through the turbulent seas of a troublesome selection process.

Tristram Hunt successfully negotiated the potential banana skin of a hustings and defeated all comers.

The meeting however was not without controversy. A number of party members supported a move not to proceed to a ballot.

The very next day Stoke-on-Trent Central CLP Secretary Gary Elsby resigned the party and announced that he would stand against Tristram Hunt in opposition to the way the selection process was handled.

But Tristram has not been deterred, in fact he has hit the campaign trail running. He is encouraged by the doorstep reaction that he is getting and he has been boosted by the support of long time Labour activist and former City Councillor Terry Crowe, Stoke Central Chair Barry Stockley and retiring MP Mark Fisher.

Mike and I visited Tristram’s Campaign HQ today which is located at Stoke South MP Rob Flello’s constituency office.

It was a hive of activity. Interestingly there were a number of people who were either unsuccessful at getting on the longlist for the Stoke Central vacancy, or were overlooked for the shortlist.

These people were united behind the successful candidate Tristram Hunt and were keen to point out that they were fully behind the appointment and were committed to helping Tristram get elected.

Listen to the audio interview with Tristram below. He gives us his views on a wide range of issues, including Gary Elsby, the BNP, his ideas for Stoke Central and whether he is just too posh for Stoke-on-Trent.

Tristram Talks About His Fight For Stoke-on-Trent Central

One of the Labour Party’s rising stars sailed into Stoke-on-Trent Central not so much on calm waters, but very much through the turbulent seas of a troublesome selection process.

Tristram Hunt successfully negotiated the potential banana skin of a hustings and defeated all comers.

The meeting however was not without controversy. A number of party members supported a move not to proceed to a ballot.

The very next day Stoke-on-Trent Central CLP Secretary Gary Elsby resigned the party and announced that he would stand against Tristram Hunt in opposition to the way the selection process was handled.

But Tristram has not been deterred, in fact he has hit the campaign trail running. He is encouraged by the doorstep reaction that he is getting and he has been boosted by the support of long time Labour activist and former City Councillor Terry Crowe, Stoke Central Chair Barry Stockley and retiring MP Mark Fisher.

Mike and I visited Tristram’s Campaign HQ today which is located at Stoke South MP Rob Flello’s constituency office.

It was a hive of activity. Interestingly there were a number of people who were either unsuccessful at getting on the longlist for the Stoke Central vacancy, or were overlooked for the shortlist.

These people were united behind the successful candidate Tristram Hunt and were keen to point out that they were fully behind the appointment and were committed to helping Tristram get elected.

Listen to the audio interview with Tristram below. He gives us his views on a wide range of issues, including Gary Elsby, the BNP, his ideas for Stoke Central and whether he is just too posh for Stoke-on-Trent.

[soundcloud id=’1716667′ format=’set’]

Mike Barnes To Be Campaign Manager For Gary Elsby In Stoke-on-Trent Central

we have heard that Councillor Mike Barnes is to be Campaign Manager for Gary Elsby who is standing as an independent candidate in Stoke-on-Trent Central after splitting from the Stoke Central Labour Group.

We believe that a website promoting Gary Elsby in the General Election is set to be launched in the next 48 hours.

Gary Elsby & Mike Barnes were not available for comment at the time of writing but we will bring you official statements as soon as we get them.

Exclusive: Gary Elsby Speaks Out

After 27 years loyal service to the Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour Party, Gary Elsby has decided to stand against the Labour Party’s Official Candidate Tristram Hunt.

His story has been covered extensively on this site over the past 6 months.

It began with his support of Co-Op Party delegate Mick Williams who was refused access to the City Party on the instructions of the Labour Party’s West Midlands Regional Office.

It all ended with his failure to be accepted as a candidate in the forth coming local council elections and his failure to get onto the longlist of candidates for the vacancy for the Prospective Party Candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central Constituency.

Its all about the process he says, its all about the imposition of the party’s ‘preferred’ candidate, he claims.

The past events, coupled with the selection process, eventually led him to make his controversial decision to stand against Tristram Hunt. A decision that could split the Labour vote and improve the chances for the British National Party’s candidate Simon Darby.

Today we have an exclusive interview with the man himself. We grill Gary on a wide range of subjects. He gives us the reasons behind his decision and the possible ramifications.

The interview is in 4 parts, each part last for around 8 minutes….

Comment: Stoke-on-Trent Central – The Impact & The Aftermath

The great thing about writing for a site like Pits n Pots is that every so often you get the opportunity to give your 10 penneth to the current hot debate.

So here goes – On the 16th of March I wrote the following:

“Gary Elsby is desperate to be a candidate after 30 years dedicated loyal service to the Labour Party. His timely removal from the parliamentary list has thrown his candidature into serious doubt. He is committed to standing as an MP in the area he has served for many years. It is rumoured that he has the support of a large section of the membership in the constituency. The sad fact is he may have to step outside of his beloved party to achieve this. I think he is totally prepared to do this”.

Well, prepared he certainly was. Yesterday he announced that he was to go it alone and as it was Good Friday, a slow news day, he was maxed out on media attention.

He has made the move, thrown his hat in the ring and now there is no way back for him.

I have been covering the whole sorry saga of Stoke Centrals battles with the West Midlands Regional Office and the paid enforcers of the National Executive Committee for many months now.

Yesterday’s announcement was the Champions League Semi-Final of the competition, there have been many preliminary rounds, but we are now close to the Grand Final which will be played out in front of the nation on May 6th.

The Labour Party have to take the ultimate responsibility for this whole fiasco.

Firstly, those in the Regional Office who decided that Gary Elsby, Barry Stockley & Mick Williams were not suitable and deemed ‘hostiles’ and subsequently prevented from standing in the local elections. Were their crimes ever explained?

Why were they treated differently to people like Joy Garner and Joan Bell who walked out of the Labour council group and joined a Conservative coalition, only to walk back into the party without any recrimination what-so-ever. Why treat these people differently? I suggest the party hold an urgent inquiry into this whole sorry debacle and those ultimately responsible for the witch hunt against these individuals should be forced out of the party with the same dignity shown to Elsby, Williams and Stockley.

It has been suggested that Gary Elsby would have been better served by staying in the party and to help bring those twisted officers to book for their actions. No volunteers deserve to be treated the way these three have by paid officers of a political party.

Secondly, if the Special Selection Panel were directed to include and exclude certain names it should be made public and an explanation given.

Who ever was responsible for not putting a woman or any local candidates on the shortlist must be named and shamed. It was a travesty in the least and an act of political incompetence at worse.

The decision not to allow local names on the shortlist was a terrible mistake. It has left some individuals pondering their future within the party. Sarah Hill, Jane Heggie and Merv Smith all made the interview stage and I’m told gave a good account of themselves. Tom Reynolds and Adrian Knapper did not even make the longlist. What a joke, I say ambition must be encouraged not stifled.

To their enormous credit most local candidates have expressed their disappointment but urged everyone to united behind the chosen candidate.

There has got to be an end to imposed candidates and rigged shortlists. The Labour Party need to focus on the fact that they have an election to win, not on the possible leadership battle which may follow.

The one person that can not in any way be blamed for the way the Central Three have been treated or the way the shortlist was compiled is Tristram Hunt.

Some of the comments that have been kicking around the Internet have been laughable.

The suggestion that someone with a name like Tristram or someone as posh as he is can not serve the electorate of Stoke-on-Trent Central adequately is quite frankly, an insult to all those that live in the constituency.

He has the backing of the two men responsible for bringing Mark Fisher MP to the City, Terry Crowe and Barry Stockley.

They did not think that it was an issue that Mark Fisher was educated at Eton or was the son of a Conservative MP. I don’t doubt for a second that they think Tristram’s education, profession or heritage should be an issue either.

I have met Tristram Hunt and found him to be a hugely impressive character. I know he felt that the shortlist should have been more extensive and included local names.

I know also that he is committed to uniting the party and reconciling the differences between the region and the constituency. I know he would have fought to get Gary Elsby back onto the parliamentary list and allowed to stand for council in 2011.

Tristram comes with no baggage attached as far as the past battles of the City Labour Party or the Regional/NEC interference.

He is also untainted by the past scandals such as the MPs expenses and the abuse of parliamentary privileges.

He must be judged on the pledges he made prior to being selected which are:

“¢ Fight to keep schools located in our communities
“¢ Use all my business, political and media skills to bring investment, regeneration, tourism and jobs to Stoke;
“¢ Work tirelessly to improve the profile of Stoke-on-Trent nationally;
“¢ Tackle the BNP head on and remove their vicious stain from our streets;
“¢ Build a vibrant and inclusive local party;
“¢ Liaise with local groups, the police and Council to fight anti-social behaviour;
“¢ Make a family home in the constituency;
“¢ Publish transparent and open expenses.

If Tristram Hunt has the ear of the likes of the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, I can think of worse allies. If he can use his influence to get our City a better deal, help with regeneration and attracting inward investment, this can only be a good thing can’t it?

He must not be judged on the treatment handed out to Gary Elsby but he could help to make certain that this never happens again to anyone within the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent.

I have spoken to lots of people who are sympathetic to Gary Elsby’s plight, some close to him and some not so close.

Whilst these Labour Supporters want those responsible for the treatment metered out to Gary to be forced out or to resign from the party, they will not be voting for Gary.

The people who I have spoken to believe that their party is bigger than any one individual. They believe that people like the excellent Peter Kenyon will carry on fighting their cause and that the media attention caused by this story will ensure changes to the selection processes of the future.

The biggest fear for the normal Labour Supporters I have spoken to is that Gary Elsby may split the Labour vote and let the BNP or the Conservatives in through the back door.

I have been told that Tristram is approachable, accessible and inclusive.He needs to prove it by getting out and meeting as many of the electorate as he can. He needs to show people his qualities. He needs to hold as many public events where members of the public can voice their concerns and ask their questions of him.

I have known Gary Elsby since 1979. We joined the Labour Party at the same time in the early 80’s.

I know that he has been hurt badly by recent events. I do believe he has been treated appallingly badly by the Regional Officers and the NEC paid enforcers. I do believe that they have acted on information supplied to them by local members.

Gary has chosen to chart his own course. He will give it his best shot but I think deep down he would still prefer to see a Tristram Hunt as an MP rather than a Simon Darby.

The question now is how long it will be before those who have encouraged him come out and publicly back the candidate that they voted for with a massive majority at the hustings?

People must realise that this has being on the cards for far longer than just the past few days. No matter who would have been shortlisted Gary was deemed as unsuitable and removed from the parliamentary list. He knew this better than anyone.

Gary’s argument is not with Tristram Hunt but those individuals who have acted like Pontius Pilate in deciding peoples fate.

Meanwhile Tristram Hunt will campaign to prove he is worthy of stepping into his predecessor’s shoes.

Mark Fisher thinks that he is more than worthy.

The confirmed candidates in Stoke-on-Trent Central could fill all the outfield positions on a Football pitch [11], god help us if the subs bench starts getting full too!

Elsby To Stand As An ‘Independent ‘ Labour Candidate For Stoke Central.

Link To BBC Radio 4 Interview Now Online!

Gary Elsby’s 27 year long love affair with the Labour Party is at an end today. He has announced that he will stand as an ‘Independent’ Labour Candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

He made the announcement on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.

His decision will come as no surprise to readers of this website as we have been predicting it for the past 2 months.

Elsby was removed from the Labour Party’s Parliamentary list, prevented from standing for the party in the local elections and told that he has no aims and values by the NEC and the Regional Officers. It was widely understood that the Labour Party would have brought further disciplinary action against him after the general election.

This latest saga in the life of Stoke Central CLP will come as a bitter blow to the newly selected Labour candidate Tristram Hunt who won the ballot at last nights hustings by a massive majority.

Local members showed their disdain at the lack of local candidates on the shortlist and a move not to select a candidate was narrowly defeated.

Speaking to Pits n Pots this afternoon Chairman of Stoke-on-Trent Central CLP Barry Stockley said:

“I am terribly upset and sorry that Gary has chosen to go it alone and stand in the forthcoming general election as an Independent candidate.

“I put the blame firmly on the West Midlands Regional Office and I think that it is time for the Regional Director to consider his position.

“I have made my feelings known about the selection and the shortlist. There should have been a greater selection from the broad spectrum of the Labour Party that included local candidates.”

“I don’t want any blame attached to Tristram Hunt for the selection process or the shortlist. I believe he will prove to be a first class candidate and MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central.”

We will have our usual in depth interview with Gary Elsby coming up early next week. This afternoon Gary said:

“By taking this decision I feel that I am doing something positive for all the unpaid Labour Party volunteers who could be the next victims of those paid enforcers of the NEC hit squad. The actions of the regional officers and in particular Regional Director Ian Reilly are to blame for the mess that this has all caused”.

“I want to stand up for Stoke-on-Trent Central and to send the views of the electorate to London instead of London imposing their views on Stoke-on-Trent. I am the natural choice for all those Labour Party supporters who wanted a local candidate to vote for”.

“The Labour Party heavy artillery will now be unleashed upon me. My family are gutted and upset that this decision will almost certainly lead to my expulsion from the party, but they fully support my actions”.

“The people of Stoke-on-Trent Central will know that I am ‘of’ the people and ‘for’ the people rather than being a Lord Mandelson parachuted puppet.”

“Anyone who reads Pits n Pots will have noticed that I have not written anything supportive of Labour since last September. But I want everyone to know that I am out to win this election for the normal decent folk of the area. I did not take this decision lightly”.

“Even if I were to lose I would not regret making a stand against what has gone on here in Stoke, which has been caused solely by outsiders to the City, even though it will cost me my membership of the party that I have supported for many, many years”.

Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour Longlist Names Start To Emerge [Updated]

The names that have made the Labour Party longlist for the vacancy for the candidacy of Stoke-on-Trent Central have started to emerge.

The two favourites Tristram Hunt and Byron Taylor have made the list as expected.

Local candidates Jane Heggie and Sarah Hill’s inclusion means that there will at least be a local presence at the interviews in London on Monday.

The rest of the longlist will be made up of names not known in the City but is thought to include a Doctor from Coventry and an Asian guy from the West Midlands.

The 10 or 11 names that have made the shortlist will be interviewed in London on Monday and from that there will be a shortlist chosen will will comprise of 4 or 5 names who will go forward to the hustings on 1st April In Stoke.

Sources have indicated that there will not be a postal ballot as previously thought. It appears that there will be a vote on the night.

At this stage the focus is on those who for what ever reason did not make the longlist.

Gary Elsby will now be considering whether to step outside of the party and become the 11th candidate who will contest the Election. He will be bitterly disappointed that he has not made the longlist especially as he was on the Parliamentary list a short while ago.

Cllr Adrian Knapper is another well known Labour Party name excluded fro the list. This will come as a huge disappointment to Adrian who has only ever served the Stoke Central Constituency since he joined the Party. He is a serving City Councillor for the Berryhill and Hanley East ward.

Adrian has released the following Statement:

With regards my attempt to gain the selection of the vacant nomination for the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Labour.

I wish to thank the many ordinary people of the potteries who have come up to me in the Street and wished me well. The warmth of local people has been second to none and has given me faith that I have the respect of the electorate.

On this occasion the National Selection Panel that sits outside the City, have decided not to include my name within the shortlist of candidates.

Within Stoke-on-Trent many members of the local Labour Party have expressed concerns about the heavy hand of the regional office and the NEC, especially with the dealing around the Central 3, who have been dedicated long serving members of the local Labour Party.

All sides that have been involved within this dispute must now unite and realize that we all belong to the Labour Party with solid values and principles of the aim to serve the people to make lives and futures better for all.

Every Labour member in Stoke-on-Trent must now stand in support of the name of the individual who is selected by the local Membership to be the Labour Party PPC and campaign to make that individual the next Member of Parliament for Stoke Central.

I will now be seeking re-election to be a Councillor in the Local Elections and hope that the people in Berryhill & Hanley East Ward will put their faith in me, by voting Labour and re-electing me to be their City Councillor.

Former Labour Elected Mayor Mark Meredith has also been rejected at this early stage.

Cllr Tom Reynolds has also failed to get onto the longlist. This, quite frankly, I find amazing and it certainly fuels speculation that the chosen two are to be given a clear run.

Tom has released this statement:

I have been informed by the compliance unit that I won’t be invited to interview for the Stoke-Central parliamentary selection.

I’m really disappointed, as I believe I would have done a good job for Labour and the people of Stoke-Central. However I know there is a very good list of quality people still in the frame, and I know that we will have an excellent candidate for the seat in the next election. I’ll offer whoever wins the selection my full support.

I’m now turning my attention to ensuring the Labour stands up for Stoke in the council chamber, and I’ll be running for office within the Labour Group at our annual general meeting.

Informed sources are suggesting that the eventual shortlist will consist of Tristram Hunt, Byron Taylor, Jane Heggie and Sarah Hill [possibly one more].

If that is the case there will be a suspicion of a bit of Labour Party ‘social engineering’ given the fact that Stoke-on-Trent Central CLP have had issues with both Jane and Sarah which will probably pave the way for either the party favourite Tristram Hunt or union favourite Byron Taylor.

We will keep you updated as the situation unfurls.