Former Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Resigns From Labour Party

Former leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council Barry Stockley has resigned from the Labour Party.

He has also revealed that he will not be standing in the upcoming local elections and has pledged his support for his former colleague and official Labour Party candidate Terry Crowe.

Two separate sources had claimed that Mr Stockley was 99.9% certain to stand, the only question was the ward he chose to stand in.

It is now thought that certain political activists has presumed that Mr Stockley would stand upon announcing his resignation from the Labour Party.

Other sources are claiming that Mr Stockley’s name was used to boost the campaigns of certain former prominent Labour Party members as they seek election to the council in May.

Barry’s decision has ended his 32 year relationship with the Labour Party.

Mr Stockley has written the following letter to his friends, colleagues and supporters clarifying his position:

Former Chair Stoke Central Labour Party and Assistant to Mark Fisher MP

March 2011

Dear Friends

City Council Elections 5th May 2011

It is well known that for some time now I have been concerned about the unwarranted interference by Labour Party officials from outside our City into the running of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the selection of candidates for the forthcoming City Council elections.

This interference may well have contributed to the way that the Labour dominated City Council has dealt with its budgetary problems ““ voting to reduce funding for children’s centres by £2.25 million, voting to close Shelton Pool, voting to close more care homes for the elderly, voting to close Willfield Community Centre and voting to slash the funding for child and adolescent mental health services whilst at the same time wasting vast sums of money on unnecessary consultancy fees and dodgy Icelandic investments.

I have therefore resigned my membership of the Labour Party which stretches back to 1979

Whilst I shall not be standing as a candidate at the City Council elections I would urge you to seek an assurance from any candidate that asks for your support that he/she will stand up for our area and consider the needs of our community before any instruction from a political hierarchy or political group.

It is not for me to tell you how to vote but I shall be voting for Terry Crowe – not because he is the Labour Party candidate but because he has proved over many years that he is a man of the highest integrity, strong enough to challenge instructions from unelected officials and will always put the needs of our community first. .

Yours sincerely

Barry Stockley

Mr Stockley’s letter urges the electorate to seek assurances that any candidate seeking election will stand up for the area and consider the needs of thr community.

His concerns are ironically mirrored in the recent blog post http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/blog/2011/03/stoke-trent-needs-committed-councillors-not-activists-grudge.

It is obvious that Barry Stockley had his differences with the Labour Party in recent times, but in all the time I have known him, I have never heard him say a bad word about any fellow party member. Likewise, I have never heard a Labour Party member say a bad word about Barry.

Differences?…. obviously. Mutual respect?….absolutely!

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’]

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!

Tristram Hunt – Labour Candidate For Stoke-on-Trent Central

Breaking News from Stoke Central Labour Group Tristram Hunt will be the Labour Party candidate for the Stoke Central constituency in Stoke-on-Trent.

Hunt comprehensively beat Saj Malik & Joe Ukemenam following a speech and question and answer session from each candidate at the Hustings in Hanley Stoke-on-Trent.

The selection of Tristram Hunt was not without controversy. There had been claims from some quarters that the shortlisting had been compiled to give Hunt the best possible chance of being the Labour Party Candidate.

The shortlist had no women or local candidates despite the applications of Sarah Hill, Jane Heggie and Mervyn Smith.

A number of Labour Party members showed their disdain at what many believed was a Labour Leadership ‘shoo in’ by voting against the move to ballot at tonight’s hustings meeting.

The Chair of Stoke Central CLP warned members that if no candidate was chosen there could be one imposed upon the constituency.

Tristram Hunt steps into the shoes of veteran MP Mark Fisher who decided to step down due to ill health.

The selection of the Labour Party’s PPC will make the number of candidates standing in Stoke-on-Trent Central 10. This number may grow to 11 in the next few days with Stoke Central CLP Secretary Gary Elsby likely to announce that he will stand for election in protest that he was removed from the Labour Party Parliamentary panel and his failure to make the candidates list for the local elections.

Mike Ion The Latest Name To Be Linked With Stoke Central

The latest name to be linked to the Labour Party vacancy in Stoke-on-Trent Central is that of Mike Ion.

Mike is a man with a long Labour Party tradition and has certainly got the pedigree to be a serious contender:

“¢Born and grew up in Sandbach
“¢Labour’s PPC for the marginal seat of Shrewsbury in 2005
“¢Labour Councillor on Telford & Wrekin UA and Wellington Town Council Between 1995-2004
“¢Fabian Society and Compass member
“¢WM regional campaign manager for Hilary Benn’s deputy leadership campaign in 2007
“¢Vice-chair of local branch (former CLP secretary)
“¢Former campaign co-ordinator for Wrekin CLP (1997 general election)
Other life experience:
“¢National Programme Director for School Improvement at the National Secondary Strategy
“¢Former headteacher of large 11-18 comprehensive school
“¢Co-leader of a PHAB (physically handicapped and able bodied) Club that meets each Monday evening (awarded the Princess Diana Memorial award for community service in 2005)
“¢Member of the BBC local radio advisory panel
“¢Served in the RAF for six years after leaving school at 16
“¢NUT member
“¢JP (Magistrate)
“¢BA, MPhil, PGCE

Speaking on his blog recently Mike said:

“I have decided to put my name forward for Stoke Central… will post more if shortlisted (the deadline for the submission of CVs is next Tuesday, March 23rd)”.

He joins Byron Taylor & Tristram Hunt as contenders from out side the City Of Stoke-on-Trent.

They will be facing local opposition from Sarah Hill, Tom Reynolds, Jane Heggie, Adrian Knapper and Alison Wedgwood.

Interestingly the key battle among the ‘outsiders’ could be between Byron Taylor and Tristram Hunt.

Both have been active in the constituency in the past few days talking to the electorate and Labour Party members.

It is alleged that Hunt is being championed by the Labour Party leadership and has the considerable weight of Lord Mandelson, Alistair Campbell and David Milliband behind him.

Taylor is known to be the favourite of the Unions and has very strong links with and support from Unite.

The Unions have been successful is getting candidacies for some of their key officials and officers.

Given the amount of funding that the unions and in particular Unite put into the party they could probably assume that they have more say in key candidates for safe seats.

The local candidates are busy networking and talking to Labour Party members and are probably pushing the fact that Stoke Central needs a local candidate.

One thing that Stoke Central needs is a constituency office. Barry Stockley has worked tirelessly for Mark Fisher MP in over the years and has assisted many constituents.

But the model that Stoke-on-Trent South operate, which is an office in the middle of the constituency that is more like a drop in centre and is run by full time staff, is something that Rob Flello’s constituents really appreciate.

The longlist is being currently being compiled by the Special Selection Panel of the party. They will also choose the shortlist and from that they will select the 5-6 names that will go forward to the hustings which will be on the 1st April [let’s hope that date does not prove to be ironic!]

An interesting twist to this tale surrounds the question of who will chair the hustings meeting?

Given the fact that the executive of the Stoke Central are all but suspended and prohibited from meeting, surely it could be possible that a key meeting like this be chaired by someone who is not a party of the Stoke Central CLP executive.

This could lead to another potential flash point and one that is entirely avoidable.

OK Stoke Central Let’s Sex It Up!

OK here’s the thing – I’ve been thinking, [dangerous I know!] it’s time to sex this Stoke-on-Trent Central malarkey up a bit!

I mean we have had the bad blood, we have had the sarcastic comments, now it’s time to put some rock ‘n’ roll into the proceedings.

It’s quite obvious now that there are two opposing factions in the race to become Stoke-on-Trent Centrals next Labour MP.

In the one camp we have Gary Elsby who is backed by his posse Barry Stockley, Terry Crowe, Mick Williams, Adam Colclough etc.

In the other gang Mark Fisher’s successor could come from one of Tom Reynolds, Adrian Knapper, Sarah Hill or Jane Heggie.

So, what about making the saga into the country’s next Reality TV sensation?

No work with me on this one – what about the title, ‘So You Want To Be An MP’ – Good eh?

They could be split into two obvious teams and perform [speak really] to a specially chosen panel of judges.

Dennis Skinner, Frank Field, Tony Benn for the lefties and Peter Mandelson, Liam Byrne and Tony Blair for the centre moderates.

The first round gets them onto the long list, in no particular order, some fall by the wayside.

The next round gets them onto the shortlist a stunning performance and Gary performs his personal best to make it through.

The audience sense the anticipation as the few remaining perform their final offering. A tough task on how to bring prosperity and jobs to Stoke-on-Trent, followed by how many Mars Bars you would try to get through on your expenses.

And then the TV Presenter – me [I can dream can’t I?] says Ladies and Gentlemen the votes have been counted and verified and I can now reveal the name of Stoke-on-Trent Centrals next MP is …… [long pause]…..

Come on, how cool would that be? We could make a fortune!

Seriously, we have been tipped off that it is to be an open list [not the dreaded all woman] and that the Special Selection Panel will meet very soon and will announce those that have made the shortlist on Monday at the latest.

I really hope that the rank & file members get to choose their preferred candidates from an extensive short list that includes all the local names that have been linked to this vacancy.

I also hope that the NEC can see their way to allowing Gary Elsby onto the shortlist which will allow him the opportunity of sharing a platform and competing for votes.

You may agree or disagree with Gary, but I would find it difficult to believe that there are people within the Labour movement who would deny him hi moment after 30 years dedicated service to the party he loves.

I am often told that the Central 3 do not have the support of the majority of the constituency. If they don’t, the NEC and the SSP won’t have anything to lose by his inclusion.

I still think that if SKY, the BBC, ITV or even Living TV don’t pick up on the opportunity for the best ever reality TV show of all time, ‘So You Want To Be An MP’ – They would be missing out big time!

The only reality should be is that the bickering, arguments, insults and accusations all stop very soon and that the successful candidate receive the full support of a united constituency who are ready to rumble in a full on campaign.

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.

The Names In The Frame – But Beware Of Who Comes Up On The Rails!

Now that the dust is settling on the news that Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Mark Fisher is to step down on health grounds, names are emerging thick and fast for the vacancy

As previously reported on this site City Labour Party Chair Sarah Hill and Election Organiser Jane Heggie were the first names to be linked.

I can reveal that other names that have been linked with the vacancy include Labour Councillors Tom Reynolds and Adrian Knapper.

Another name to be linked is that of Alison Wedgwood, a Labour Party Member and wife of Tom Wedgwood.

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.

Alison Wedgwood is rather an unknown quantity. She was in Stoke-on-Trent South for a time and is now a member of Stoke-on-Trent Central. My information would lead me to believe that she is not that active a member and does not attend many meetings.

Adrian Knapper is based in Nantwich which will not be a problem for him as far as being a Labour PPC but there are members who question whether he should be allowed to stand as a City Councillor. I don’t think it makes a difference where he lives as long as he’s able to cope with the workload. Some people in Stoke Central are against him because of his time in the EMB and his support for the policies of the previous Elected Mayor. I think people underestimate Adrian, he is ambitious and committed and his suggestion that the long service of Mark Fisher be recognised by the City is both honourable and credible.

Tom Reynolds is a guy I have had a lot of contact with. He is a councillor for the ward in which I live and we have worked together on issues like anti-social behaviour and schools/BSF. Tom is always accessible. He is compassionate and caring and has strong but progressive Labour values. He is extremely well liked in our ward and I think he would make a very capable and hard working MP. He is a guy who has a strong social conscious and would work tirelessly for his constituency. Whether Labour members in Stoke Central hold the same view is an entirely different matter. He would no doubt, through his association with Rob Flello MP, be viewed as one of ‘those West Midlands’ crowd.

Wouldn’t it be positive if all those who have expressed an interest in standing shared their vision for Stoke-on-Trent Central with us through this site. We would welcome their involvement even if they chose to contribute without allowing people to comment on their submissions.

There are also names from outside of the City being linked to this Labour safe seat

The selection criteria is expected to be announced on Friday and it is rumoured that there will be an eventual shortlist of 80% women and 20% men which could mean that by the time the Special Selection Panel, the NEC and the Regional Office have finished with the cull of names, the rank and file membership could be left with the choice of just 4 females and 1 male candidates.

The Labour Party have to act quickly and decisively on this issue. They have to show some sympathy for the views and opinions of the rank and file members in Stoke Central. Why not try and claw some form of respectability back and allow their ‘preferred’ candidates to go up against those that are wanted by core members and work on the old adage of best man/woman wins.

I admit that I would find the prospect of a hustings where Sarah Hill, Jane Heggie, Tom Reynolds and Adrian Knapper went up against the likes of Gary Elsby on a stage answering the same questions in the same pressurised environment.

I have a lot of time for both Tom Reynolds and Gary Elsby and would love to see them go head to head in a hustings. Both love the Labour Party, but both have perhaps a different starting point. Both their own men, Tom the new kid on the block and Gary who has waited for his chance since the early 80’s when he joined the party around the same time as I did.

How intriguing would it be to see Sarah Hill and Jane Heggie vying for the same votes when they both have a similar outlook on the Labour Party, where it is today and which direction it needs to travel in next.

The danger for Labour though is that they are so focused on themselves and their own ambitions that they are in mortal danger of allowing a runner to come up through the pack on the rails.

Whilst Labour are busy jockeying for position, the Conservatives are mounting a confident campaign. Norsheen Bhatti is no also ran. She has the backing of an assured campaigning team and the reports I am getting is that she is getting a very positive reaction.

Another Independent candidate is about to enter the fray in the guise of the Deputy Leader of the City Council, Brian Ward. He is a thoroughly nice guy and a confident speaker who’s key skill is the ability to interact with the electorate. I think he has a real chance of polling very well. Constituents in Blurton speak very highly of him and that appeal could transfer over to Abbey Hulton, Bucknall and Bentilee which are similar areas of social housing.

Of course the far right vote is heading for a split. Alby Walker who is enormously popular in Abbey Green and has a City wide profile will surely take votes off the BNP PPC Simon Darby. Darby disappointed some of the electorate with his no show at the YMCA organised Youth Hustings last week. He also missed a massive opportunity to engage with the young and first time voters. Just how many entrances are there to the Victoria Hall? If only he had contacted the organisers he could have escaped the few protesters that had gathered to greet him.

The Lib Dems will just plod and have no real chance in my opinion. They will mount a very low key campaign that will lack the flash, bang, wallop, needed to make a real impact.

Paul Breeze who failed to retain the Mayoral system when he campaigned against Mike Barnes and Democracy4Stoke is also standing as an Independent.

Matthew Wright is the Candidate for The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

There will also be a candidate from the National Front who will serve only to fragment the far right vote even further.

Interesting times I’m sure you will agree…..