The number of witches had everywhere become enormous

Steve Povey has been in his grave for two weeks now. I did not know him particularly well, but I have seen him in action in a number of meetings since the beginning of the century. Over the weeks since his death many deserved comments have been made about his community involvement and about the energy he showed in all things Leek. I actually praised him on one social networking site for developing the St George’s Day event, which is simply a good day out with stalls and general festive atmosphere. Steve was a UKIP Councillor. This might have a bearing on the response I got from Norscarf, which labelled Steve Povey a ” racist”. Now as I know and unless someone tells me otherwise I would not call him a racist.( I also checked it out with a long term Sentinel journalist in the Moorlands and she was emphatic that it was a lie.) His lack of knowledge about the outside world was exposed at the 2010 General Election hustings on issues such as the Middle East and I am sure that he had his faults, but racism was not one of them.

This incident was quickly followed by the publication of a document by the Institute of Race Relations on the Social Geography of Racism in Stoke, which came out about a week. I read through the report and was incensed at such a flawed report could be seriously regarded. The errors in the report are many, but I will point out two. It mentioned an incident from 2000 when a man named Colin Salt was tragically killed in the north of the City when the flat he lived in was burned down. The report mentions Greek Cypriot and that the death was racist. It’s wrong on two levels. Firstly it was not a racist murder. It was an insurance scam that went wrong. Secondly it was not a Greek Cypriot but a Turkish Cypriot involved who was later convicted in a Turkish court in 2007.

The second case in the IRR report was the example of the clash in Oldham in April 2001 between Asians in the Glodwick area and Stoke City fans. The report calls this a trigger event. A very comprehensive report called the Richie report commissioned after the event looked at all the factors in Oldham including education, media reporting, employment, health. The Stoke City riot is in there but in the context of the Walter Chamberlain case of a 78-year-old war veteran was beaten up by young Asian men and robbed. His badly beaten features appeared in newspapers. And despite appeals from Chamberlain and his family disturbances occurred around this time of which the Stoke City riot was one. The problems in Oldham were developing well before the incidents of late April 2001.

My point both about the IRR report and the comment about Povey is that the casual bandying of words like racism and placing all the problems of racism on only one group is terribly counter- productive.

I was speaking to a friend and I remarked that some anti racism organisation reminded me of the actions of people seeking witches in 17th century Europe. Substitute the word racist with witch and you get my drift.

Stoke BNP Member Claims His Party Is Finished

I recently asked a senior figure in Stoke BNP if he thought his party was finished for good in our city. He looked me straight in the eye and replied: “I think we are Tone yes”.

He went on to explain that his party had self destructed and imploded in the past two years and he laid the blame firmly and squarely at the doorstep of BNP Leader Nick Griffin.

The story did not get better for the far right party as this activist said that the recent election campaign received no party funding what so ever.

I was told that the BNP would never come back from this low point and that all the fight had gone out of the membership. The party insider revealed that they had really struggled to attract any candidate of quality.

It had cost some candidates in the region of £750 to fund and fight the campaign.

”We just could not compete with the Labour Party and they just smashed us!

“They were really organised this time especially in the centre of the city ““ colour leaflets and telephone campaigning, they knocked the doors en masse and they got their voters out on polling day.

“I don’t know where the BNP go from here, there is no enthusiasm, and we haven’t met since election night.

“Activists aren’t to blame that’s for sure, we have seen a drop in members, some activist have gone off to join other nationalist parties. It’s all down to Nick Griffin.”

This dejected BNP member told of his anger at the way Griffin his running the party.

It appears that if you question the BNP leadership you get an black mark against your name and before you know it you are out of the party.

Griffin is holding on the all the available funds and party activists are left high and dry and are having to fund party expenses themselves.

Many BNP members believe that Griffin his hanging onto the purse strings to fund his, and Andrew Brons’s next European Election campaign.

The Stoke BNP member believes that if Griffin is successful in getting re-elected to the European Parliament then, and only then will he relinquish the chairmanship of the party.

”It’s all down to money with Griffin Tone, He has his entourage to pay for and we believe he employs his wife and his daughter out of his European expenses.

“He is doing all right and we are struggling to fight a campaign against the might of the Labour Party machine.

“I just want to serve as I always have, but everything you do is futile without any party funding to help get leaflets delivered.

“I just wonder where all the money has gone, but it’s no good questioning anything either, only the chosen few know the true picture.

“In four years time we will have a general election to fight alongside the local elections. With people getting fed up and moving on you wonder if we will be able to fight either election.

“The morale is at rock bottom in the party. People are asking if there is any point meeting and if there is anything that we as a group can do anyway.

“This city has four years of Labour to contend with and I’m not sure if the BNP has enough to scrutinise from outside the chamber”.

BNP Leader Nick Griffin claimed nearly £300,000 for his first year as a MEP. This has led to accusations about him jumping aboard the gravy train that he and his party were so outspoken about.

He is yet to answer just how much of his income he has donated to the British National Party.

It has been a spectacular fall from grace both in this city and nationally for the BNP.

At the height of their popularity in 2008 they had 55 councillors nationwide and 9 in here in Stoke-on-Trent.

Now in 2011 they have just 12 councillors across the country and here in this city they have been wiped out of the chamber.

The far right party defended 12 council seats across the country but held on to just 2.

With things as bad as the senior Stoke BNP member paints it, you really do wonder if this is the end for the BNP.

Nationalist parties seem to have been rejected unilaterally by the electorate locally and across the country.

In 2010 the England First Party fielded candidates against the BNP in Stoke. In 2011 they had an agreement not to stand against each other. Out of 16 far right candidates fighting the City Council elections, none were successful.

Of 74,321 votes cast in the Stoke-on-Trent local elections, just 3,690 went to “Ëœnationalist’ candidates.

Politics is often like music and fashion trends, something is fashionable and popular only to fade away and then without warning it is back again. The same could be said about the politics of the far right.

Opponents of the far right, organisations like Searchlight, Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate and NorSCARF will not drop their guard.

They know better than most that just because the BNP, England First Party, EDL and the English Democrats have been forced into being dormant, it does not mean that they have gone away altogether.

The problem for far right parties and in particular the BNP, is when their own supporters believe that they are finished it is very difficult for their party leaders to convince them otherwise.

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Ellie Walker Joins Community Voice – And Confirms The BNP are Racist

Members of Stoke-on-Trent’s newest political group Community Voice have voted unanimously to accept a membership application submitted by former BNP Councillor Ellie Walker.

As a full member, she will now take her seat alongside the other Community Voice Group members in the council chamber.

Ellie Walker’s membership takes their number to 6 on the council and makes them the 4th largest group on the City Council.

Community Voice now have more members than Cllr Walkers previous group, the BNP.

“Community Voice, every single one of us, despise and are totally opposed to the BNP and everything it stands for. Racism, indeed any discrimination, has no place in a modern tolerant City like Stoke-on-Trent.

“Cllr Ellie Walker, has put all that behind her, and earned admiration and plaudits from all political parties across the City Council, when she not only left the BNP, but exposed the hidden extremism, giving this as her reasons for leaving.

“One of our core constitutional principles that have to be signed up to by all members of Community Voice is:

“Equality and Social Democracy ““ we commit to the principle that all people are equal without any form of discrimination, as well as the rights of all to receive support and services to live freely within their communities, without fear or poverty, minimising ill health and with the opportunity to fulfil their true potential.

“Ellie has signed up to this and it is clear she has put her past behind her, and Community Voice welcomes her valuable contribution to the communities of Stoke-on-Trent and
within the City Council.”

Ellie Walker is delighted to be a part of Community Voice and she also wished to make clear that her involvement with the British National Party was misguided. She also confirmed that in her experience, the BNP held racist and extreme views.

She also hit out at members of the far-right party for being only interested in hatred and for spreading lies.

“I wish to put on record that I was misguided to have ever been a member of the BNP and admit that I was part of an organisation that held racist views and that my association with the BNP reflected badly on me personally.

“However, during my time as a councillor, working closely with the community and all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, I have come to realise that the views of the BNP are wrong. Whilst a member of the BNP, I realise that it was not what I thought it was, with many individuals only interested in hate and lies.

“I totally renounce the views of the BNP and I am totally opposed to the BNP’s aims.

“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.”

Mrs Walkers statement will add to the recent unrest within the BNP.

They lost councillors locally and their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates performed appallingly in the recent elections.

The BNP nationally appear to be turmoil and it has been reported that the far-right party face financial ruin over the Unilver/Marmite incident.

Community Voice is keen to answer recent criticism relating to Ellie Walkers membership as first reported on this website.

Mike Barnes, Community Voice Coordinator and an active member of NorSCARF, reinstated his opposition to the BNP.

He believes that those wishing to renounce racism should be able to turn away from the BNP and be applauded for doing so.

“Many of us in Community Voice have been active over many years promoting tolerance and opposing the BNP and all it stands for. As activists our main objective was always to change the minds of those that supported or promoted the views of the BNP or racism.

Ellie has totally renounced her former views. This is a real victory for everyone in Stoke-on-Trent and Ellie has shown courage and humility in the statement she has made, and that deserves great credit and respect. I hope all those that have campaigned against racism and promoted tolerance extend that tolerance to Ellie Walker and anyone else who may leave the BNP or any other far right organisation.

Community Voice, having campaigned in the past to change the views of people in the BNP and its supporters, think that it would have been foolhardy to turn people away who renounce their former views.

Let he without sin cast the first stone.

Community Voice and its members will continue to actively and strongly opposed to the BNP and its vile views and lies, and I believe Ellie Walker’s contribution going into the future will be of huge benefit for all those that support tolerance and diversity.

Her commitment to the community she represents, in my opinion, will continue to be at the best of her ability and I have no hesitation in welcoming her to Community Voice and supporting her in everything she does.”

EDL & UAF Demo & Counter Demo In Stoke-on-Trent Part 4: The Clean Up

After Operation Chime scaled down as demonstrators left Hanley Operation Clean Up began.

Council workers moved in to Hanley after the police had re opened roads and moved most of the demonstrators back to their trains.

A team of 15 council workers worked in to the night in to Sunday morning to clean the areas from the Town Hall through to Wetherspoons up to remove any debris and rubbish left by the demonstrators so that Sunday morning shoppers would not be greeted by discarded banners and posters.

EDL & UAF Demo & Counter Demo In Stoke-on-Trent Part 3: The Aftermath

Stoke-on-Trent witnessed violent skirmishes between the English Defence League [EDL]and the Police on Saturday, as the town centre of Hanley was brought to a halt.

The Aftermath:

The UAF and NorSCARF demonstrators arrived at their rally point, sang some songs, chanted some anti-fascist chants, clapped their speakers and headed off out of town. Watch the video below which shows them at their loudest, well that is until the artists and speakers used the PA system.

In the ‘During’ article, you can clearly see that the Police were kept very busy and faced some considerable provocation from factions of the EDL supporters.

We had gone with a completely open mind. The Police intelligence was indicating that the EDL organisers had complied with everything that the Police had asked for. The Police had stated that as long as the EDL stuck to the terms of the Memo of Understanding, they could expect the Police to facilitate a peaceful protest and a considerate approach by the Police Officers on the ground.

The Police were brilliant. They were courageous and steadfast in the face of provocation and some considerable violence directed at them. We witnessed many examples of officers from all the forces present extend warmth and good nature.

The Police achieved their pre-operation goals, they were approachable, impartial and when required, they used the minimum of force.

When the Police finally bused the EDL out of the town centre, it was clear that there would be a heck of a clean up operation required, which would come at a cost.

The area from Wetherspoons to opposite Argos was strewn with debris, bottles, cans, lighters, coins, bricks, wood that had been stripped from advertising hoardings and there was even a kerb stone dug out and hurled. There was extensive damage to some Police vehicles.

It would be unfair to report that all the EDL supporters were out for trouble. There were the kind of supporters who, like Paul from Durham just wanted to make their point.

It was clear however that there was a large number of EDL supporters who were waiting, watching and encouraging trouble to kick off.

Add to that a number of local youths who were standing on the periphery of the crowd anticipating bother.


The EDL need to rid their organisation of those who are using their protests as a vehicle to start violence. They have announced a list of other cities they wish to demonstrate in. They may well find that it won’t be as easy next time around.

At the post operation Police briefing, Superintendent Dave Mellor rightly praised his officers on the ground and those who were involved in the planning and Command of the operation. He also praised the work of the Neighbourhood Policing Units around the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent.

A Senior journalist put it to Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Chief Executive, John Van de Laarschott, that the City’s reputation had been damaged. To me. this was an outrageous suggestion. There were demonstrators from the North, South, East and West of the country.

Stoke-on-Trent had no choice in whether the EDL or UAF demonstrated in our city.

Stoke-on-Trent people just did their best to get on with going about their normal days activities. They don’t deserve the accusation that our great city’s reputation has been damaged.

We have two post demonstration interviews for you to watch. The first is with Superintendent Dave Mellor and the second with Brian Ward the Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council. They give us their observations on the day’s events.

The image I’ve uploaded shows how the good folk in this city just carried on regardless. The pictures was taken by Mike Rawlins. He took some amazing pictures which tell the tale of the day without the need of words.

These articles are a collaboration of the work of Mike Rawlins, Tideswellman and Tony Walley.

Police well prepared for the EDL

Staffordshire Police are well prepared for the planned rally to be held by members of the English Defence League which is to take place on the 23rd January 2010.

The officer in charge of policing the rally was keen to point out that the Police had no powers to ban the rally. But had powers to stop them from marching through the city centre.

The English Defence League had originally planned to rally in the centre of Stoke but when they researched Stoke-on-Trent more thoroughly they found out that the City Centre was in fact in Hanley so they switched their gathering to there.

The EDL had wanted to hold their rally outside of the Potteries Shopping Centre but after discussions with the Police they were encouraged to gather in Old Hall Street on the opposite side of the road to Argos and Blacks.

Shoppers and businesses will be consulted and traffic plans will be put into operation. The bus centre will operate as normal.

The plans will ensure that shoppers and business will be unaffected whilst the rally takes place.

The Police have confirmed that they are expecting between 300 – 500 EDL members and roughly the same number of counter demonstrators believed to be from UAF and NorScarf.

The two factions will be kept apart from each other although the two groups will have sight of each other.

The counter demonstrators will be encouraged to gather outside of Hanley Town Hall.

The Police will be prepared for every eventuality but are expecting, and hoping to facilitate, a peaceful legal protest rally.

All the relevant assessments have been undertaken including a Community Impact Assessment and there will be input from Neighbourhood beat officers and discussions with Community Cohesion Groups.

The City Centre Police Commander will be available to speak to members of the public about there concerns exactly one week before the planned rally under the ‘Old Bill’ poster on the site of the rally.

The Police will also use a range of technology during the rally and will sent out messages on Twitter and via Bluetooth to members of the public have have the facility of receiving them.

The EDL will be arriving by coach to a destiny on the boundaries of the city and will then be escorted to their meeting point which is likely to be JD Weatherspoons in Hanley. They will then be escorted to Old Hall Street for their rally. They will have the use of a flat bed vehicle to make speeches from. The rally will take place for aproximately one hour.

As more details emerge about this rally, we will obviously keep you informed.

One thing is for sure though, those that think that there will be an opportunity for violence need think again. The Police have procedures that will ensure that both factions will be allowed to hold a peaceful protest and are willing to facilitate this. There will be a substantial number of Police at the rally to ensure that peace prevails.

Support Peaceful NorSCARF Vigile

NorSCARF is asking for your support in opposing the EDL’s (English Defence League) demonstration in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday 23 January 2010. There can be no good time for such an event, but this is particularly inappropriate so close to Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 when we remember the terrible consequences of making scapegoats of minority communities.

It is therefore NorSCARF’s intention to organise a peaceful vigil against intolerance on the 23rd,

and we are seeking to unite all of Stoke-on-Trent’s faiths and communities behind this.

The EDL are not a political party. Although they market themselves to the media as being “against Islamic extremism”, they have demonstrated that they are a toxic mix of football hooligans and extreme right-wing activists, not just capable of violent confrontation, but actively seeking it. On previous occasions, such as their demonstrations in Luton, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham, they have caused significant criminal damage and engaged in violent and offensive behaviour. In Stoke-on-Trent a group like this has the capacity to cause serious damage to community relations.

One concern is that they may focus their protest in Stoke-on-Trent on the new mosque in Regent Road. If so, any of their supporters arriving by train would inevitably pass through the residential area of Shelton, with its significant Muslim and student population, and they would be determined to provoke antagonism.

Alternatively, they may try to rally in one of the town centres, possibly in the vicinity of Hanley bus station.

In other cities they have congregated at a “Wetherspoons” pub before marching to their main assembly point. Neither Hanley nor Stoke, or any part of the Potteries, should have to face the prospect of hundreds of drunken louts and violent fascists marching through their centre, chanting racist abuse and inciting hatred.

In the recent march in Nottingham the cost for policing the drunken “protesters” was over £1 million. At a time of increasing austerity for Stoke City Council and the police the cost of any planned rallies must be taken into consideration. If there is any trouble, there will also be a large economic cost to the City in terms
of the damage to its image which can only serve to put off any national organisations looking to invest in Stoke in the future.

On being a patriot

In March I went along to a one day conference held at Staffs University held to combat the rise of the far right organised, I think, by Norscarf. I have to admit to feeling queasy about one of the decisions which was to leaflet an area where the BNP were strong. I felt nothing could be more counter productive than for essentially middle class professionals in secure jobs turning up to some council estate to lecture the locals on the error of their ways.

But this is not the main point of this contribution.

I made a contribution about the way in which the far right had been allowed to hijack symbols. Take the flag as I said at the time the multi racial French team posed before the tricolour after they won the World Cup in 1998 and yet “Britishness” and symbols of Britishness cause all sorts of a problem for people on the left.

One of the delegates went so far as to call the Union Flag the “butcher’s apron”.

As a starting point it is interesting to reflect that being labelled a patriot would have something that many late 18th and early 19th century radicals would have been comfortable with. Patriotism was defined as devotion to humanity and rationalism. For example, providing charity, criticising slavery, denouncing excessive penal laws supporting the notion of liberty and individual rights whilst attacking privilege were all considered patriotic.

I wondered if it was possible to construct a narrative in which progressive people could feel comfortable with being “British” or “English”

Within this context I feel that it is quite easy especially seen in the accomplishments of people of North Staffordshire down the ages.

I feel it is time to praise our famous men.

The Victorians also liked their heroes. The Leek based pioneer canal builder and engineer James Brindley (1716-1772) was certainly one of them. He was admired because he represented the self made, practical “sleeves rolled up” strong type of Englishman. He was the Scottish writer and social commentator Thomas Carlyle wrote “wonderfully equipped to the fight dragons, be they natural obstacles or human”

So inspiring was Brindley to the writer that he felt him to be the personification of John Bull

There is a tradition of engineering and scientific endeavour that continues into the 20th century and includes Oliver Lodge the pioneer physicist and the aircraft designer RJ Mitchell whose Spitfire played a pivotal role in the war helping the RAF win the Battle of Britain during 1940 which prevented a Nazi invasion.

On the subject of war the contribution of North Staffordshire men in a significant battle that spelled the beginning of the end for the Kaiser’s Army has never been acknowledged.

September 29th 2008 saw the 90th anniversary of a First World battle which involved many local men. The storming of the canal at Saint Quentin on that early autumn day lead to a breaching of the redoubtable defence the Hindenburg line a series of fortifications that were meant to hold up the British Army advance for months and to expend the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. The 5th and 6th battalions of the North Staffordshire Regiment- part of the 46th North Midland Division- overcame the obstacles such as a deep sided canal in the course of a few hours and with few casualties. This battle was not the typical one of bloody stalemate, but to use the words of the regimental war diary, an advance carried out with dash and enterprise using lessons learnt in the 4 years of war. Although no one realised it at the time, that morning Germany lost the war and under accumulated strain the German commander Field Marshall Ludendorff’s nerve cracked and overtures toward peace began.

This heroic deed has been considered by some military historians as one of the great feats of British arms comparable with Agincourt and Waterloo and it was accomplished by Staffordshire men as a journalist from the Observer newspaper commented at the time.

The Midlanders- boot makers ,miners, lace workers, potters who had never pretended in their lives to heroism or poetry, or the traditions of a crack regiment went at the canal at San Quentin with mats, rafts, lifebelts, wading, swimming, floating, they crossed the water and stormed over the astonished enemy and clean through the Hindenburg defences. Their days work was the immortal epic of the ordinary man.

Why should we recall this event? This was, as the Observer reported, an incident of heroic proportions carried out by ordinary men from this part of the country, an incident that had a major bearing on the outcome of the war and the history of Europe subsequently through the century. Today North Staffordshire has had its detractors, but I believe that we should pay tribute to these unassuming men, the descendents of which still live in the area and are probably unaware of the great deed of valour carried out by their ancestors. It is especially worthy of remembering given the negative press coverage usually visited on this area. The spirit of comradeship, dash and courage shown by those soldiers nearly a century ago still lives on in their descendents all that is required that it is fully utilised and directed positively.

And finally I mentioned that in the context of the 18th century the notion of patriotism would have embraced opposition to slavery.

In April 2004 I wrote to the Sentinel criticising an exhibit in the City Museum called “Slave ship” which depicted a St George’s flag on which was superimposed images of slavery and slave ships representing British involvement in the trade.

I wrote.

“No doubt we have done terrible things, but which nation has not? Many countries and nations were involved in the trade. 12 million Africans over 300 years were enslaved by Western countries such as Britain, France and Spain which by macabre arithmetic is approximately the same number of Africans enslaved by Arab Slave traders operating on the continent for over a millennium. However their remains a difference, which I as an Englishman am inordinately proud. The crime of slavery in England in the 18th century produced its own antidote- the great abolition movement lead by Wilberforce and our very own Josiah Wedgwood. It was a movement driven by liberating ideas of human rights, awareness of injustice, compassion and reform finally carried out through a parliamentary system in 1807. These ideas represent our greatest legacy to the world. The commitment to human rights may over time have been imperfectly applied, but they remain part of our tradition.

It was Britain that continued to press for the end of slavery in Africa often against fierce local opposition. Even today Arab slave traders sustain slavery in Mauritania and the Sudan.

I therefore ask the question to the Museum Authorities why do we have to have another example of self lacerating guilt about the English and Englishness. Why not display the plaque that Wedgwood designed for the Abolitionist movement alongside the St George’s Flag to place the matter within a historical context?

As I said at the beginning flags are powerful symbols and it is the responsibility of authority not to forget the past but to see it within a perspective. All too often people of the left have allowed the far right to drape themselves in the national flag. But for me it is the same flag that flew above Royal Navy ships during the 19th century in their fight with slave traders in the West African sea-lanes enforcing the abolition of slavery and it is the same flag that flew on British tanks that liberated Bergen- Belsen Concentration camp in 1945.”