New Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent Terry Crowe

Picture of Lord Mayor Terry Crowe in ceremonial robes At the annual council meeting yesterday, Stoke-on-Trent City Council agreed to make Councillor Terry Crowe Stoke-on-Trent’s first citizen by giving him the office of Lord Mayor.

This is 66 year old Terry’s third spell on the City Council since his election in 1978 when he stayed in office for 22 years until 2000. Terry was re-elected in 2002 and again in 2011. During his terms of office as a councillor Terry has has held the positions of Vice-Chair of Education, Chair of Waste, Human Resources Committee and Children and Young People`s Overview and Scrutiny. He is also an honorary Alderman on Staffordshire County Council. Continue reading

Inside the civic

The big news this week, as hinted in my last column, was the resignation of Deputy Lord Mayor Khan as he prepares to once again face the Standards Committee. This is certainly an honourable decision, however why it took so long (and a Labour group meeting) to convince Khan to resign perhaps signifies how unaware certain councillors are about what the public think of their conduct. Continue reading

Prayers answered with a compromise

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has come to a compromise with councilors who wish to pray at council meetings.

A motion passed at the last council meeting saw the entitlement to pray inside the meeting removed with councillors now being ordered to pray 15 minutes before proceedings.

It was decided that this proposal will be effective from the start of the municipal year this May to the next 12 months.

Supporters argued that it would: “provide clear separation of prayers from the formal business of the meeting.” Continue reading

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.

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How not to be selected

As its coming up to the Selection meeting for Stoke Central I thought that I would offer my advice on anyone on those candidates who will be facing the experience.

I have been interviewed a few times and I have never been successful at a parliamentary level although I have won a few meetings to become a candidate at local government level.

Apart from the early 80s when I was nominated to fight Hartshill in the winter of 81 my first experience was 2 years before at the age of 24 when I attended a selection conference at Joiners Square to fight Staffordshire East as the Euro seat at the time. It was a snowy day when I turned up. I was extremely nervous and made a terrible choice of subject it that it was a lecture on the coming power of computers. I think I nicked most of the content from a “Times” editorial. I remember using the phrase “using IT as a totem” at some part of the proceeding. The paper was shaking as a struggled to control me nerves. The occasion was memorable in that one of the other candidates was Robert Maxwell who was hoping to get the nomination on the basis that he had served in the North Staffordshire Regiment during the war. I can recall that he was solicitous. We both lost and the eventual winner was a Birmingham lawyer named Tracey who in turn lost out in the election to the Gloucestershire based Tory Moreland who was part of the family that bought us “England’s Glory” matches in the election the following June.

On a more positive side I did answer the questions tolerable well. My only other story about Maxwell was that some years later a friend of mine who was in the same Labour Party branch in Oxford- Headington told me that there was a branch raffle where the tradition was to give the bottle of liebfraumilch back to the branch if you had the winning ticket. That was until Robert Maxwell won and he kept the bottle of plonk. I guess people should have cottoned on then.

By 1985 I had been a Stoke Councillor for a few years and I thought that I would try again. I applied for Ludlow mainly because a friend of my fathers had pushed for me to be interviewed by the panel. It was a completely unwinable seat and I travelled down to South Shropshire one November Sunday in the company of my good friend the much missed John McCready a Fenton Councillor.

It was an agreeable trip down to an agreeable town and concluded with an agreeable selection meeting. I lost to an unemployed zookeeper from Manchester. He wore a Star of David and told me that he had fought in the Israeli Army in the Yom Kippur War in 73. Some time later I found out that he was later charged with benefit fraud after coming 3 in the subsequent General Election.

The Staffs Moorlands selection and a meeting in Leek shortly followed this. Vera Ivers eventually won the candidature a well-deserved winner who was a popular Councillor. I tried 4 years later in 1990. The selection meeting was held the night that Geoffrey Howe demolished Thatcher with his resignation speech likening her to a captain who had broken all the bats. It followed the earlier resignation of Nigel Lawson and this occurrence did lead me to quip that “to lose one senior minister was a misfortune to lose two looks like carelessness”. That night I lost to a very strange man a Councillor from Norton called Sharman who later was convicted of embezzling funds from a Leek based homeless charity.

Shortly afterwards I was also beaten by a sitting Stoke Councillor Terry Crowe in Cheadle

I also tried in South Worcestershire the following month December 1990 and enduring a snowy drive down the M5 to Pershore where the meeting was held. I made the mistake as I was staying in the town overnight of having a drink on an empty stomach. I did not do very well on the questions one on the nature of the relationship between inflation and employment- the Phillips Curve- left me completely clueless. I remember that one particularly spotty faced Herbert who was sitting in the front row asked that question. I was transfixed and unable to respond.

If any candidates or their supporters are reading this the only two bits of advice I can offer is that never drink on an empty stomach and the best man does not necessarily win

MP outraged at Labour Party rejections.

Stoke Central MP Mark Fisher is outraged at the decision to exclude several key Party members from being candidates at the 2010 local elections.

Barry Stockley, Gary Elsby, and Mick Williams have been rejected despite a long and sometimes heated appeal hearing. They must now consider what action to take next. It is expected that there will be an emergency constituency party meeting.

Terry Crowe had been rejected but was successful in his appeal. It is unlikely that he will face the electorate in 2010 as he is determined to support the failed trio.

Stoke Central MP Mark Fisher said that he found the appeals panels decision, “amazingly incomprehensible”.

Talking to Pits’n’Pots today Mr Fisher MP said: “I can not see how the panel have come to their conclusions based on the evidence placed in front of them”.

” Barry Stockley gave 4 out of 5 very strong answers, this was recognised by the panel, so how could he not be considered a suitable candidate”

“Gary Elsby has been accepted on the MPs’ panel list and yet these people deem him to be an unsuitable candidate for councillor”.

“I feel I have no alternative but to take this issue and challenge Harriet Harman to investigate this selection process”

Stoke Central Constituency Chairman Barry Stockley has said that he is incensed by the Regional Office’s interference in the selection process.

He said: “This is all about Regional office’s refusal to accept Mick Williams as the Co-Op delegate on the City Party. The have excluded him for no good reason”

“There are two Stoke Central resolutions against the Regional Office and the City Labour Party”

“The first is condemning their interference in the selection of local candidates for the 2010 local elections. The second is condemning the use of foul and abusive language in a Constituency meeting by City Labour Party Chair Sarah Hill toward another member and her subsequent refusal to offer and apology now, or at anytime in the future”

“We feel that we had no option but to withdraw from the City Labour Party. I think this has had an impact on the way that the Regional officers have dealt with our application to be candidates”

“There are double standard here, Gary Elsby has been refused to go on the candidates list, one of the reasons is that he used foul and abusive language on a web site 2 years ago in a private capacity. Sarah Hill does the same In a Labour Party meeting and gets selected, it’s unbelievable”

Terry Crowe is today considering his position in the Labour Party. He is extremely angry at the treatment of him and his fellow party members by the Regional Office.

He said: “I love the Labour Party and I love the communities of Stoke-on-Trent. I have served both for over 30 years. I am disgusted at how I and others have been treated”.

“One of the things that the appeals panel threw at me is that I don’t understand equal opportunities. I have been disabled for many years, nobody understands equal opportunities better than me. I have campaigned for years for equal opportunities and for people with disabilities”

” I found the panel’s treatment of me insulting and even though I won my appeal I don’t feel in a position to commit to the regional office agenda. They have not got a clue about what is needed for Stoke-on-Trent”

“I resent people from outside coming in and taking over the selection of our candidates”

Gary Elsby has been a Labour member for nearly 30 years and is the Secretary for Stoke Central CLP. He has been told that he does not understand the aims and values of the Labour Party and that he lacks political judgement.

He said: “I am disappointed and hurt but I will have to consider what action to take when we have had a discussion over the proceedings”

“I was grilled for 2 hours and I felt I gave a good account of myself, but I feel that this is about more than the reasons given”

“Everyone who opposed the elected mayor or was a member of Democracy for Stoke has felt the wrath of the Regional Office. I am and will remain a committed Labour Party supporter and I constantly tell people that we will win the general election in 2010″

Mick Williams refused to comment publicly pending his request for written clarification of the reasons for his rejection.

City Party Chair Sarah Hill refutes the allegation that she has not apologised, she said: “I have apologised to the NEC and I understand that apology will be forwarded on to the Chair of Stoke-on-Trent Central”

All four of the rejected party members remain committed to Mark Fisher’s election campaign and all stand by Mick Williams, the man most credited with returning democracy to Stoke-on-Trent with the removal of the mayoral system via D4S.

This matter has already attracted the attention of Labour Party National Executive Member Peter Kenyon who wrote on his website:

“I have already asked whether or not the Labour Party is operating a scorched earth policy in Stoke on Trent. There is mounting evidence of purges being conducted all round the country in the name of the National Executive Committee. The NEC’s so-called representative in Stoke is a trade unionist. He is no longer a member of the NEC. I am starting to question the role of trade union paid officials in the governance of the Labour Party”.

You can read the whole of Peter Kenyon’s article by clicking the link below.

Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent ““ Stormy seas or heading for calmer waters?

I suppose you could say it hasn’t been the easiest time lately for Labour Party activists in Stoke-on-Trent.

The departure of Cllr Dave Conway, the comings and goings of Cllr Joan Bell and Cllr Joy Garner plus Mike Barnes and the “ËœReportergate’ scandal have set the party adrift on stormy seas.

At grass roots level there is the stand off between Stoke Central and the City Party and the constant accusations that the Labour Party is run by the Regional Office West Midlands.

In the last week or so there has also been the outcry at the rejection of a number of senior party members as candidates for the local election in May 2010. This has been fuelled by the acceptance of Joy Garner onto the candidates list. There has been a rumour circulating that Joan Bell had been accepted also, but Joan has telephoned me to tell me that she has no intention of standing in 2010.

Barry Stockley, Terry Crowe, Mick Williams, Gary Elsby and Majid Kahn have all been knocked back in their attempts to make the candidates list.

Strangely all these operate out of Stoke Central and could all make the claim that it is because there is a dispute between their constituency party and the City Party as the main reason for their rejection.

But is this really the case?

Over the weekend I had a very interesting conversation with a very senior party figure who sees it a very different way indeed.

It appears that the Labour Party have a “Ëœtwo year’ plan to re-invent the party in the eyes of the electorate. This Labour Party source confirmed that they are unlikely to field 20 councillors in the upcoming 2010 elections. The party feel that it is more important to have the right candidates representing the party than merely fielding candidates just for the sake of it.

There is a selection criteria and standard that all Labour Candidates have to achieve before they can be appointed to the candidates list. It may be the case that the candidates that have been rejected may well have not reached the standards, or fill the criteria required.

The party, it would seem are willing to accept some damage if the end game can be realised. Whoever is pulling the strings in the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent is willing to take a couple of steps backwards if it means that eventually the party can march forward ““ together.

The candidates from Stoke Central have faced, and been rejected by, the electorate in their chosen wards in the recent past. These candidates were chosen and were presented by, a jury of their Stoke Central peers. It can not be argued that the BNP has prospered in the Centre of our great city.

Could this move by the Party be a positive step to really taking on the the politics of the far right?

The BNP now claim that they are the party of the people and it is they who have usurped the Labour party in their traditional winning grounds.

Whilst Gary Elsby improved his vote last time out, he has failed to remove the candidates and the party he despises the most on successive occasions. Gary has been approved to be on the parliamentary candidates list but has been rejected to stand as a councillor for Stoke-on-Trent this time round.

Barry Stockley and Terry Crowe are seen as damaged goods and have the stigma of the Cultural Quarter and Worldgate added to their long list of achievements. Let it not be forgotten that these two Labour stalwarts did great thing for the city back in the day, but the memories of the electorate is very short. The Cultural Quarter is the finest “Ëœjewel in the crown’ of this city and yet what is remembered the most is the massive overspend and the protracted legal battle.

In the case of Mick Williams it may well be the case that his work for D4S has gotten under the skin of some of the major players from within the Labour Party.

This story has become the issue to watch within the Labour Party. MPs and even Peter Kenyon of the NEC are standing by waiting for the outcome.

As I understand it, most of the candidates are appealing the decision to prevent them standing as councillors in the forthcoming elections.

The end result may well be that some of the Stoke Central party faithful may well be faced to walk the plank, or may even throw themselves overboard over this issue.

This in-party dispute is set to continue and whether there is something in the claims of those rejected is for other people to decide. The Labour party hierarchy seem to have set sail for a destination known only to themselves at the moment. But if that journey delivers more candidates of the caliber of Tom Reynolds, Mark Davis who are young, dynamic and have a vision for this city, then I for one would be more inclined to join the cause and to cast my vote in their direction.

Time will tell, do you support the efforts of the party’s movers and shakers in their stance against candidates that they may well see as “Ëœnot fit for purpose’?