The Trials And Tribulations Of A Stoke-on-Trent MP

It’s a rollercoaster ride type lifestyle as a Member of Parliament, any doubts, just ask Rob Flello MP for Stoke-on-Trent South.

Elected to the house in 2005, re-elected on a reduced majority after a hard fought battle in this year’s General Election, he finds himself sitting on the opposition benches.

The peaks and troughs of political battle during the election campaign saw him praised and criticised in equal measures.

Praise came from those who were impressed by the battle he fought against Anti-Social Behaviour right across his constituency. The criticism came from those who were appalled by his comments that a vote for the Lib Dems was like a vote for the BNP. He was only slightly wrong on this issue however; as it turned out that a vote for the Lib Dems was indeed a vote for the Conservatives.

Post general election there was a huge upheaval in his Constituency office.

A number of redundancies to key staff, some staff forced to re-apply for a job that had been re-titled and subjected to an interview process. Only one of the original staff was left standing.

One political commentator made this observation in a

Guardian column today:

And Rob Flello, MP for Stoke South. What happened to the claims of Hazel Blears’s former PPS, whose supporters hoisted him shoulder high amid cries of “For he’s a jolly good Flello”? Many things could have scuppered his ambitions. Some, for instance, didn’t like the look of him threatening redundancies for staff in the summer and simultaneously advertising for a new assistant. They look askance at that sort of thing.

Whilst not factually accurate, there is no doubt that Rob has had his crown slightly dented in the national press circles and that bad news sure does travel fast!

Rob Flello’s mood would not have been lifted by not being elected to the Shadow Cabinet. He came 4th bottom of the results with 15 votes.

But he’s off on the crest of a wave again as he has just been appointed as a Shadow Junior Minister for Justice. He will serve in the Rt Hon Sadiq Khan’s team along with Chris Bryant MP, Helen Goodman MP & Andy Slaughter MP.

Although Rob will play a full role on the opposition front bench he will also have his work cut out here in Stoke-on-Trent.

Nationally he will, as a part of Ed Miliband’s front bench team, oppose certain cuts that will be implemented by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition and thrust upon the nation’s citizens and our local authorities following the Comprehensive Spending Review on October 20th.

Locally his role will have to be slightly different and will require a subtle approach.

Here in Stoke-on-Trent Rob’s Labour Party is in a 4 way coalition and are the biggest single group in the Council Chamber.

Cllr Mohammed Pervez will be administering the cuts imposed on our Authority by Central Government.

Rob Flello’s job will be made more difficult as he encounters certain public outrage to some of the more sensitive cuts.

It’s fair to say that he hasn’t got off to the best of starts.

On Friday last week there was a demonstration against the cuts organised by the union Unison. It took the form of an open topped bus tour around some council sites.

Speaking to Rob today he says that he was due to meet the bus outside his constituency office. As the bus pulled up outside Fenton Day Care Centre someone hailed “Ëœsave Fenton Day Care Centre’ over the loudspeaker. This caused some concern to the users and staff at the centre who, quite rightly, asked if there was any danger of the centre closing under the upcoming cuts.

Rob Flello says he was not on the bus at the time that the loudspeaker was used but he was on hand to allay some of the concerns.

This prompted the following email to all council staff and members:

To: All Council Staff; Primary Schools; Secondary Schools; Nursery Schools; Special Schools
Subject: Message from Tony Oakman on behalf of Chief Executive
Dear colleagues

We have been informed a Unison bus with MP Robert Flello on board is touring the city’s public sector offices. This is a political campaign and is not in anyway connected with any announcement on potential spending cuts from the city council. We want to assure staff that when decisions are made on cuts to services those staff affected will receive direct communication from the council.

If staff wish to participate in any union or political activities this should be in their own time. No disruption should be allowed to normal services. If any MP wishes to enter a council building they should seek approval in advance. Staff should also be aware of the council’s media protocol that states that no member of staff should speak to the media without the permission of the Press Office and generally this should be at Head of Service or Director level.

If you have any questions please speak to your line manager.

There was also a phone call between the officer and the Member of Parliament that afternoon.

I have to question whether the council actually knew about the planned visit of the Unison protest bus and whether Mr Flello had indicated that he would be touring around certain council sites.

Some of the more cynical may say that it was down to the fact that his office is a bit short staffed at the moment.

It does highlight the difficult situation that faces both the Leader of the Labour Group/Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and the 3 Stoke-on-Trent Members of Parliament.

The electorate will want our MP’s to campaign against the loss of popular facilities and cuts in services.

Those difficult decisions that face this city’s administration may well pitch MP against council.

The issue that faces both parties is that they are of one party.

One would hope that the MP’s are included in all consultations that may result in the loss of a facility or service.

There was obvious division between the city’s MPs and the Elected Mayor over the BSF project. That division must be avoided at all costs and the only way to avoid confrontation is true partnership working.

This city faces a 25% cut to funding over the next few years. The Labour Party is the biggest group on the city council. The City is represented at national level by three Labour MPs.

All must come together to oppose where opposition is needed, but there has to be consultation and total agreement on where the axe has to inevitably fall.

The city’s electorate deserves and demands nothing less.