As the dust settles on yet another Stoke-on-Trent election, I find my mind accessing it’s “Ëœwhat happens now’ portal.
First and foremost, congratulations must go out to the entire team involved in the Stoke-on-Trent Labour Party campaigning team.
The 3 Labour MPs, united as one with the existing councillors, party organisers and candidates to get the Labour vote out. They were successful beyond their wildest dreams.
But they must ground themselves as soon as possible and get to work to minimise the impact of the recent £35million of cuts as well as ensuring that there is another open, honest and transparent round of consultations ahead of next year’s £20million cut in government funding.
It is imperative that they work with groups like Save Our Children Centres and others. They may have only 10 opposition voices inside the council chamber, but they may face thousands in opposition out on the streets of the City if they start to railroad unpopular cuts and service losses through whilst hiding behind their impressive majority.
The honeymoon period is a very short one in the political Potteries.
My pre-election predictions were pretty spot on actually. I had said that I could see Labour win around 34 seats. I also said that I believed that the Lib Dem’s would be wiped out by the elections. I was also right about the eradication of the BNP.
The one thing I did get spectacularly wrong was the demise of Community Voice councillors. Never saw that one coming at all.
Mick Salih has said that he is finished with politics now. We have probably also seen the last of Peter Kent-Baguley now too. Both are massive characters and skilled politicians and there will be a few council officers breathing a sigh of relief now that their scrutinising eyes will not been looking over reports and agenda’s.
Mike Barnes has gone too. Love or loathe him, he knows the system of local government better than most of the others put together. His work on the council constitution was invaluable. He made a few errors of judgements in his campaign in my humble opinion. But I firmly believe he will bounce back after a break and you never know, Community Voice could be re-invented with a new look and 4 years to get themselves organised. If other socialist minded individuals could just lose their anti Labour rhetoric and their bitter and twisted mindset and joined up with Barney, they could still be a major player on the local political scene yet.
Lib Dem leader Kieran Clarke is a loss to the chamber. He was always accommodating, willing to answer questions and is a genuinely nice guy. He suffered by association to Nick Cleggs disastrous and traitorous coalition with the Conservatives. The Lib Dems have been nothing short of battered at local elections right across the country. Kieran will find it hard to get back if his party’s national standing and reputation does not significantly improve.
The BNP were unceremoniously booted out of the Civic Centre. Once, not so long ago, they had 9 councillors. Today we can honestly say that the city has turned it’s back on the politics of the far right. The England First Party proved as welcome as a fart in a space suit! Craig Pond proved what a completely inept politician he is. He managed to do what he does best, which is to anger and insult people. I followed with amusement his rambling and preaching’s on the MY Tunstall website. He proved to be Labour’s Martin Garner’s best campaign tool [in every sense!]. Today he writes that we are all stupid in this city. Well I say there is nothing keeping him here. The electorate have sent the message that they do not want him at any price, best he hangs his keyboard up and joins the working masses methinks.
I never believed that we are a racist City. The BNP benefited by using a clever marketing strategy, no more than that. They capitalised on a definitely Labour Party lull a few years ago. They were opportunist; they were in the right place at the right time. Their success proved to be short lived. The Labour Party regrouped, re-organised, got rid of a few negatives, re-energised and fought back. Tristram Hunt started to campaign in Abbey Hulton & Bentilee the day after he was elected last May. His team get out and knock doors in those areas. People told them they had not seen a Labour campaigner for years. They see plenty now!
Slowly but surely Stoke Central’s Labour team won over the doubters and they have reclaimed the support they so spectacularly lost just a few years ago. They turned the Abbey and Bentilee red again and the BNP lost its strong hold.
Labour cannot be complacent here however, the work must go on or they will lose their grip on things again. One thing I’m certain of is that Michael Coleman will pick himself up and dust himself down and start to plan for the next four years. We will hear plenty from Mike, he won’t go away. He is a thoroughly hard working man and he put his heart and soul into being a successful councillor. He needs to find a new trick, his party needs to re-brand itself once again. Nick Griffin has taken the BNP to the brink of extinction. Like the Lib Dem’s, the BNP has suffered from mis-management. Disastrous leadership has disastrous consequences.
Part 2 of this article will be published tomorrow [Sunday]