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’?