EyeSpy Oh how the mighty are fallen!

Eye Spy Eye of HorusDavid Conway was not the only one with a big smile on his face Friday morning as Labour awoke to the short sharp judgement of the residents of Springfields and Trent Vale. Whilst it might not stop the move, the backlash against the move to the CBD was apparent, which raised the spirits of many council officers on Friday morning. Parking in Stoke may not be perfect, but the thought of a daily game of ‘musical parking spaces’ followed by a forced tutorial on how you should cycle to work rather than moan about paying £25 a year to spend 20 minutes looking for a parking spot before abandoning hope and parking in Tesco, is a step too far for some.

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Eye Spy the By-election

So the by-election has finally been called for the vacancy for Office of Councillor for the Springfields and Trent Vale ward, it’s only taken since 27 April. So now the ballot boxes are being broken out and just in the nick of time… frustrated residents in Springfields & Trent Vale are already starting to petition the council over local issues, having begun to feel the effects of no local representation for the last few months.

Despite having more councillors than they know what to do with, Labour have not fallen over themselves to ensure residents have felt looked after, which is perhaps why there are rumblings that this by-election may see upwards of 8 candidates all vying to fix the numerous potholes and clear the litter on the yellow brick road from Trent Vale to Stoke. Hardly a ringing endorsement of previous incumbents…

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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

Nine-foot Saxon warrior comes to Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent residents are being given the chance to attend an exclusive VIP preview of the unveiling of a new work of art inspired by the world-renowned Staffordshire Hoard.

The Staffordshire Saxon – an inspiring nine foot sculpture of an Anglo-Saxon warrior – will be unveiled to the public at an exclusive after-hours event at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, in the city centre, on Thursday, May 17. Continue reading

Tristram Hunt on the Future of Socialism

I was listening on Radio 4 last Monday to the start the week programme which debated the future of Socialism. The debate was framed around the sensational victory of George Galloway in Bradford and to reinforce some of the discussions on tonight’s Newsnight.

Tristram felt that the death of Socialism was rather premature and although the statist model of the eastern bloc had been repudiated after 1989 and the fall of communism other forms of socialism were coming to the fore. Tristram mentioned co-operatives and mutuals, which does interest me through my involvement in Leek. Continue reading

No New Enterprise Zone For Stoke-on-Trent & North Staffordshire

Despite the Prime Minister, David Cameron saying that the Government would ‘look favourably at any bids from the area for a Local Enterprise Zone’ during his visit to Stoke-on-Trent in April, this morning Stoke-on-Trent & North Staffordshire woke to the news that it has missed on being granted a Local Enterprise Zone.

After the announcement of 11 Enterprise Zones in March it was announced that a second ‘competitive’ wave would be held in July. The 11 successful locations chosen from 29 applications for this second wave of Local Enterprise Zones announced this morning are

  • Alconbury Airfield in Cambridgeshire
  • Daresbury Science Campus in Runcorn
  • Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent & Enterprise West Essex in Harlow
  • Great Yarmouth in Norfolk & Lowestoft in Suffolk
  • Humber Estuary Renewable Energy Super Cluster
  • MIRA Technology Park in Hinckley Leicestershire
  • Newquay AeroHub in Cornwall
  • Northampton Waterside
  • Rotherwas Enterprise Zone in Hereford
  • Science Vale UK in Oxfordshire
  • The Solent Enterprise Zone at Daedalus Airfield in Gosport
We are determined to do everything we can to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a business.

Enterprise Zones are a major step towards delivering this; cutting business taxes, easing planning restrictions and giving business the tools they need to invest and expand.

These new Enterprise Zones will be trailblazers for growth, jobs and prosperity throughout the country.

Too many of our towns and cities have been left behind, but the answer has never been to impose ineffective sprawling regional structures. It is local business and commerce that drive the private sector growth, jobs and wealth this country needs. This Government’s job is to foster local enterprise and create the conditions for businesses to thrive in. That is why low tax, low regulation Enterprise Zones are being planted across the country and will give businesses all the incentives they need to grow their local economy and create thousands of new local jobs.

The Stoke-on-Trent & North Staffordshire Enterprise Zone was to be based at Etruria Valley, with specialised sites at Keele University Science Park and the Hadleigh Business Park at Blythe Bridge.

It was hoped that the LEZ would have delivered up to 115 hectares of prime development land ready to go for business, with capacity to create up to 10,000 jobs by 2015.

The first wave of Enterprise Zones saw

  • Leeds
  • Sheffield
  • Liverpool
  • Greater Manchester
  • West of England
  • Tees Valley
  • North East
  • The Black Country
  • Derbyshire
  • Nottinghamshire
  • London

being given Local Enterprise Zone status.

Speaking to reporters during his visit to Stoke-on-Trent in April this year,

You are not missing out on an enterprise zone. There will be an enterprise zone within the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP area, and we will be advised by the LEP as to where it will go.

Reaction

The Government Enterprise Zones will be a ‘shot in the arm for the British economy’
We have lost out and have to go it alone regardless of Cameron promising there would be one for this area.

North Staffordshire needs jobs and investment. I supported the LEZ bid as did many others- from the Chamber of Commerce to the voluntary sector and lobbied all government ministers on this.

It had full cross party support including all MPs and Staffs County council all backing the Local Enterprise Partnership’s bid.

This government has abolished the regional development agencies but put nothing adequate in their place. It has gone back on its word for Stoke on Trent.

Eric Pickles says previous Enterprise Zones “set up a load of retail parks” – something which will not be seen with current set.
We are extremely disappointed at this news.

Stoke-on-Trent needs jobs and private investments as we made that clear in our application to Government and our recently announced Mandate for Change. We will endeavour with or without Government help to make Stoke-on-Trent a ‘great working city’ to shout the message on the regional, national and global market we are very much open for business.

Of course this is a huge blow for us but we are determined to succeed.

We will be urgently asking for more details and feedback on this decision and exploring if there are any further opportunities for future Enterprize Zones or any other similar Government initiatives.

However the Enterprize Zone on its own was never going to be the solution. We need investment and expansion from the private sector and we are working hard to make this happen.

So Cameron lied. We’ll just have to work harder 2 bring new business to Nth Staffs despite no EZ. SoT has great assets to promote
Everyone in North Staffordshire will be disappointed and somewhat astonished this morning to find that the promises of the Prime Minister just before the local elections have been abandoned; we are not getting the promised Enterprise Zone. It is all the more frustrating that this announcement has been made while Parliament is in recess and so I must wait a couple more weeks before I can try to question the Prime Minister on his reasons for this u-turn. Given his usual form, I don’t expect any sort of proper answer from Cameron.

While this is indeed a setback I know that our city and North Staffs have so much to offer businesses, from land and building availability to a fantastic workforce, with excellent road, rail, and air links into the bargain. I will continue to work with the City Council to approach potential businesses and of course support the Local Enterprise Partnership and North Staffs Chamber of Commerce in all our efforts to promote Stoke-on-Trent as the best place to come to set up businesses.

I am writing to the Business Secretary to see what other support government will make available but I think the message is a clear one – we must stand and fight alone, without the Tory-led government’s help. That means we must all now focus our efforts on singing the praises of Stoke-on-Trent and not allow anyone to talk down the area and those working to promote it.

We have a fight ahead but working together we can win and see North Staffordshire prosper.

Rob Flello MP

It is of course a huge disappointment that the government has let down Stoke on Trent. Despite the promises of manufacturing-led regeneration, David Cameron has decided to turn his back on one of the great industrial centres of Britain.

I was sceptical of the LEP going for a three site bid when the application would have been better focussed simply on the Etruria site.

This round looked like a party political fix, rather than a clear enterprise zone priority.

That said, when parliament reconvenes, together with the other Stoke-on-Trent MPs, I will be seeking an urgent meeting with Vince Cable to understand their decision making process.

It really is beyond ridiculous to prioritise Oxfordshire and Hampshire above Stoke-on-Trent. But Stoke-on-Trent is bigger than this: we must create our own enterprise zone in the Etruria valley.

North Staffs Trade Union Council Launches Anti-Cuts Campaign

I’m writing this as a blog rather than a news item because I want to select aspects of interest to me and interleave my own opinions. The NSTUC held a public meeting about the cuts on 18th August 2010 at the “ËœHope Centre’ in Garth Street, Hanley. I attended primarily as a worker and a union member but also out of general interest about people’s reactions to the cuts and planned cuts and as an occasional blogger.

Jason Hill, president of NSTUC, chaired the meeting and introduced a panel of speakers who it was stressed were expressing personal views not necessarily those of the TUC. Jason estimated that ~100 people attended but hadn’t counted, I estimated ~70 and didn’t count either. So let’s say ~85. He thought attendance was high, I thought it was not nearly enough given that thousands of jobs are likely to go.

I found, although I agreed with many points raised, that the message was largely a bit simplistic, along the lines of cuts are bad so we need to have protest demonstrations, although there were a few higher quality contributions from some.

Chris Bambury of right to work campaign said we have a nasty but weak government, he opposes increases in the pension age and VAT and wants to save money by stopping the Afghan war and trident. I agree with his preferred cuts, but I think the previous government was a bit more nasty and a lot more dishonest.

Andy Bentley of the universities and colleges union criticised Stoke-on-Trent council for agreeing to make 32% cuts and focussing on playing off much needed services against eachother in deciding these cuts. He wants to defend services and jobs and recommends a one day general strike of public sector workers. I would agree that action beyond just a protest would be good.

Mike Barnes, community voice councillor, said the council’s consultant led “Ëœlean thinking’ policy means mass redundancies and service cuts, communities and trade unions should campaign against this. Agreed.

Liat Norris of youth fight for jobs said university students having to live on very little have to juggle work and studies. He thinks EMA is needed at a higher level but will be cut out, apprenticeships should be at least at minimum wage and have a job at the end. Cuts will lead to youth unemployment and temporary contracts. I agree with him about the adverse effect of the cuts would go further, I think university students in a climate of high unemployment will struggle to find those jobs to supplement the loan plus any grant. I can’t agree on the EMA though. To me that has only ever been a temporary bribe to keep people off the unemployment figures while 16-18 education is made compulsory. I don’t agree with raising the age of compulsory education as it doesn’t suit everyone. Also, as child benefit goes up to age 19 if in education/training, why have EMA as well? I agree on apprenticeships, without having a job at the end they are nothing different to YTS.

Neil Singh of the communication workers union wants nationalised industries and thinks there is no point talking to the likes of David Cameron and Vince Cable. I agree some services are best nationalised but disagree about refusing talks just for silly party political reasons.

Tony Conway of the public and commercial services union rattled on about all sorts of bodies that would be cut, many of which I had never heard of and sounded a bit like unnecessary labour quangos introduced to give jobs to their mates. He actually began to convince me the tories are right about some of the cuts anyway. He said “Phillip Green is a tax dodger who has a personal wealth of billions”. I do agree that bringing in such a person to inflict cuts on the poor is “Ëœa bit rich’.

Kassem Al-Khatib, labour councillor, said it would be crazy for labour councillors to vote against the budget. He did not go down well, largely we thought he was the one who was crazy if he would vote for cuts against the wishes of the electorate. I did agree with him that there should be no redundancies for any business in profit though.

Jenny Harvey from unison in the health service made an excellent point I thought, that the biggest threat was not the cuts, but under the guise of choice and freedom the door being opened for global companies to get control of NHS money. Public services should be accountable to us, not shareholders. Bank taxes would be an alternative to cuts. I liked the comments she made the best of all of them.

The general discussion was along the lines that everyone should work together to campaign against cuts to services and facilities that we want, but at the same time some took the chance to have a go at each other.

I will pick just some comments from the general discussion that I thought particularly stood out, most people did not state their names.

Someone from the probation service union said labour, tory and libdems are all to blame and reminded us how rich Blair has become.

Someone else suggested anti-cuts alliances should involve both private and public services. There can be successes. DHL workers had campaigned successfully when redundancies had been targeted specifically at union members.

Paul Sutton said he was terrified to lose his job as who will employ him, over 50, there shouldn’t be age discrimination but it happens. He specifically had a go at Tristram Hunt, who was there, for the previous labour government having got us into debt and started the cuts and asked him if he would now support a campaign against cuts in pay and jobs in the civil service. Tristram Hunt said nothing.

Someone said we need to establish whether our elected representatives are with us or against us, a broad union of left winged and nationalist parties is needed.

Someone else said our councillors should vote against cuts as we need a voice in the council chamber. At the next election we should vote out councillors who support the cuts and vote in those who vote against the cuts. An answer is needed from MPs and councillors. The MP and councillors there not on the panel said nothing in response.

Arthur criticised the trade unions themselves and said left to union leaders the campaign would focus on the public sector, but a wider campaign is needed. The state is also the enemy. Instead of striking a good idea is to occupy facilities planned for closure.

Someone from the department for work and pensions who is losing his job and can’t find another said we should go back to the workplace and encourage involvement in campaigning. He talked about action and hope, but I also award him the prize for the emotive quote of the evening, referring to David Cameron’s policies, “he wants his big society shoving up his arse”.

The panel made some final comments, the best from Chris about approaching young workers to rebuild the trade union movement, grass roots activity and a general strike. There are closures and privatisations now, we can’t wait for the TUC or it will be all over. I award him the prize for the best summing up comment of the evening “the TUC has done nothing over the last 30 years”.

In reply to Tristram Hunt

Tristram Hunt in his recent Sentinel article identifies the central problems that have beset my hometown-Stoke on Trent- but it is a problem that has probably existed from since post Second World War. A reading of any local newspaper from before the 1950s will inform anyone that the long-term decline of the area is nearly getting on for 50 years.

Of course the area was badly hit by the mass unemployment of the 80s but over all something like 120,000 jobs have been lost in the traditional industries of steel, pottery and mining since the 50s

But I do not have a pessimistic view. I do believe that Stoke and the wider North Staffs area does have a future, but we live in perilous times.

Mr Hunt is right to invoke the names of Wedgwood, Brindley and the rest, creators of the Industrial Revolution who deserve their place in the Pantheon of people who made modern Britain. I have no doubt that spirit of enterprise still exists in the area, but the area has been ill served and opportunities have been missed. I recall as a young Stoke Councillor in the early 80s making the case for a transit system the same as was being proposed in Manchester and Sheffield using the old loop line. What could have been achieved in settling the transport problems of the area if we had such a system?

It is not as if the area has been starved of Government cash or lack initiatives. Since the mid 70s there have been a number and a perusal of the local papers over the years marks the launch of one initiative after another all of which, in banner headlines, offered hope and a route to turn the area around. The latest being the local pathfinder RENEW which offered so much when it began in 2004. But mistakes have been made perhaps the most glaring being the return of over £20 million to the Treasury because the regeneration authorities could not think of any projects to spend the money.

The problem has been, in so many cases; the authorities have had no confidence in the local people of North Staffs. How many times have managers been bought in to run these projects who have no commitment to the area. The City Council is itself a good example in this regard. The appointment of Mr Van Der Laarschot is the 5th Chief Executive since 2006. How can you build foundations for the future when the most senior managers in the authority have no passion for the area and seem to see it as another brief stage on their CV?

But I want to sound a more triumphant note and Tristram is correct in one regard. He rightly identifies the potential and skills of local people and the answer will be to harness this talent.

As a Stoke person myself who lived in Tristram’s constituency for the first 20 odd years of my life before going off to University and then serving as a Councillor in Hartshill for another 7 I have attempted to give an opportunity for people who feel strongly about the area and its potential to express their ideas.

A few weeks ago I set up the Regenerate Stoke Facebook site mainly because I felt a deep sense of frustration of how closed the debate has been on the future of Stoke. In the past I have given for free a number of ideas to the regeneration agency and have felt patronised by the response.

I felt a few years ago that more could be made of the Wedgwood connection and that an annual festival around the Wedgwood themes of Industry, Art and Design could be held to generate ideas. The idea did not get anywhere.

( And by the way I slightly disagree with Tristram that there is a tradition of valuing learning especially in science and engineering. The area has a rich tradition of producing people in the forefront of science from Lord Kearton in the north through to Oliver Lodge, RJ Mitchell, Thomas Wedgwood and others I had little awareness of. For example a friend of mine- an Old Longtonian- mentioned a father and son Professors’ Astbury- father and son- who were pioneers in the structure of the keratin molecule significant in the wool industry who both attended his old school)

Regenerate Stoke has only been up a few weeks but has already attracted over 200 people and the site is brimming with ideas. Ideas such as the importance of art in regeneration, Green Energy schemes, the role of design, the possibility of setting up a LETS scheme, re establishing the Stoke-Lidice connection in the Czech Republic and the possibility of developing derelict land in the City. Ideas are there. The problem is for whatever reason the authorities have studiously ignored them and it is this that has to change.

Several people are mustering to organise a citizens conference on the future of the City in its second century to be held in the autumn. We live in hard times but we need to be positive about the future. It won’t be easy. The road will be long. Some, like the great cathedral builders of Europe, may never see completely the fruit of their endeavours. But the pioneers who founded these great cities never got to see them in their first glory either.

We’ve come full circle. We are present again at the re-founding of a City like Stoke. This is the task, the duty, the calling that a new generation has chosen as its own, to write the history of their city anew. We need to make history again.

Why Stoke fails – Some Observations

I was turned down for a job for Voluntary Action Stoke yesterday. Pity, it was an interesting job as Strategic Development Officer in Health. I thought that I had the intelligence, experience, ideas and challenge to make a good fist of the job. I stressed “memory” pointing out that I had worked as a Community Health Council for 10 years under the Tories in the 80s and 90s and I had a good idea where the proposed health reforms might go. In fact I essayed some of these ideas in Pits and Pots. The irony was that I thought that I interviewed well and anyone who has heard me on Radio would know that I give full and informed answers. Anyway another shot down and unfortunately it follows a tradition where I have not got a job which I am very qualified to do.

I must have been interviewed over 50 times over the years for various jobs for the City Council. It may well be in all those interviews for the various jobs I have gone for in the City Council that I was beaten by more knowledgeable, intelligent, abler people, but on some occasions it was likely that I was not. I am coming to the conclusion that those qualities I have challenge, ideas, memory and intelligence might put me at a disadvantage in respect to the local job scene. And also cast a light on the recent history of the City and might offer a clue that the problem might lie with me, but the people to whom I apply for jobs.

Why Stoke fails- challenge

An outsider might conclude that this area is cursed by an unusually high number of disasters as far as local and health government is concerned. A list over the last 20 years would indicate this. Since 1990 we have had Stoke College, Worldgate, the Cultural Quarter, Gravestone Flattening Controversy, Britannia Stadium, the regular turnover of Chief Executives of the City Council, the failure of City Regeneration, Sodexho and the food issue at UHNS, the contracting fiasco and slightly further afield Stafford Hospital. And I am sure that they are more. Is there a single factor that characterises these burning hulks- like tanks after the Battle of Kursk- that litter the political scene of the area? Yes. And that is lack of challenge. And what happens when people do challenge such as the handful of City Councillors who objected to the Britannia Stadium development. Well, they get disciplined and pushed away.

If you want to see a good example of the “blame culture” in action then a reading of the report on the Cultural Quarter repays an examination particularly the closed nature and the lack of enquiry exhibited by senior Councillors. A rather unsavoury aspect of all this is the attempt to fix the blame by senior officers on a junior arts development officer who subsequently suffered a breakdown in her health. Disgusting!

Why Stoke fails- ideas.

Alan Gerrard put his finger on the problem when he pointed out the inability of the City Council to address the empty shops in Stoke creatively. Has anyone ever wondered why other towns and cities close by seem to respond to problems with more imagination than this City? Look at Derby, which seems better placed to recover than Stoke because it has addressed the changing economic circumstances. Look at Wigan, which is addressing its transport infrastructure with new rail developments. In 1984 I suggested at a City Council Highways meeting that we might look at a light rail link like Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham were doing at the time. I can still hear the laughter to this day, but imagine if in the mid 80s we had seriously addressed the traffic flow problem by using for example the old loop line.

I don’t absolve organisation like VAST from the charge of being an ideas free zone. Last September I went to the AGM held at Vale Park. The agenda was exactly the same as the agenda from the previous year. Despite the fact that we are living through the worst recession since the 1930s the VAST agenda did not seem fit to address a topic which must be having a profound impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in the community. I did ask a question on Timebanks and LETS but have not received a response to this point. What was the afternoon filled up with? Indian Head Massage Sessions. What a wasted opportunity when a large proportion of the voluntary sector were in the room. Instead purring noises made towards Joan Walley who was present and the Government. If anything the event entirely fits it with one of the central problems between the Third Sector and local Authority. The cosiness, the failure to constructively challenge and the absence of any ideas.

I am reminded of Steerpike’s dismissal of the Twins in “Gormanghast” “So limp of brain that to have an idea is to risk a haemorrhage.

Which leads me to

Why Stoke fails- intelligence.

The late Stoke Council Leader Ted Smith was generally suspicious of intelligence. The sobriquet that was usually applied to any Councillor, for example, who had a degree was “smart arse”. The Leader before him Ron Southern used to decry the influence of “intellectuals in the Labour Party”. Do you honestly think that the general dismissive attitude to people with a scintilla of intelligence has gone away? Step forward Joy Garner. April 2004 and a meeting at Joiners Square held by the Labour Party to discuss policy. Joy who is chairing dismisses the section on Culture in the papers with the suggestion ” that no one is interested in culture”. Later on I am talking about economic renewal and the short sightedness of developing retail and warehousing as the answer to the job shortage in the area. I am arguing that the jobs created are low skilled and low paid. Joy’s response is to stick her tongue out at me.

Eventually I and a local vicar who is a party member complain to a Regional Officer and she is replaced.

If only it was just the Councillors. Last February after investing a great deal of my time and effort into researching the potential for green jobs in the area. I meet with representatives of the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce. I think the meeting is going well. The Chamber of Commerce person leaves early and I hear over the other City Council Officer’s phone the other guy ringing in with the comment “is he gone now”. Here I am putting forward ideas that might provide a life line for jobs based on some pioneering work that is going on in the States to be dismissed as a nuisance.

Why Stoke fails- memory.

Since the 70s North Staffs and Stoke generally has been the recipient of something like 17 national government initiatives ranging from Quality of Life in 1974-5 right through to Renew. The journey has included 6 SRB projects, although no one can actually recall what, who or what SRB6 concerned itself with. (I am thinking that like El Dorado or Prester John it existed in the imagination only)

Memory is important to an organisation. It stops you from repeating the same mistake. A cursory glance at some of the early problems faced in attempting to regenerate the City possibly would have stopped RENEW from repeating the errors made in the SRB scheme in the 90s in Cobridge.

And perhaps a closer study procedure of would have ensured the embarrassing fiasco of the smoking ban in the City Council, which was met with national merriment.

Part of the problem must be the removal of many experienced staff in their 40s and 50s a few years ago when the collective of an organisation is cauterised. It must have an impact of the effectiveness of the Council.

Why Stoke fails- Fatal attraction.

Ok I admit I am equally at fault here as a young Councillor in 1982. I was present at a Works Committee Recruitment meeting when we appointed a senior officer from West Wales who was full of the Welsh hwyl. He gave and extremely good interview and was appointed. He turned out to be cack and caused all sorts of problems for the 12 months he was in post before being paid off. On the other hand I was on the interview panel when the excellent Ian Lawley was appointed as Social History curator against some of the wishes of the women councillors on the panel who wanted another candidate because he had ” nice blue eyes”.

Unfortunately Stoke has a history of appointing “chancers” to senior positions. Chief Executives of the Council seem to regard an appointment to lead the Council in the same light as a Wermarcht Officer might consider an appointment to Byelorussia in 1943. Something to be got through quickly but looks good on the record.

It is not only a problem with the City Council. Consider the history of Stoke College in the 90s.

From the Times Education Supplement 1997

“Britain’s second largest and most troubled college may hire a “rescue squad” to help bail it out of an Pounds £8 million cash crisis after sacking its principal and deputy.

Neil Preston, the Pounds 90,000-a-year director of Stoke-on-Trent College, and his deputy, Helen Chandler, were dismissed on Christmas Eve after a lengthy inquiry into allegations of “dictatorial bullying”. They were also said to be in breach of their contracts because they were working in a pub while on sick leave.”

Then we have Steve Robinson thinking of Stoke every second of the waking day. Presumably he will had time in the long drive from Shropshire.

We shall see whet happens with the present incumbent but excessive use of consultants does not bode well.

Why Stoke fails- missed opportunities.

This is the story of two Wise men. Cliff and Richard (not related) but on the rare occasions when people of ability and vision appear they are usually so badly treated that they leave the scene. Vision is important for without vision the people die. Clif and Richard and others such as Fred Hughes have shown the capacity for ideas, have been excellent communicators, were and are committed to the area and have “memory”. It probably contributed to their down fall

Similarly the replacement of Mike Wolfe with the Nu Labour manikin Meredith was almost certainly to the detriment of the City.

Stoke- the hope

I want to end on a positive note. It seems to me that there hopeful sign that there might be a salvation in the form of Tristram Hunt. In my estimation Tristram has ideas on the development of the City. He is open, he is willing to accept and bring people in. A group of young and intelligent Councillors have been elected but then depressingly some of the old guard still remain.

Wol’s Election Analysis – The BNP’s Bubble Bursts As Labour Rise to The Top

Stoke-on-Trent’s electorate went to the polls on Thursday 6th May to vote in both the local and General Elections.

There had been a lot of hype about the General Election.

The BNP claimed that they were targeting the seat of Stoke-on-Trent Central and would surely benefit from the alleged imposition of Labour Party PPC Tristram Hunt and the very public departure of Gary Elsby from the Party he supported for 27 years.

It so did not work out that way. Elsby lost his deposit with a humiliating 399 votes. He must surely be now contemplating life after the Labour Party and giving his wounds a serious licking.

BNP Deputy Leader Simon Darby gave his campaign a serious amount of time and effort. His blog site was getting a massive amount of hits and his video diaries told the viewers everything that is wrong with parts of Stoke-on-Trent, but were void of any positive ideas on how to improve the lives of the people of Stoke-on-Trent Central.

Stoke BNP Group Leader Mike Coleman’s campaign never really took off. I kind of get the impression that Mike knew it was going to be an uphill struggle bordering on mission impossible to get the electorate switched on to the BNP message.

Melanie Baddeley was no more than a paper candidate for the British National Party and any minute chance she had was wiped out the moment her husband was arrested on suspicion of possessing cannabis. He was later charged with the offence and will appear before magistrates on 14th May.

All three of the BNP PPC’s were effected by the revelation that there was a vein of holocaust deniers in the far right party.

The revelation came from former Stoke BNP Group Leader Alby Walker after he quit the party. He was quickly followed across the council chamber by his wife Ellie.

These actions angered some of the party supporters, but effectively killed any chance the BNP had in returning a BNP MP in this City.

Locally, the BNP lost two of their sitting councillors. They failed to get any of their candidates elected, often finishing in 3rd place or lower. They have the embarrassing record of never successfully defending a council seat in this City.

Nationally the BNP were mauled. The nations electorate turned their backs on the policies of the far right. They lost all of their 12 seats on east London’s Barking and Dagenham Council.

Nick Griffin was pasted in his attempt to get elected as an MP for Barking. He came 3rd with just 6620 votes in a result that saw sitting Labour MP Margaret Hodge double her vote.

There are a number of far right websites that are calling for Griffin to go, they are demanding a change in leadership.

The BNP leadership [Darby & Griffin] polled just over 9000 votes between them which is no where enough to get them elected anywhere in the country.

Their total number of votes across the country amounts to 563,743, which equates to just 1.9% of the total number of votes cast at the election.

The fact that the mainstream parties are now willing to talk about immigration issues may well be the reason that people are turning their backs on the far right.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have tabled policies to deal with the concerns of people who are worried about the impact the number of people who are coming into this country is having on the economy, jobs, housing, and public services.

The Labour Party nationally has been rejected and it would seem that Gordon Brown’s days are numbered.

Locally the Labour Party are resurgent.

They have taken 17 of the 20 available council seats. They have smashed the BNP and critically injured the Independents.

Labour have made a mockery of those who moaned and hit out at the candidate selection process. There were a number of people that left the party in protest. Is the Labour Party vindicated now?

Two candidates Mick Williams locally and Gary Elsby nationally, stood against their party and were unanimously rejected at the ballot box.

Stoke Central CLP needs to re-group and re-build and elected new officers who will take the constituency forward and ensure it becomes progressive. There may be a way back into the party for some it would seem. Tristram Hunt MP is committed to uniting the party and bringing ex members back to the fold. Somehow I can’t see that happening in Gary Elsby and Mick Williams’s case.

Our own Nicky Davis urged people to reject Labour at the ballot box, She wrote:

Mark Meredith’s Labour, continuing after he was kicked out, do not deserve to win an election in the city. They will do the city no good, their track record says it all.

And:

The council’s Labour group screw over communities then just before an election pathetically say they have not listened enough but will now. No ““ LABOUR CAN NOT BE TRUSTED!

Well, It seems our Nicky got it wrong. This election saw the voters turn to mainstream parties and reject the Independents that Nicky favours so much. She has hailed the work of some of the BNP councillors and yet the electorate has shown them the door.

As one prominent Party politician put it: ‘Is there any such thing as an Independent?’

But, the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent need to to tread very carefully now. They need to understand that they have been given an opportunity by the electorate. If they get it wrong this time it could well lead to another rise in the BNP’s popularity.

Why? – simple, the Labour Party started to go down hill faster than Franz Klammer when they formed a three party coalition with the Conservatives and the Lib Dem’s. This robbed our City of the individual party voices. We were robbed of the inter-party debates. The electorate were unhappy that they had voted Labour and got Conservatives and visa versa.

Yes, there is a need for all the parties to work together for the good of the City but the different parties MUST retain their individual party voices. Nothing else is acceptable.

The Labour Party hold 26 seats in the chamber, just 5 short of the 31 they need for an outright majority. If they were to form an alliance with the 4 ex Labour members, PKB, Mick Salih, Mike Barnes & Pauline Joynson, they would be just 1 short of the required majority.

Would the Party turn towards Ellie Walker, or maybe Gavin Webb? The City Independents are known to have a growing number of members who are discontented with the direction of the Groups Leadership. Could Dave Conway be enticed back?

There will be interesting times ahead of the Annual Council meeting on May 27th.

I am proud of the coverage that PnP have given both the General and Local Elections. All the 500 word articles went on unedited. Video and Audio interviews went on untampered with.

Every candidate and Party got equal treatment, including the BNP. That is the way this site will continue. We want to work with all parties to get their message out but we will continue to scrutinise every council decision and will never shy away from reporting what is going on, no matter how uncomfortable that makes certain individuals.

We wish every success to those candidates who were successful and commiserations to those who were not.

A politician text me yesterday [Friday] and congratulated me on our coverage. He said that we had helped some people to make up their minds which way to vote and that we provide an essential service to the politically interested in our City.

If that’s the case I’m more proud of that that anything else…..