2017 Stoke Central by-election

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Event.png 2017 Stoke Central by-election
Stoke Central Hustings.jpg
Date 23 February 2017
Description Five of the candidates attend first hustings on 6 February 2017

The 2017 Stoke Central by-election, caused by the resignation of the anti-Corbyn Labour MP Tristram Hunt, took place on 23 February 2017, alongside a by-election in Copeland.[1] The Blairite Stoke Central Constituency Labour Party selected Gareth Snell, another Blairite and Corbyn critic,[2] to replace Hunt, who is due to become the next director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (a job lined up by his aunt Baroness Bottomley, chair of head-hunters Odgers Berndtson).[3][4]

On 15 February 2017, the SKWAWKBOX news blog reported that punters were fleeing UKIP leader Paul Nuttall's sinking ship.[5] At the Declaration, Labour's Gareth Snell, who won 7,853 votes to UKIP's 5,233, said the result showed "hatred and bigotry" were not welcome in Stoke:

“This city will not allow ourselves to be defined by last year’s referendum. And we will not allow ourselves to be divided by the result.[6]

Snell had previously called Brexit "a massive pile of s***” and described Jeremy Corbyn as an "IRA-supporting friend of Hamas".[7]

Background

The Stoke Central seat has been held by Labour since its creation for the 1950 General Election, and by Hunt since 2010. The Liberal Democrats were second at the 2005 and 2010 elections, but UKIP came second in 2015. The constituency is set to be reshaped and renamed in the initial proposals of the 6th Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies.[8][9]

The seat had the lowest turnout at the 2015 general election (49%). The electorate is majority working class, with higher than average levels of unemployment. The constituency is entirely urban.

In the 2016 EU Referendum, Stoke-on-Trent (the whole council area) heavily voted to Leave the European Union: at 69.4%, this was the most decisive result in the West Midlands region. As the constituency is not coterminous with any local authority, the exact result for the parliamentary seat is not known. However, Chris Hanretty, a Reader in Politics at the University of East Anglia, estimated through a demographic model that in Stoke Central, 65.0% of voters voted Leave.[10]

Candidates and parties

Three anti-Corbynites (Iain McNicol, Gareth Snell and Ruth Smeeth) "campaigning" in Stoke

On 16 January 2017, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Jack Dromey MP to run Labour's by-election campaign.[11] The Labour shortlist for Stoke-on-Trent Central was confirmed as Councillor Alison Gardner, Dr Stephen Hitchin, Trudie McGuinness, and Councillor Gareth Snell. Dr Hitchin withdrew from the contest prior to the hustings.[12] Gareth Snell, who won the selection on 25 January 2017, is a member and former leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, and supported Remain in the EU Referendum.[13] He did not support the re-election of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the 2016 Labour leadership election.[14]

On 21 January, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall MEP was confirmed as the party's candidate.[15]

On 23 January, an article in The Huffington Post quoted unnamed Conservative Party sources saying that the by-election in Stoke would be deprioritised in favour of the Copeland by-election taking place on the same day, which the party considers as a better hope of a gain.[16] The Conservatives selected Baddeley Green, Milton & Norton ward councillor Jack Brereton as their candidate on 25 January. Brereton is a member of the Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet and is a school governor.[17] Former Conservative minister Esther McVey had previously suggested that UKIP was significantly better placed to win the Stoke by-election than the Conservatives.[18]

Dr Zulfiqar Ali, an NHS consultant who lives in Stoke, is the Liberal Democrat candidate. He contested the seat in 2015 and Stoke-on-Trent South in the 2010 General Election.[19]Lindsay, Caron. "Dr Zulfiqar Ali’s campaign for Stoke Central gets underway". LibDem Voice. Retrieved 21 January 2017. </ref>

The Christian Peoples' Alliance chose Godfrey Davies, a retired Merchant Navy deck officer from Congleton, Cheshire. Davies, whose party is pro-Brexit, plans to revive Stoke's ceramics industry, in addition to standing for conservative positions on marriage and abortion.

Independent candidate Barbara Fielding-Morriss (standing under the name Barbara Fielding)[20] is the registered leader of the party "Abolish Magna Carta, Reinstate Monarchy"[21] and is recorded as a vexatious litigant.[22]

British National Party candidate David Furness previously stood for the party in the 2016 London mayoral election, finishing tenth with 13,325 votes (0.5%).[23] More recently he finished third in the 2016 Batley and Spen by-election with 548 votes (2.7%).

Campaign

Early in the campaign, Labour candidate Gareth Snell attacked both UKIP and the Conservatives for their stance on NHS funding, while the Conservative, Jack Brereton, raised Snell's opposition to Brexit in his acceptance speech as Conservative candidate.

On 1 February, it was reported that nomination papers submitted by UKIP candidate Paul Nuttall declared he was living in a house in Stoke that he had not moved into at the time they were filed, potentially an offence under the Representation of the People Act 1983. A spokesman for the UKIP campaign stated that the house had been rented by the party prior to the close of nominations and that Nuttall would be moving in that day.[24][25]

On 3 February, it was reported by The Guardian that the Labour Party was exploring an agreement with the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party which would involve these parties deprioritising their respective campaigns in this by-election in order to assist Labour in defeating UKIP. The report also suggested that Liberal Democrat and Green candidates could withdraw, although under electoral law the deadline for formal withdrawals has passed and the candidates would remain on the ballot.[26] On 4 February, a Labour spokesman denied this report when asked by The Independent.[27]

References

  1. "Stoke-on-Trent Central candidates attend first public hustings"
  2. "Labour right are trying to lose two by-elections. But Oldham West applies"
  3. Stewart, Heather (13 January 2017). "Tristram Hunt to quit as MP to become V&A director". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  4. "Big-name hunter Virginia Bottomley fights to bag more jobs for women"
  5. "PUNTERS FLEE #NUTTALL’S SINKING SHIP. #STOKECENTRAL: DON’T LET LOW TURNOUT SAVE HIM"
  6. "Stoke by-election result: Labour secures emphatic victory while Ukip's Paul Nuttall crashes out"
  7. "Labour candidate for Stoke by-election brands Brexit 's***' and Jeremy Corbyn an 'IRA supporting friend of Hamas'"
  8. "Labour's Tristram Hunt quitting as MP to head V&A Museum". BBC News. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  9. "Initial proposals for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries in the West Midlands" (PDF). Boundary Commission for England. Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  10. "Revised estimates of leave vote in Westminster constituencies". Retrieved 26 October 2016. 
  11. Elgot, Jessica (16 January 2017). "Labour MPs press Jeremy Corbyn for clearer stance on Europe". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  12. LabourList http://labourlist.org/2017/01/exclusive-labours-shortlist-for-stoke/. Retrieved 25 January 2017.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. May, Josh (26 January 2017). "Labour candidate in Stoke by-election described Brexit as a 'pile of sh*t'". Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  14. "Labour candidate for Stoke by-election brands Brexit 's***' and Jeremy Corbyn an 'IRA supporting friend of Hamas'". The Independent. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  15. "UKIP's Nuttall stands in Stoke by-election". BBC News. 21 January 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  16. "Tories Write Off Stoke-on-Trent Central By-Election, Party Sources Say"
  17. Burnett, Tom (25 January 2017). "Jack Brereton announced as Conservative Party candidate". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  18. "Ukip is the main challenger in the Stoke-on-Trent by-election, former Tory minister says". The Daily Telegraphdate=15 January 2017. Retrieved February 3, 2017. 
  19. "Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election: Candidates list". BBC News. 21 January 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  20. "Election Agents Notice" (PDF). Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Retrieved 1 February 2017. 
  21. Register of Political Parties. Electoral Commission http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/English/Registrations/PP2720. Retrieved 31 January 2017.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. Vexatious Litigant. www.gov.uk https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vexatious-litigants. Retrieved 31 January 2017.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. London Elects https://www.londonelects.org.uk/mayoral-candidate-david-furness. Retrieved 2 February 2017.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. Walker, Peter (1 February 2017). "Paul Nuttall's Stoke byelection papers gave address he had not moved into". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2017. 
  25. Smith, Mikey (2 February 2017). "Ukip leader Paul Nuttall under police investigation over election fraud claims". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  26. "Labour looks at collaborating with Lib Dems and Greens in Stoke". The Guardian. 3 February 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  27. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-labour-paul-nuttall-collaboration-liberal-democrats-in-upcoming-stoke-on-trent-by-a7562506.html
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