Stoke-On-Trent Central is the Starting Point for UKIP’s Northern Revolution!

Last week, Tristram Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke-On-Trent Central announced his resignation as the seat’s representative with a letter to the local members of his party. Since the minute, it was announced, UKIP have been going wild with excitement at the prospect of a pro-leave, Northern, working class seat where UKIP came second in 2015.

How did Stoke-on-Trent vote in 2015?

Source: UK Polling Report

Conservative: 7008 (22.5%)

Labour: 12220 (39.3%)

Lib Dem: 1296 (4.2%)

Green: 1123 (3.6%)

UKIP: 7041 (22.7%)

Independent: 2120 (6.8%)

Others: 276 (0.9%)

As you can see, the seat was very strong for UKIP in 2015, with an awesome 22.7% of the vote. The Labour candidate was a Blairite and a huge enemy of the Corbynistas. Unfortunately for UKIP, the Tory candidate was Liam Marshall-Ascough – a staunch Brexiteer who is very much to the right of the party. And having always had a reasonable amount of support for the Lib Dems, it was always going to be a hard seat for UKIP.

Nonetheless, the seat was one of UKIP’s best and by-elections are always a good chance to get people to vote against the government and current MP. And who better to go against than Jeremy Corbin and Theresa Maybe! Neither of them supported Brexit, neither of them have categorically ruled out staying in the Single Market, Customs Union and European Court of Justice. If UKIP really works at this, I see no reason why we shouldn’t win. But we need weekly street stalls, leafleting and canvassing every weekend, several action days and several high-profile appearances. We need to fight this campaign in the same way as the EU referendum – and with just as much effort and time put into it.

Who will be UKIP’s candidate?

There has been a lot of discussion about this very key question, with the final decision reportedly being made tonight. However, it is unlikely we will know until Saturday when a formal announcement is made. But we can make a few guesses about who might stand and how they will do in the selection process.

Bill Etheridge

Etheridge is an MEP for the West Midlands

An MEP for the West Midlands and a councillor for the nearby Town of Dudley, Bill is fairly local and as a former leadership candidate and current defence spokesperson, he is very well known both within the party and outside. He would be a very strong candidate and has been very active in the area talking about the by-election.

Speaking to Kipper Central, Bill said “Stoke is one of our strongest areas and the people here are very kind to us. They voted in huge numbers for Brexit so now it’s time to elect a pro-Brexit MP to see the job through.”

He clearly thinks we have a shot and many are eying him up as the perfect candidate. But as a very close ally of Paul Nuttall, most assume he would step aside were Paul to enter the running.

Paul Nuttall

Nuttall was recently elected UKIP leader with the largest mandate in the party’s history

As the leader of UKIP, Paul is very keen to become an MP and many within the party are urging him to stand. But Paul is from Liverpool, which is not exactly near Stoke-On-Trent. This brings up what is almost an existential question for UKIP – what do we stand for, where do our priorities lie? It is accepted by most that Paul stands the best chance of being elected but he would have to be ‘parachuted’ in – meaning he’d move to the area having never lived there. This is something UKIP has campaigned against in the past and makes for a lesser-qualified MP. So does UKIP value having our leader in the commons more than our basic values? Personally, I am undecided but this will set a precedent which may last for the party’s life so we have to be sure we do it right.

I have heard from party sources that Paul is deciding whether he’ll stand tonight (so presumably has decided by now), which would make sense with the rumours that the decision is tonight. I have also heard both from party sources and from larger media outlets that Paul has now made the decision he will stand. The next few days certainly will be interesting…

Update: I have heard from multiple reliable party sources that Paul is the official candidate, although branch chairs have not been contacted and no formal party confirmation has yet been issued.

It is important to not that the Wikipedia article (among other sites) on this is incorrect. UKIP have not yet formally chosen or confirmed a candidate, all information is speculation.

Tariq Mahmood

Mahmood was previously a labour activist so his move to UKIP was big news

Tariq is a name that most people wouldn’t usually associate with UKIP – but that’s what we can change. Whoever the candidate is they will get a huge media platform and a young former Labour Campaigner with a ‘foreign-sounding’ name and non-white ethnicity would certainly create some buthurt headlines in the Guardian, and would shut up Hope Not Hate who seem almost creepily obsessed with failing to prove that we are racist. I’m not saying we should choose him for his ethnicity, but it certainly is something that should be mentioned.

He stood for UKIP in Stoke-On-Trent South in the General Election so is local, and rumour has it that Paul backed him (until he decided to stand himself?) so you would think things are pointing towards him. I suppose, rather like Etheridge, it all depends on Paul’s decision.

Who will the opposition choose?

Having very few links with the other parties, it is hard for me (or any Kipper) to predict who they will choose but I’ve spoken to a few people and made some educated assumptions.

Labour

Labour are very unpredictable at the moment, but it is unlikely they will choose a candidate like Tristram Hunt. Hunt was regularly criticised for being parachuted in and very pro-remain, and lost many votes because of it.

Jeremy Corbyn appointed the Remainer MP Jack Dromey to run the by-election, which doesn’t really say a lot as he is not exactly a very well known MP, but it does at least show that Labour aren’t going to focus on Brexit because otherwise they would have chosen a pro-Brexit MP for this role.

The chances are that judging by the referendum result Labour will choose a candidate who either supported Brexit or is at least sympathetic to it. Judging by the fact that the very few Brexiteers within the party are boxed away from public office all too often, it is probably safe to assume that they will not have campaigned for Brexit. But even dimwits like Jeremy Corbyn understand that people want Brexit so they will most probably choose a candidate who is in support of following the referendum result. This is, of course, all speculation.

The other thing to consider is what ‘wing’ of the party they will belong to. The party is now hugely dominated by Corbyn’s movement – momentum, on around a 5:2 ratio. There are some within this group that are hugely pro-EU (e.g. Diane Abbott) and there are those that have a Eurosceptic history (e.g. Jeremy Corbyn, dare I say it). Then there are the Blairites, who rather despise Momentum. They are hugely outnumbered in the party but have a local history with Tristram Hunt and others. While unlikely they would win over Momentum, they will most probably have a candidate for the candidacy (blimey that’s a mouthful!).

Conservatives

The Conservatives seem to be playing it cool right now on Brexit and many other issues– and it is largely working out. But most accept that this seat is not winnable, at least without extreme luck and weak candidates from UKIP and Labour. But they will still throw everything they’ve got at it and hope to prevent a UKIP victory which would essentially be a protest at their government.

If Liam Marshall-Ascough, their candidate from 2015, stands again, we should probably be a little worried. He was involved with Grassroots Out (the Leave campaign largely made up of UKIP members) and travelled across the country in his van dishing out leaflets and jumpers! He is friendly with many UKIP members and I have a sneaky suspicion he has considered switching in the past. But for now, he is a young, pro-Brexit, right wing Tory who is probably considering standing in the by-election, and has posted hinting the idea on social media.

Liam travelled the country in his Brexit van, dishing out GO clothing, leaflets and Frisbees!

Speaking exclusively to Kipper Central, he said “The people of Stoke-On-Trent Central have the chance to elect someone who will actually represent their views and stand up for them. Labour have taken their support for granted for far too long and ignore their concerns over the EU! Stoke-On-Trent needs someone in the Commons who will make sure Brexit does mean Brexit”. Interestingly, he didn’t speak about his own candidacy but I suppose that shouldn’t be expected.

However, I did get the impression from him that he thinks it unlikely he’ll be the candidate, even if he does decide to enter the running. He is very much of the view that whoever the candidate is, they should and probably will be a Brexiteer. This would be a wise choice and I would assume he is probably correct.

Liberal Democrats (LOL!)

Ah, the Liberal Democrats, the laughing stock of modern British democracy – but a strong power nonetheless. Zulfiqar Ali, their candidate here in 2015, received a pathetic 4.2% of the votes – not even enough to retain his deposit! He is a rather unknown person and I cannot find anything about him no matter how much I look!

One thing we can be sure of, however, is that they will choose a candidate who is completely pro-remain and wants to ignore the democratic decision. There’s no way they’ll win here and probably won’t put much effort into it, but will try to grab the votes of the rich and angry remainiacs who just can’t accept they were wrong.

When is the by-election?

No date has been formally announced but most expect it to be late-march time. This will give the parties enough time to campaign thoroughly but not so long that the constituents are in limbo.

So… can UKIP win?

This is the question that everyone has been asking. In my opinion, it is too early to say with any degree of certainty. But it must not be ruled out.

If, as is perfectly plausible, Labour choose a remainer candidate and the Tories choose a candidate who was quiet on Brexit, much like May, then UKIP stands a strong chance.

PaddyPower have UKIP’s odds at 9/4, Sky bet at 2/1 and Ladbrokes at 7/4. Clearly, nobody is doubting UKIP’s chances and many both within UKIP and outside are taking us very seriously. Labour are probably pooping (for want of a stronger word) themselves at the thought of our campaign – after all, if they lose this seat it will say a lot about their future! And the Tories don’t really have much of a chance at winning but they know as well as we do that their candidate will either be the final nail in UKIP’s coffin here, or a new hope for our campaign. Whatever happens, UKIP will hugely grow in vote share and hold the Tories to account on Brexit! We just have to hope that we can start to move this forward from a bland slogan into actual political power and MPs in parliament. Let the great purple revolution rise once again!


If you found this analysis interesting or want to help spread the word, please do share it on social media! I would like to thank Bill Etheridge MEP, Liam Marshall-Ascough and all others within UKIP who spoke to Kipper Central about the by-election and helped to produce this article.

Reece C.

Reece is the founder and owner of Kipper Central. As a 15-year-old member of UKIP, he campaigned strongly to leave the EU and regularly attends meetings and conferences. Reece is also the Young Independence Secretary at his local UKIP branch and as such sits on the committee. He is very passionate about charity work, and in addition to raising thousands for one charity, he is the head of fundraising at another. He writes one article a week.

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