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You can make a difference by coming to Stoke-on-Trent

February 9, 2017 2:10 PM
By Ed Fordham in Liberal Democrat Voice

Zulfiqar AliCould we have any more by-elections of late? Witney, Richmond Park, Sleaford & North Hykeham, Copeland and now Stoke-on-Trent Central. It's certainly fair to say that the range of constituencies and the differing geographical demographics will give a good insight into statistical analysis of political opinion - like an on-going live poll.

But some by-elections perform specific functions, have a bespoke purpose and achieve singular status and significance. In the legend of the by-election wins of the 1990's Ribble Valley ended the Poll Tax, Eastbourne saw the return of the Liberal Democrats to winning form, Christchurch ended full rate VAT on fuel - the challenge is to make Stoke-on-Trent Central the end of the rise of the far-right in Britain.

Now there are lots of concerns about where the world is heading. Donald Trump, climate change denials, rolling back equalities legislation, the rise of parochial nationalism and the start of overt xenophobia to name a few. I'm sitting in Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent, helping with the campaign to elect Dr Zulfiqar Ali as the Liberal Democrat MP for the local area.

Now then, Stoke-on-Trent faces many challenges and would massively benefit from having a new, ambitious, capable, hard-working local MP. But our plea is not just for the benefit of Staffordshire - rather this is a real opportunity to end the negative agenda and establish something optimistic, outward looking and liberal.

So a brief insight: UKIP have rented a high profile shopping centre drop-office, they have mobilised their gaggle of activists from across the country and shuffled them all into a hall for a Farago Rally last week with 600 of their people present. Their campaign is noisy, involves delivering lots of A5 fliers that all look the same and seems to be focussed on supporting Nigel Farage. However, in terms of their actual candidate Mr Paul Nuttall, there are three slight problems.

1. He admitted on camera that he had never been to the address named on his nomination papers, although he would be moving in "for the campaign."
2. He is standing to be an MP in Westminster and failing to mention that he is already a member of the European Parliament.
3. Everyone knows Nuttall is just using Stoke-on-Trent as a platform for the ambitions of him and his party and that has nothing to say or do for the people of Stoke and their proud City.

So if you enjoy by-elections you should come. If you know Zulfiqar then you will come because you know how sincere and impassioned he is. If you just joined the Liberal Democrats and want to get involved then you will come for the training and experience. But more than all of those, if you want to stop the rise of division, of hatred, of xenophobia and of UKIP then you should make time to come up and talk to local residents and urge them to vote for a positive alternative.

Demonstrating in the streets about Trump's Muslim ban, angry about the war in Syria and the crushing of Aleppo, you voted Remain and are wanting a positive relationship with Europe - for all of these reasons, I am urging you to come up to Stoke-on-Trent and support Dr Zulfiqar Ali. This is a positive campaign and success here will make a difference, success here will elect a positive alternative and seeing UKIP stopped and rejected is a goal all of its own. It's just 15 days to polling day - please, book a train or get in the car and come and help. Sign up here.

See you soon I hope, and massive thanks in advance.

* Ed Fordham was born in Spalding, was a councillor for Stoke West 1998-2002, stood for Stoke-on-Trent Central 1997 and is working full time for Dr Zufiqar Ali