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Polling day for Stoke-on-Trent

February 24, 2017 1:03 AM
By Ed Fordham in Liberal Democrat Voice

And so it arrives… finally. Always too short, yet campaigns last forever. At the beginning they take ages, in the middle you wish it was over and at the end you want more time. The day after you are left with a sense of regret at the gap that re-opens in your diary.

Stoke Central SwingWritten at 6.00pm before the count

So what precisely has happened and been going on? Let's go through the outputs.

1. The Conservatives have selected a councillor from Stoke-on-Trent and he's young, enthusiastic and done himself no discredit. What we know is that, assuming he loses, he will duly be given a safe seat to be a Conservative MP. It's how the party structures work for the Tories. But do not lose sight of the electoral roots of UKIP. A breakaway more extreme Tory Party.

2. The Green Party stood a local Stokie as their candidate - genuine and sincere, but unable to add to the dialogue in a City that needs a focus on renewables, resources and the environment. In advocating progressive politics, this election has not worked for them.

3. It is entirely possible that we will see, tonight, live, a Party Leader lose an election. In the myriad chaos of a General Election Nigel Farage was able to stand and lose. But tonight, Paul Nuttall will, I predict, be seen to commit political suicide. His ambition, his bravado and his arrogance deserves to rebound in way that I hope will crack UKIP asunder. Is this the first Party Leader, in a major league era (thus excluding Farage) to lose since Archibald Sinclair? And let us note, that Archibald Sinclair came third when he lost…

4. For Labour this election should pass without issue - a Labour hold changes nothing but I believe that there will be ramifications. The Labour campaign, bizarrely has rejected its Remain voters, split its Local Party and gone for "pro-Brexit plus". Actively boasting about their support for Article 50, Stoke Labour Party has even taken to trashing the reputation of neighbouring Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Paul Farrelly - their candidate even criticising Paul for voting and sticking to his principles. In this election, Labour have sold their 100+ Remain MPs down the river and whilst their Party has deserted them we need to reflect on that.

5. Further, in a bid to be elected, the Labour nominee for Stoke-on-Trent Central has buried his rejection of Jeremy Corbyn and sold out his principles. Stoke Labour, again, after years of warning, have been unable to find one person, one single person, to represent them in Stoke who is from and of Stoke. All you need is Union backing, supine qualities and an ability to reject your beliefs, your past and pledge allegiance to the Leader. Yes, it sticks in my craw, because the people of Stoke-on-Trent deserve better.

For the Liberal Democrats there is much more that we will proudly emerge with from this election.
* A campaign run well and confidently, concentrating on the positives and on our offer to the City.
Zulfiqar Ali* In Dr Zulfiqar Ali a brave, articulate and determined community campaigner who we dearly like. Thank you Zulfi.
* A Local Party who like, respect and have enjoyed the election campaign and been impressed by the vigour of what we have achieved together.
* A set of Newbies whom we have trained, encouraged and pushed to do and achieve more than we could have ever believed possible.
* A deepened commitment to lead the Liberal Democrat fightback in what might be depicted as the most unlikely territory and to enjoy it.
* A message, loud and clear, that shows - like Sleaford and North Hykeham - that this Party will write nowhere off, that together with Copeland, we will stand up and be counted as liberals, as democrats, as Europeans, and work, labour and strive for the values we hold dear.

So that for me seems a good election. I never joined the Liberal Democrats for power - I joined for my beliefs, my commitment, my values. I have learned a lot, cried some and laughed more. Each election is different, every candidate an individual, and each set of experiences is to be appreciated. So for that Stoke-on-Trent I thank you. It's good to be back.

One last thing - I want to gently remind fellow Liberal Democrats that community politics is not about tactics - we don't go local because we can't win national. We go local because we believe in people, in community and in devolved local decision making. Localism is harder, takes more time, has more hiccups - but ultimately the community owns the decision and can change the implementation. The City of Stoke has had top down decision making pushed upon it by the Stoke Labour Party, now the City Independents and Tories and nationally by successive Labour and Tory Governments. It hasn't worked and we need change.

Finally, this last four weeks we have demonstrated that localism, ambition and sincerity are the fundamental roots and foundation of Dr Zulfiqar Ali's campaign - and I am proud to have been a small part of it.

Right. Time to pause there - I need to do another knock up. Thank you, thank you and more. Let's keep going and get the best result we can - and who knows what is possible? The count looms…

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