Last weekend saw a massive mobilization of UKIP supporters for the Stoke Central by-election, with over 200 members turning up on Saturday and another 70 on Sunday to support our party leader and candidate, Paul Nuttall.
I spent two days on the doorsteps with Freddy, Jim and Patricia as a four man canvassing team, talking with local residents and receiving a tremendous reception – I was even greeted with a big sloppy kiss on one occasion, albeit from a very friendly fox terrier!
The Labour campaign team had been around one street before us and what I found left me absolutely incredulous.
Playing the ‘English Card’
Left in the road was a Labour leaflet carrying the image of their candidate, Gareth Snell.
To my immense surprise, the Cross of St George was prominent at the top of the leaflet – did anybody run this past Lady Nugee, Emily Thornberry MP, who openly sneered at the sight of an English flag during a previous election campaign in Essex?
Indeed, I find the whole idea of Labour putting the flag of our country on their leaflets quite ridiculous in view of their disdain for our national identity as shown in their policy.
Let me explain……
Following the resignation of Labour MP Tristram Hunt in Stoke-on-Trent, UKIP announced that new party leader Paul Nuttall MEP will be our candidate in the subsequent byelection.
The seat is historically a Labour stronghold but their majority was down to 5000 at the 2015 General Election and, significantly, it registered one of the highest Leave votes at last year’s referendum.
The poor turnout at the General Election (Just 49%) shows how disillusioned local voters are with the party that has represented them in the past.
If Labour lose this seat (Plus the other byelection in Copeland, another former stronghold with an even slimmer majority) then Labour could be consigned to a spot in a museum similar to the one that Mr Hunt has left his constituency to take up a post with.
With this in mind, it was no surprise to see Labour Shadow Chancellor and my old sparring partner, John McDonnell, go on the offensive during last Sunday’s Marr Show on the BBC. However, both his body language and his line of attack show why the Labour High Command are terrified of the UKIP challenge in the seat and must be contemplating the possibility of an embarrassing defeat.
Spin, smear and downright lies
Once again, McDonnell trotted out the standard lie about UKIP wanting to privatise the NHS – this has never been a part of any UKIP manifesto.
Paul Nuttall spoke a number of years ago about making the procurement arm of the NHS more competitive – common sense when we see some trusts paying £25 for a lightbulb and issuing costly prescriptions for painkillers that you can buy for as little as 30p at the pharmacy. Yet in Labour’s eyes, this is ‘privatisation’.
Our Party Chairman Paul Oakden writes,
At 11.00 this morning, we announced that our Party Leader, Paul Nuttall, would be UKIP’s candidate for the forthcoming by-election in Stoke-on-Trent Central, on Thursday 23 February.
Thanks to the Stoke-on-Trent branch and the great Mick Harold, who came only 5000 votes behind Tristram Hunt in 2015 but has gallantly ceded the candidacy to Paul, we now have the chance to see our Leader elected to Westminster for the first time.
It really can happen. Though Mick’s fantastic campaign pushed the Tories into third place by just 33 votes (0.2%) last time, our private polling shows that with Paul as our candidate we are only a handful of points behind Corbyn’s Labour – with the Conservatives stuck some 10 points behind, totally out of sight of a win.
We have worked and prayed for this moment. We took our last Party Leader to within 3000 votes of Parliament in South Thanet, in the face of one of the most vicious – and dubious – spoiler campaigns in recent history.