Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, 2017

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Stoke-on-Trent Central
by-election, 2017

← 2015 23 February 2017 2017 →

The Stoke-on-Trent Central seat in the House of Commons.
Elected by simple majority using first past the post.
Triggered by resignation of incumbent

  First party Second party
  Official portrait of Gareth Snell crop 2.jpg Paul Nuttal 2014 (cropped).jpg
Candidate Gareth Snell Paul Nuttall
Party Labour UKIP
Popular vote 7,853 5,233
Percentage 37.1% 24.7%
Swing Decrease2.2% Increase2.1%

  Third party Fourth party
  Official portrait of Jack Brereton crop 2.jpg
Candidate Jack Brereton Zulfiqar Ali
Party Conservative Liberal Democrat
Popular vote 5,154 2,083
Percentage 24.3% 9.8%
Swing Increase1.8% Increase5.7%

StokeOnTrentCentral2007Constituency.svg

MP before election

Tristram Hunt
Labour

Elected MP

Gareth Snell
Labour

There was a by-election in the constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central on 23 February 2017 following the resignation of Labour's Tristram Hunt, who became director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.[1] It took place alongside a by-election in Copeland.

The election was won by Gareth Snell of the Labour Party with 37% of the vote, a slight decrease compared to the 2015 general election.

Result[edit]

By-election 2017: Stoke-on-Trent Central[2][3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Gareth Snell 7,853 37.1 Decrease 2.2
UKIP Paul Nuttall 5,233 24.7 Increase 2.1
Conservative Jack Brereton 5,154 24.3 Increase 1.8
Liberal Democrat Zulfiqar Ali 2,083 9.8 Increase 5.7
Green Adam Colclough 294 1.4 Decrease 2.2
Independent Barbara Fielding 137 0.6 N/A
Monster Raving Loony The Incredible Flying Brick 127 0.6 N/A
BNP David Furness 124 0.6 N/A
Christian Peoples Godfrey Davies 109 0.5 N/A
Independent Mohammad Akram 56 0.3 N/A
Majority 2,620 12.4 Decrease 4.3
Turnout 21,200 38.2 Decrease 11.7
Labour hold Swing 2.1

The result was widely described in the media as poor for UKIP, as they did not capitalise on their second place in 2015, Labour's poor standing in opinion polls, and the high support in the constituency for Brexit.[4]

UKIP's campaign was criticised by former leader Nigel Farage[5] and major donor Arron Banks, who was critical of Nuttall and UKIP MP Douglas Carswell.[6][7] Carswell and Banks both left the party at the end of March.

Background[edit]

The seat has been held by Labour since its creation for the 1950 general election, and by Tristram 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 under the initial proposals of the Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies.[8][9]

The seat had a turnout of 49.9% in the 2015 general election,[10] the lowest turnout in the country.[11] The electorate is majority working class, with higher than average levels of unemployment. The constituency is entirely urban.[8]

In the 2016 EU Referendum, Stoke-on-Trent (the whole council area) voted heavily to Leave the European Union: at 69.4%, this was the highest percentage in the West Midlands region. As the constituency is not coterminous with any local authority, the exact result for the parliamentary seat is unknown. However Chris Hanretty, a Reader in Politics at the University of East Anglia, estimated using a demographic model that in Stoke Central, 65.0% of voters voted 'Leave'.[12]

According to figures released by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, over 2,500 new applications to vote had been received before the deadline for voter registration. This followed campaigns by the council and the Staffordshire University Students' Union to increase registration. The total number of eligible electors was 57,701, an increase of 4.3% on the figure when the election was called.[13]

Candidates and parties[edit]

On 16 January 2017, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Jack Dromey MP to run Labour's by-election campaign.[14] The Labour shortlist for Stoke-on-Trent Central was confirmed as Councillor Alison Gardner, Dr Stephen Hitchin, Trudie McGuinness, and Councillor Gareth Snell. Hitchin withdrew from the contest prior to the hustings.[15] Snell was selected as the Labour candidate on 25 January 2017. Snell is a member and former leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, and supported 'Remain' in the EU referendum.[16] He did not support the re-election of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the 2016 leadership election.[17]

On 21 January, UK Independence Party leader Paul Nuttall MEP was confirmed as the party's candidate.[18]

On 23 January, an article in The Huffington Post quoted unnamed Conservative Party sources saying that the by-election in Stoke would be given lower priority than the Copeland by-election on the same day, which the party thought they had a better chance of winning.[19] On 25 January the Conservatives selected Jack Brereton, councillor for the ward of Baddeley Green, Milton & Norton, as their candidate. Brereton is a member of the Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet and is a school governor.[20] Former Conservative minister Esther McVey had previously suggested that UKIP was significantly better placed to win the Stoke by-election than the Conservatives.[21] Brereton would become the MP for the neighbouring constituency of Stoke-on-Trent South at the general election held four months later.

Dr Zulfiqar Ali, a National Health Service consultant who lives in Stoke, was the Liberal Democrat candidate. He contested the seat in 2015 and Stoke-on-Trent South in 2010.[22][23]

On 31 January it was announced that Adam Colclough, who has stood in two council elections, would be standing for the Green Party.[24]

The Christian Peoples Alliance chose Godfrey Davies, a retired Merchant Navy deck officer from Congleton, Cheshire. Davies, whose party is pro-Brexit, planned to revive Stoke's ceramics industry, and stood for conservative positions on marriage and abortion.[25]

Independent candidate Barbara Fielding-Morriss (standing under the name Barbara Fielding)[26] is the registered leader of the party "Abolish Magna Carta, Reinstate Monarchy"[27] and is recorded as a vexatious litigant.[28]

British National Party candidate David Furness stood for the party in the London Mayoral election in 2016, finishing tenth with 13,325 votes (0.5%).[29] He has also contested two parliamentary by-elections: Feltham and Heston in 2011 and Batley and Spen in 2016, polling 540 (2.3%) and 548 votes (2.7%) respectively.

The Incredible Flying Brick who lives in nearby Derbyshire stood as a candidate for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Campaign[edit]

Early in the campaign, Labour candidate Gareth Snell attacked both UKIP and the Conservatives for their stance on NHS funding, while the Conservative, Brereton, raised Snell's opposition to Brexit in his acceptance speech as Conservative candidate.[16]

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.[30][31] On 11 February, Nuttall moved out of the house following attempted break-ins and hate mail, and moved to another property in the Stoke Central constituency.[32]

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.[33] On 4 February, a Labour spokesman denied this report when asked by The Independent.[34]

On 11 February, Paul Nuttall was accused of lying about his claims to have been present at the Hillsborough disaster when he was 12.[35] A former teacher at his school denied he was among pupils present.[36] The Hillsborough Families Support Group said they were surprised Nuttall had never offered to support their campaigns, while people who had known Nuttall at the time of the disaster and candidates he had previously stood against said they had no recollection of him mentioning it. UKIP released statements from Nuttall's father and a long-time friend who now works for the party stating that he had been at Hillsborough. Nuttall himself said that those who suggested he was not at the ground were the "scum of the earth" but declined to confirm whether he had given a statement to the police (as everyone at the ground on the day of the disaster has been asked to). A UKIP statement said that the claims were "a new low for the Labour party and its associates".[35] Nuttall was later challenged on a radio show about past UKIP press releases that he had lost "close personal friends" in the disaster: he admitted this was not true, saying "someone he knew" had died, and said that the press releases had not "come from him".[37][38] A UKIP press officer subsequently took responsibility and offered to resign, but the resignation was not accepted by Nuttall.[39] Two UKIP branch chairs resigned in response to Nuttall's actions and comments by UKIP donor Arron Banks on the subject.[40] On 20 February, Nuttall gave a witness statement to police officers from Operation Resolve, who are investigating the causes of the Hillsbrough disaster and whether there is any criminal culpability on the part of individuals or organisations.[41]

Social media behaviour of the various parties became a campaign issue, with Snell criticised for historical Twitter posts that were seen to be offensive to women,[42] and UKIP Immigration spokesman John Bickley criticised for retweeting an Islamophobic cartoon.[42] Both men apologised publicly.[42]

Independent Barbara Fielding was arrested under Section 19 of the Public Order Act 1986, i.e. an offence to publish or distribute written material which may stir up racial hatred, because of material published on her website.[43][44]

On 16 February, it was revealed that Muslim residents had received text messages urging them to vote tactically and suggesting they will have to "answer for this in the Grave and on the Final day" for voting for a party other than Labour. The Liberal Democrats, whose candidate is Muslim, condemned the move, and called on Labour to apologise.[45][46] The Liberal Democrats later reported the incident to Staffordshire Police, as the incident may breach laws on undue spiritual influence.[47]

Automated Twitter accounts, which usually posted pro-Russia propaganda, posted anti-UKIP and pro-Labour messages in the run-up to the by-election. A UKIP spokesman said that he was not concerned by the posts, nor did he believe they had been directed by President Vladimir Putin.[48]

A major storm, named Doris, hit the constituency on polling day, which some commentators suggested would suppress turnout.[49]

2015 result[edit]

General Election 2015: Stoke-on-Trent Central[50][10]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Tristram Hunt 12,220 39.3 Increase 0.5
UKIP Mick Harold 7,041 22.7 Increase 18.3
Conservative Liam Marshall-Ascough 7,008 22.5 Increase 1.5
Independent Mark Breeze 2,120 6.8 N/A
Liberal Democrat Zulfiqar Ali 1,296 4.2 Decrease 17.5
Green Jan Zablocki 1,123 3.6 N/A
CISTA Ali Majid 244 0.8 N/A
The Ubuntu Party Paul Toussaint 32 0.1 N/A
Majority 5,179 16.7
Turnout 31,084 49.9
Labour hold Swing

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ "Statement of Persons Nominated" (PDF). Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Retrieved 1 February 2017. 
  3. ^ Sparrow, Andrew (24 February 2017). "Stoke and Copeland byelections: Unison boss suggests Corbyn partly to blame for historic defeat - Politics live". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ Cullimore, Ben (24 February 2017). "Paul Nuttall failed his first test as UKIP leader". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  5. ^ Watts, Joe (24 February 2017). "Ukip divisions emerge as Nigel Farage says Stoke by-election focus should have been on immigration". The Independent. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  6. ^ "Major Ukip donor Arron Banks threatens to pull funding if he is not made chairman". ITV News. 25 February 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  7. ^ Gayle, Damien (25 February 2017). "Nigel Farage stands by Paul Nuttall despite loss in Stoke byelection". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  8. ^ a b "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. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ a b "Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency – Election 2015". BBC News. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Wigmore, Tim (13 May 2015). "20 seats with the lowest turnout show Labour voters drifting to UKIP - or not voting at all". The New Statesman. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  12. ^ "Revised estimates of leave vote in Westminster constituencies". Retrieved 26 October 2016. 
  13. ^ Corrigan, Phil. "Thousands of new voters register". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  14. ^ Elgot, Jessica (16 January 2017). "Labour MPs press Jeremy Corbyn for clearer stance on Europe". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  15. ^ "Exclusive: Labour's shortlist for Stoke". LabourList. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  16. ^ a b May, Josh (26 January 2017). "Labour candidate in Stoke by-election described Brexit as a 'pile of sh*t'". Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  17. ^ Will Worley, Rachel Roberts (27 January 2017). "Labour candidate for Stoke by-election brands Brexit 's***' and Jeremy Corbyn an 'IRA supporting friend of Hamas'". The Independent. Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  18. ^ "UKIP's Nuttall stands in Stoke by-election". BBC News. 21 January 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  19. ^ "Tories Write Off Stoke-on-Trent Central By-Election, Party Sources Say". The Huffington Post. 23 January 2017. 
  20. ^ Burnett, Tom (25 January 2017). "Jack Brereton announced as Conservative Party candidate". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  21. ^ "Ukip is the main challenger in the Stoke-on-Trent by-election, former Tory minister says". The Daily Telegraph. 15 January 2017. Retrieved February 3, 2017. 
  22. ^ "Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election: Candidates list". BBC News. 21 January 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  23. ^ Lindsay, Caron. "Dr Zulfiqar Ali's campaign for Stoke Central gets underway". LibDem Voice. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  24. ^ Corrigan, Phil (31 January 2017). "Green Party hoping for breakthrough in Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election". The Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  25. ^ Corrigan, Phil (17 January 2017). "Christian party selects candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 22 January 2017. 
  26. ^ "Election Agents Notice" (PDF). Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Retrieved 1 February 2017. 
  27. ^ "Abolish Magna Carta, Reinstate Monarchy". Register of Political Parties. Electoral Commission. Retrieved 31 January 2017. 
  28. ^ "Vexatious litigants". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 31 January 2017. 
  29. ^ "Mayoral candidate: David Furness". London Elects. Retrieved 2 February 2017. 
  30. ^ Walker, Peter (1 February 2017). "Paul Nuttall's Stoke byelection papers gave address he had not moved into". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2017. 
  31. ^ Smith, Mikey (2 February 2017). "Ukip leader Paul Nuttall under police investigation over election fraud claims". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  32. ^ Corrigan, Phil (11 February 2017). "Ukip leader Paul Nuttall moves out of Stoke-on-Trent house". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  33. ^ Stewart, Heather (3 February 2017). "Labour looks at collaborating with Lib Dems and Greens in Stoke". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  34. ^ Cowburn, Ashley (4 February 2017). "Labour dismisses 'collaboration talks' with Lib Dems to take on Ukip in Stoke by-election". The Independent. 
  35. ^ a b Cobain, Ian (10 February 2017). "Ukip leader Paul Nuttall denies lying about being at Hillsborough disaster". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  36. ^ Edwards, Jim (10 February 2017). "UKIP's Paul Nuttall denies he lied about being at the Hillsborough Disaster as a 12-year-old". Business Insider UK. 
  37. ^ "Nuttall admits he did not lose 'close friends' at Hillsborough". BBC News. 14 February 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  38. ^ Cobain, Ian; Mason, Rowena (14 February 2017). "Paul Nuttall admits claim he lost close friends at Hillsborough was false". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  39. ^ "Nuttall aide offers to quit over Hillsborough mistakes". BBC News. 14 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  40. ^ "UKIP officials quit in Hillsborough row". 20 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  41. ^ "UKIP leader Paul Nuttall gives Hillsborough statement". BBC News. Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  42. ^ a b c Elgot, Jessica (13 February 2017). "Labour's Stoke by-election candidate apologises for offensive tweets aimed at women". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  43. ^ Corrigan, Phil. "Arrested Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election candidate: 'I've done nothing wrong'". The Sentinel (15 February 2017). Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  44. ^ "Stoke byelection candidate arrested over anti-immigrant comments". The Guardian. www.theguardian.com. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  45. ^ Sproson, Kit (16 February 2017). "Stoke-on-Trent: Text messages warn 'vote Labour or go to hell'". ITV News. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  46. ^ "Muslim voters warned they will go to hell if they do not vote Labour in Stoke by-election". Liberal Democrats. 16 February 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  47. ^ Proctor, Kate (16 February 2017). "Labour reported to police over Stoke by-election texts warning 'voting UKIP is anti-Islamic'". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  48. ^ "Vladimir Putin told to keep out of Stoke by election after pro-Russia Twitter accounts target Ukip and Paul Nuttall". Telegraph. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  49. ^ Elgot, Jessica (21 February 2017). "Storm Doris could blow away Labour byelection hopes, MPs fear". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  50. ^ "Election Data 2015". Electoral Calculus. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015.