2010 Elections - Will Independents Usurp The Sitting MPs In Stoke-on-Trent?

15 Jan 2010

This week's revelations that two prominent local councillors have announced that they will stand as Independent candidates in this years General Election will send shock waves through the mainstream parties locally.

First, we had former Conservative Councillor Terry Follows, who now represents the City Independent Group, reveal that he will challenge Labour MP Rob Flello for the parliamentary seat of Stoke-on-Trent South.

And today  we have had the shock announcement that former BNP Group Leader Alby Walker will Stand against sitting Labour MP Mark Fisher and Nick Griffin's right hand man the Party's Deputy Leader Simon Darby for the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat.

The Walker story was broken in an Iain Robinson exclusive in today's Sentinel.

Terry Follows's decision to run did not come as a surprise to me as he gave a strong hint to me that this was his intention way back in the summer..

Alby Walkers decision, I did not see coming. As late as yesterday evening, Simon Darby was still under the impression that Alby would be his running mate for the upcoming General Election.

Talking to Alby Walker today he told me of his frustration at the political fragmentation in Stoke-on-Trent. He said:

"I am sick and tired of the political fragmentation in the City. Party politics is broken in this City. You only have to look at was has happened in Stoke Central to the likes of Gary Elsby".

"I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. All I have ever wanted is to represent the people of the area. I have had support from all over the ward asking to me carry on".

"I am considering standing as an Independent Councillor and subject to me finding a financial backer, I will stand as an Independent in the General Election too".

" I would need someone who will back me to the tune of about £5000. That amount would allow me to mount a great campaign, so if there anyone out there.....".

"I don't want to upset Simon Darby or my former BNP councillors. I consider Simon a friend, as I do my former colleagues, but all I want to do is do the right thing for the electorate and not have to put a party first".

"I think the people of Stoke-on-Trent Central deserve that".

Terry Follows will stand against Rob Flello despite working alongside him to save Trentham High School.

Flello may well feel a bit betrayed by this decision given the massive input he put into lobbying ministers in Parliament which eventually led to the decision to close the school being reversed.

Terry Follows saw his popularity shoot through the roof particularly with members of the Trentham Action Group and it may be due to their encouragement that he has decided to mount a bid for a Parliamentary seat.

Terry's halo was knocked slightly by accepting a seat on the Council's Executive [Cabinet]. He was a very outspoken about the former executive [EMB] and often accused them of being 'nodding donkeys'.

Since joining the Cabinet, some of his former supporters have accused him of selling out his principles and nodding unpopular decision through himself.

Political commentators will see Terry Follows's challenge a sterner test that Alby Walkers.

It was thought that the BNP had identified that the political unrest particularly within the Labour Party in the Central constituency, that has seen four party stalwarts refused as candidates for the 2010 local elections, as a good reason to believe that they can win the seat.

The news that Alby Walker may well throw his hat into the ring has made the situation even more interesting.

Could there be more twists and turns on the run up to the Local/General Elections?

Sources have indicated that the problems within the Labour Party show no signs of blowing themselves out.

Multiple legal challenges to the process and to the party hierarchy has fuelled the ambition of certain individuals and parties. The next few weeks could be a cataclysmic time for the Labour party.

All this has identified the seat in the middle of the City as very winnable.

An ideal catalist for the Labour party to heal and unite you would think.......

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Craig Pond's picture

As we've been telling you

As we've been telling you since the formation of the PCF, party politics has no place in local politics, and Mr Walker is absolutely right to point that out, his standing for parliament directly against the party that has shown him so much support, is nothing more than treachery.
Timing his disclosure to coincide with the BNP press conference to introduce Simon, and kick off this new campaign for bringing home our armed forces, shows that Mr Walker has no loyalty to anyone other than himself.
I hope the citizens of Stoke central recognise this showboating for what it is, and refuse to send him to Westminster.
That is a place with enough traitors.

Guest's picture

It’s pretty rich of Craig

It’s pretty rich of Craig Pond to level the accusation of "treachery" at Alby Walker against the BNP, when arguably the boot was very much on the other foot. Probably the finest work done by Alby Walker and his joinery company was giving the BNP a veneer of respectability.

While Steven Batkin was a godsend to us on the left, with his open Holocaust denial and spectacularly ineffective input in the Council chamber, Walker’s reputation for community politics made getting the “Nazi scum” label to stick a lot harder, and many of the other BNP councillors owe their seats to this reputation.

The BNP leadership have behaved incredibly cynically by parachuting Griffin’s right-hand man into a seat they judged more winnable than the Dudley constituency he had originally pledged to fight, and by expecting Alby Walker to fall on his sword to make way. His shock resignation suggested there was skulduggery afoot, and sure enough, now we can all see what it was.

In August, Simon Darby blogged his do or die determination to fight the Dudley seat – revealed as a lie. Then he claims Alby Walker asked him to fight Stoke Central (another lie) and was to be his election agent – exposed by today’s events as yet another lie!

And now we have Craig Pond – usually so much the champion of all things “local” he’d want Stoke-on-Trent twinned with Royston Vasey – demonstrating his loyalty to the BNP national party leadership by throwing his oft-used charge of “treachery” at Walker, while Terry is no doubt picking out a lamp-post with Alby’s name on it even as I write...

Am I enjoying this? Just a bit..

Craig Pond's picture

LTS, once again you get

once again you get things arse about face!
My complaint against Alby Walker is based on his behaviour, not his politics.
Personal behaviour should reflect the type of person you are and the things you believe.
It is clear from his behaviour that the only thing he believes in is personal agrandizement.
look at this way, who the hell needs enemies with friends like him!

Guest's picture

You laugh about Royston Vasey

You laugh about Royston Vasey - typical Marxist!

If you had actually bothered to visit Our Town you'd know we have a thriving BNP branch with 88 members!

The True BNP:


Shaun Bennett's picture

I don't know why Flello

I don't know why Flello should feel 'betrayed' by Terry's decision to stand against him-as you have suggested.

It was always clear that Terry was from an opposing party...or non party rather.

I also think that you're being a bit to generous to Flello for his role in saving Trentham High. Yes, Labour acted because they were afraid of the consequences for them at election time if they didn't. But it was because Stoke South is marginal that Labour gave in, not because of Flello personally. If Stoke South was a safe Labour seat, they wouldn't have cared who the MP was, the decision to close the school would not have been reversed. So it was a triumph for Terry, the campaigners of Trentham and people power, not the MP.

But when it comes to 'will independents usurp the sitting MPs in Stoke'? That is an easy question to answer. No they won't. A general election is not a local election. When there is a government at stake, people know better than to waste their votes flirting with candidates outside of the main parties.

Craig Pond's picture

Shaun. "When there is a


"When there is a government at stake, people know better than to waste their votes flirting with candidates outside of the main parties."

By far and away, the worst candidates are connected to the three main parties!
We'd be better off with no representation, rather than the rubbish put forward by the 'big three.'

Shaun Bennett's picture

I don't doubt you think that

I don't doubt you think that Craig, and of course you have a right to put the case. But the reality of the situation is that this is the political system we have and barring the nightmare scenario threatened by electoral reformers, it is not going to change.

The best thing people can do is to work within the main parties-and I don't include the Lib Dems in that-to bring them round to the view that the majority want. Its no good carping from the outside because all you're going to do is give lost deposit after lost deposit to H.M. Treasury.

Guest's picture

Shaun is right on this point

Shaun is right on this point

Warren Lloyd's picture

Terry Follows as every right,

Terry Follows as every right, and a half chance, againts Rob. In Robs defence though, may I point out he as represented Stoke South well- and I know some will try and shoot me down on this, but he as. Its also a fact that he has been very open about the expence saga, and came out clean.
As for Alby... lol... what can I say, he gives up leadership of the local BNP, siteing he wants to spend time with his famley, then makes plans to run for Westminster, as a independent, up against one of the BNPs leading prats. Lord, work that one out, all at once the BNP idiots seem to be in disaray.

terry turbo's picture

Political fragmentation has

Political fragmentation has been the cancer that is destroying our city, and needs cutting out by politicians serving the needs of the people of this city, and not some ars****e in London.
After all isn't that why they were elected?
It will either do that with, a full council of one party or a coalition prepared to work for us.
Something our local polticians cannot grasp.
Their masters cannot possibly see the daily problems we face, so their input is useless patroniseing.
Last night Joan Whalley stated last night at a R/A meeting that another member of the government was on their way up here to tell us were we are going wrong.
As if we have not got enough of the nosy sods up here already.

Shaun Bennett's picture

Warren, I am not attacking

Warren, I am not attacking Terry Follows as the candidate. I think that as Indepednents go, they have chosen an excellent candidate in Terry, and he has been an excellent champion for his area.

But we have to be realistic. This is a general election not a local.

Ian Norris's picture

2010 Elections - Will

2010 Elections - Will Independents Usurp The Sitting MPs In Stoke-on-Trent?

I very much doubt it, dont think any local MPs behaved too badly in expenses scandal. For protest vote for independent to win and can't see stoke going for tory vote, and if BNP are going to split thier own vote then I'm sure Labour will remain as MPs

Warren Lloyd's picture

Well said Ian, there is no

Well said Ian, there is no problems with the local Stoke MPs expenses, JW got a habbit of paying to much for tellys, but thats a woman for you. Mark and Rob came out clean. If anyone wants a bit of fun, go for Atkins in the Moorlands, and her very nice bathroom or there is always the utter disgrace that is Bill Cash in Stone, who just happens to be Tory.

Guest's picture

Indeed, a bad day all round

terry turbo's picture

LTS, I won't bother posting

LTS, I won't bother posting all the paedophiles, and rapists from the left, not enough space on this website.

Guest's picture

Am still dreaming of the day

Am still dreaming of the day when elections, national and local, will be on subjects other than "politics".

Nicky Davis's picture

Hmm Sentinel, don't know

Hmm Sentinel, don't know what's up with their site, I haven't been able to put comments on in ages, they just fail with errors.

Very interesting blog Tony, particularly interesting that you got Alby talking to you now he's essentially an independent. You always moaned he didn't want to talk much about policies, maybe it really is because he's more interested in representing electorate rather than the party and he's right that party politics often gets in the way. I don't see his intention to stand for parliament being a serious one. Is it more to do with first it was him, then it was Simon, so is there some sort of conflict there, or a conflict of whether it should be someone living in the city or not? If he was serious he'd just mount him own campaign and get on with it. By asking for someone with £5000 to back him it gives him a way of saying he wants to stand but as he probably won't get the backing, he won't end up standing. I could believe him standing as an independent councillor though, that way he can concentrate on the representational work and not have to bother with the less interesting or useful party politics.

We've known Terry is standing for SOT South for a while now. On the Trentham High issue both Terry and Rob worked hard for us and did well. But the issue is again party politics. Trouble with Rob is not him so much but the labour party he represents and the usual lists of things they've done that are bad for the country and for the city in particular. You are right that being on the SOT cabinet, not so much that as joining the nodding donkeys at times, has not been good for Terry. But nevertheless it's a good protest vote at the very least and could be good representation at best.

I hope independents continue to flourish in the city as that is the best way to select councillors, rather than by odd party choices as labour and tories have shown, then once elected they are more free from party constraints in what they do.

I think that this coming general election is the best time there has ever been to give it a go at becoming an independent MP. However I would still imagine that labour will win all three seats in the city.

Nicky Davis - non-party political activist - a firm believer in grass roots democracy and strong local communities.

Tim Mullen's picture

In a serious attempt to be

In a serious attempt to be non-partisan, I think the answer to your question Tony is "no"; historically Independents don't get elected to the House of Commons, and when they do (Martin Bell, Tatton 1997 and Dr Richard Taylor, Wyre Forest 2001) there is a pressing issue that unites people behind a protest vote, and in all seriousness, whilst that might exist for the City Council, it's hard to argue it exists for the Westminster seats.

It's also worth noting that Martin Bell was only successful because Labour and the LibDems stood their candidates down, when he stood in Brentwood and Ongar in 2001, and Labour and the LibDems fielded candidates, he was unsuccessful.

Slightly off-topic, and forgive me if this has been discussed elsewhere, but I can't see it, but does Alby's decision reduce the BNP Group to seven, as I presume Ellie is going to follow him out of the door - it would seem a little bizarre to remain a member of a Party who your husband is standing against?

Finally, anyone who has sat and watched the TV pictures from Haiti might be interested in Mr Griffin and Mr Darby's views on the disaster: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8462717.stm

Each are created equal, irrespective of gender, race, faith or disability and should be treated as such

Guest's picture

Amazingly, Tim, you seem to

Amazingly, Tim, you seem to have forgotten "People's Voice" in Bleaneau, Gwent. An ideal way to destroy the "political" system, don't you think, and one highly appropriate to the citizens of the City of Stoke-on-Trent?

Tim Mullen's picture

Yes Kenneth, I had forgotten

Yes Kenneth, I had forgotten Blaenau Gwent, but I actually think my point still holds - the big local issue that cost Labour the seat in 2005 was the imposition of an all-women shortlist, and the subsequent selection of what was perceived as a "Blair Babe" to replace the retiring left-wing Llew Smith, so there was the defining local protest vote. This seat also doesn't correlate particularly well to any of the Stoke seats in that it was, prior to the 2005 schism, a real one-party state, with only Plaid Cymru of the opposition parties holding its deposit in 2001 (and then by only 0.6% of the vote).

There are two other differences that are significant: Blaenau Gwent, had a highly popular, long-serving Labour MP retiring in 2005 (not the case to the best of my knowledge in Stoke in 2010) who then endorsed and campaigned for the Independent candidate, and secondly, the Independent candidate had the added advantage of being the Labour elected member to the National Assembly of Wales for the constituency, so had the advantage of name recognition and a record of service throughout the constituency, something which Cllr Follows cannot claim.

Last inconsistency - I think there is a great deal of difference between an elected Labour national representative running as an Independent and a former Conservative Councillor running as an Independent. Cllr Follows is no Peter Law.

I respectfully disagree with you that the example in South Wales is "highly appropriate to the citizens of the City of Stoke-on-Trent" because there is simply no evidence to suggest a level of disillusionment with Stoke's three MPs to suggest a haemorraging of Labour support towards an Independent candidate (which was Tony's original question). I do however willingly accept that, at a City Council level, circumstances are different.

Each are created equal, irrespective of gender, race, faith or disability and should be treated as such

Guest's picture

But Tim, there is a high

But Tim, there is a high level of disillusionment with the three MP's, the problem for our people is that they have not really got anywhere to go. People (like me) don't vote because they can't be bothered, and don't seek democratic representation, they don't vote simply because there is no Party that they support and identify with. Furthermore, there is an absolutely huge anathema, hostility and disengagement with the entire subject of "politics".
With respect, it is many years since any of the Labour MP's have had any positive engagement with the workers and Trade Union movement that they purport to support. I remember Joan on the Health funding march to Hanley several years ago, and she was very reluctant to nail her colours to the mast, indicating that she was their to "observe", i.e. not to identify. Rob has done some good work for TAG, but maybe not enough, and to me he does not appear to identify with us potters. Mark has of course been around for some considerable time, but I never see him in the pubs and clubs.
Of their predecessors, I was considerably irritated by the antics of both Robert (Cant) and John (Goulding) in talking down to the North Staffordshire Trades Council, I don't and won't forget this, but we'd best let the matter lie. My hunch is that many modern day "Labour" people see their "Political" roles as careers, and a way in which to rise above, not with, the masses. That is why voting in this non-democratic country of ours is at best the selection of the least worst of a bad bunch, or at worst connivance with the skullduggery and treachery which has decimated our industries and nearly bankrupted our nation.
It is very likely that the Labour vote will collapse even further in a General Election for many reasons in Stoke-on-Trent, not least being the coarse and bludgeoning manner in which your regional apparatchiks have treated old stalwarts such as Williams, Stockley, Elsby and Crowe. But here's hoping that said old stalwarts have tricks yet up their sleeves, for the local elections at least.

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