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Theresa May in Stoke

ad_221423652_e1475423881572The Prime Minister managed a double whammy of the unexpected yesterday. First, she visited Stoke, which is something PMs rarely ever do. And second, her presence and parade in front of the local media means she’s effectively campaigned for a Conservative candidate who doesn’t stand a realistic chance of winning, which is usually a no-no when it comes to playing the Westminster game. How to explain this most unlikely of high profile interventions?

Very quickly, part of it has to do with May’s One Nation/Shared Society nonsense. Given the consistency in which the PM talks about this stuff, it is definitely something she’s ideologically committed to, even if – like any good Conservative – she doesn’t let principles get in the way of power and politics. And so, with nothing to lose in Stoke, her breeze through the Emma Bridgewater factory and saunter about The Sentinel‘s offices (both “non-political” Conservative-supporting outfits, coincidentally) during the most high profile and important by-election in decades burnishes them One Nation creds. For years Tories have opined about no-go areas, and here’s Theresa May herself leading from the front and making the case that Conservatism is for everybody.

She wouldn’t have done this if the Tories weren’t expecting to turn in a creditable performance this Thursday, and there’s every chance they could. UKIP are in long-term decline and have been since before last June’s EU referendum, and if there’s any justice the lying lies of Paull Nuttall will do for them this Thursday. Furthermore, the polls and deflating performance in local council by-elections suggest chunks of kipper support are returning to the Tories. As far as May is concerned, to hold on in 2020 all she has to do is carry on being the super serious grown up politician, keep her fingers crossed Brexit negotiations don’t have a disastrous outcome, that Trump and the economy behaves themselves, and triangulate to retain those fairweather UKIP votes. Her Stoke-on-Trent trip is a field test for that strategy. If the Tories can take extra bites from the purples and improve their position vis a vis Labour, this will be the course she steers between now and the general election.


  1. I understand that Tristram Hunt was a close friend of Emma Bridgewater and supported the literary festival sponsored by the Bridgewater pottery. Given that,Phil, you worked for Hunt and now think EB is a Tory supporter, would you like to confirm TH was close to Bridgewater during his excursion in Stoke and why his apparently closest link in his time in the Town was with someone you think supports the Tories?

    Trevor Fisher

  2. Bill says:

    I predict Labour will lose or just win Stoke.

    Conservative vote UP

    Labour vote DOWN

    Not voting UP

    UKIP doing well with a lot of ‘shy’ UKIP supporters than ‘doorstep canvassing,telephone polling and focus groups’ would have you believe , all having proved notoriously unreliable.

  3. Peter Rowlands says:

    PBC has misunderstood May’s appearance in Stoke, which was about splitting the anti Labour vote to ensure that UKIP didn’t win, even if that made it more likely that Snell would, which he did.You don’t need much political insight to work out that the last thing the Tories needed was the UKIP leader as an MP, and May’s visit helped to ensure that that didn’t happen.

  4. Bazza says:

    Mmmn and yes Blair and Mandelson’s comments a few days before the bye election were some would argue to try to stop Labour winning as an attack on Corbyn.
    After all the Right Wing Neo Liberal Grovellers like B & M et al in Labour – the FAILED ‘Great Men and Women of History’ (with no original ideas in their heads) would be surplus to requirements if a left wing democratic socialist Labour under JC got in.
    Jeremy is a lovely human being but is perhaps too nice in relation to these Neo Liberal grovellers and promoters of crumbs for working people.
    Labour MPs get where they are on the sweat and graft of Labour members and are there to serve Labour and working people and not the other way round plus they are there not to attack Labour in public.
    A significant number of Tories probably think May is weak if not useless but they are not daft enough to attack her in the media!
    Left wing democratic socialists need to select left wing democratic socialist Labour MPs who will support JC and fight alongside and for diverse working people.

  5. Bazza says:

    Oh then vacuous Miliband (who couldn’t even beat useless Ed) suddenly reappears ‘Mr Photogenic’ (‘I voted for the Iraq War’) Miliband stands for nothing but Neo-Liberalism and crumbs for working people- in my opinion he is a political simpleton but it is about ideas.
    We could really engage with diverse working class/working people but Labour’s Neo Liberals do their best for their capitalist masters and mistresses to intervene on their behalf.
    Labour’s little people supporting the little people of the rich and powerful of the World.
    Oh Great Men and Women of History – where are your ideas?
    We need grassroots, bottom up, left wing democratic socialist ideas.

  6. David Pavett says:

    UKIP are in long-term decline and have been since before last June’s EU referendum, and if there’s any justice the lying lies of Paull Nuttall will do for them this Thursday.

    And yet the Labour share of the vote in Stoke fell while that of UKIP (despite all of Nutall’s own goals) increased. Does that not require some reflection?

    Also, “long term decline” is a pretty accurate description of Labour in Stoke.

    1. Bill says:

      Spot on David and we need to make sure that the decline is not blamed on the left. In any fair voting system we would have lost Stoke with the combined votes of UKIP & Conservatives. Its highly possible we lose Stoke and many more seats to the Conservatives once people vote tactically. I can hardly wait for Andrew Marr in two minutes!!!

      1. Bill says:

        Predict more ‘Friends of the Labour Party’ doing their very best to separate and undermine the members. Mandleson for one where he says he does everything each day to get rid of the Leader.

        Absolute grounds for expulsion but still no suspension by the NEC where we are assured the left wingers we were urged to support would do their jobs.

    2. Bazza says:

      Good points David.
      Perhaps a pretty right wing Labour Council and previously parachuting in a Blairite Yuppie didn’t do much to restore people’s faith in politics.
      It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had have had a more dynamic left wing working class candidate in Stoke but local members made their choice.

  7. Bazza says:

    Just before the last General Election I and others were posting pro-Labour messages on the BBC website but an unusual pattern was beginning to emerge.
    After each Labour comment half a dozen pro-Tory comments would instantly appear.
    Nothing perhaps unusual about this you may think but the anonymous monikers were not the usual social media types but were by ‘Bill’ or ‘George’ or ‘Fred’ etc. and I was suspicious – something was not just quite right.
    In was only on the Saturday after the election (in the Times or Guardian) that there was an article by a US Democrat social media guru who told us how he had been paid £200k or so by the Tories to help them by posting fake comments (and interfere in British democracy).
    Then today (26/2/17) The Obsérver reports on the the US billionaire funding ‘Cognitive Warfare’ on the Internet -it is claimed a company ‘Cambridge Analytical’ helped the Leave Campaign for free.
    What they do is check the public’s Facebook pages and make individualised appeals to voters pushing the right emotional buttons so the question is are the Tories doing this and if so in Copeland they may have been playing of people’s concerns and fears about nuclear jobs in Cumbria (and probably exaggerating Labour’s position)?
    After the General election I raised the US Democrats actions with the BBC and Labour nationally but heard nothing.
    Having a good memory I always remember a voter in a previous bye election saying that she felt with Tory communcations that the Tories knew everything about her.
    Labour should perhaps investigate this to see if the Tories have been doing it and if it is permissible then perhaps we should do it too but instead of appealing to people’s prejudices an fears, we should appeal to people’s better nature.
    As a really kind human being (from a voluntary group in my city who works with vulnerable groups) recently said, “Most people want to do good.”
    Whilst the Tories may be cock-a-hoop at the moment don’t forget 16m people voted Remain and whilst Labour is in a tricky situation too the Tories recently lost the Richmond Park bye election in a heavily pro-Remain area.
    And now Labour’s Neo Liberals are all piling in on Jeremy, probably the only left wing democratic socialist leader we have ever had and we should stand by him, as John Lennon sang: “Stand by me.”
    As May tries to talk her way out of perhaps a £50b Brexit Bill (May has Bad Brexit?) Labour needs a simple and clear narrative for diverse working people as the Tories give tax cuts to: millionaires, big business corporations, private landlords with multiple properties, £145m to Hedge Funds (who gave £50m to the Tories), grouse moor owners etc. etc.
    The question is: Can the CONservatives CONtinue to CON the COMMUNITY?
    And let’s have a level and democratic playing field on social media too!

  8. Bill says:

    Just posted this on the Guardian Comments section. We ALL need to stick together not accept the blame and put it right back on the PLP.

    If more can post in a similar way that would be great!

    “Look we really are not putting up with this narrative pursued again today, The so called ‘moderates’ have been in charge of the Labour Party and lead it to steady decline and the state it is today. They are entirely responsible for the low polls and as others have said , including Tom Watson Deputy Leader an unnecessary second election for Leader.

    The PLP have trashed their own party and made themselves unelectable by the public. Never mind any fears of deselection by the party.

    The real story of Labour if we had investigative journalism is that members in many areas are not prepared to campaign for these M.P.s and there are plenty of people of various persuasions in the party who would be grateful to do a better job than these spoilt MPs with their sense of entitlement.

    Of course they are not intersted in the future of the Labour Movement beyond their own careers. I predict more will leave to well paid jobs and by the way see how they get on there when they have to do what is required of them and produce results. Not set their own pay and hours and have a job for life no more interviews or work assessments. So hey welcome to the real world you deserve it.

    We will be on their backs now 24/7 making sure they don’t scapegoat The Leader and the membership for the state the party is in. They have since Jeremy Corbyn was elected drilled holes in the boat now they complain its sinking.

    In conclusion I am not interested in the trolls on here banging on about JC. They are not members of the Labour Party. Not going to vote Labour and if JC is so disastrous why not encourage us to keep him on? ”

    Bazza is totally right about paid trolls and its getting very serious because the media and establishment are trying to decide what sort of opposition party they are prepared to accept.

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