LONDON — Immigration and free movement were the big issues at last night’s Stoke-on-Trent central by-election hustings. However, it wasn’t movement into Stoke that dominated proceedings, but movement out of Stoke and into London.
“My dad worked at the Nile Street factory Doultons before the jobs were shipped out to the Far East,” one man explained.
“My sister trained as a nurse at the North Staffs hospital. There wasn’t any jobs for her, that was under Blair. She ended up in Australia.”
For this man, it was clear where Stoke’s problems originated.
“We’ve got London getting all the investment and up here in the Midlands and the North we get next to nothing compared to London.”
Labour’s candidate Gareth Snell agreed.
“The South East and London has ten times more spent on infrastructure than the Midlands,” he told the man before promising that he would “have a word with government about moving some of their stuff out of London.”
He later repeated the point.
“I’d be championing that we take more and more of this stuff out of London.”
This idea of “moving stuff out of London” was one that UKIP’s candidate Paul Nuttall agreed with.
“Everything is centred around London,” said Nuttall, who now lives in a temporary secret address somewhere in Stoke.
“It’s probably the most centralised country in Europe. This isn’t the case with Paris. It isn’t the case with Rome or Madrid or anywhere else. Political life, financial life, infrastructure — all the money is spent in one place.”
Godfrey Davies from the Christian People’s Alliance agreed that London had for too long hoovered up resources — God’s resources.
“I have a very clear vision of what I want to do here in Stoke,” he began.
“We must bring the Kingdom of God to Stoke and that in itself will bring blessing and prosperity and put London into the shadows.”
Into the shadows
It wasn’t just London that the candidates thought needed to be “put in the shadows,” however. For Labour’s Snell, Birmingham and Manchester also had to be put in their place.
“It’s not just London,” he explained.
“Our problem is that we are sandwiched between Manchester and Birmingham. Manchester and Birmingham seem to be the new go-to places for things outside of London and frankly that doesn’t help us because we’re being squeezed and squeezed and squeezed.”
Snell, who has previously told Nuttall to “sod off back to where he came from” and who at one point last night referred to the BNP’s David Furness as “that London chap,” it was clear what his message was.
“We want someone who is going to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in and fight for local people,” he told the audience.
“Not someone who is going to back Theresa May, or go back down to London to further their own political career.”
The fact that being an MP would involve Snell spending a great deal of his time ‘going back down to London’ seemed to have passed him by.
For Snell, who was born in Suffolk and who spent a large part of his working life as a councillor in Newcastle, this is clearly a fight for Stoke and Stoke alone.
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