UK Politics

Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election: The candidates and the issues

Stoke-on-Trent skyline

Campaigning is in full swing in the Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency, where voters will choose a new MP on 23 February.

The vote - along with another by-election in Copeland taking place the same day - is being seen as a key electoral test for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party is defending both seats.

It was triggered by the resignation of former Labour MP Tristram Hunt, who left Parliament to become the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The candidates

Image copyright BBC/PA
Image caption Pictured left to right: Zulfiqar Ali (Lib Dem), Jack Brereton (Conservative), Paul Nuttall (UKIP) and Gareth Snell (Labour)

Labour has chosen councillor Gareth Snell to defend a seat it has never lost since its creation. Mr Snell is a member and former leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Council, who campaigned for a Remain vote in the EU referendum.

UKIP, which narrowly beat the Conservatives into second place in the 2015 general election, is fielding its leader, Paul Nuttall, as its candidate. The MEP was born in Bootle, where he has stood in the last three general elections.

The Tories have chosen 25-year-old city councillor Jack Brereton. He is the deputy leader of the Conservative Group in the council's ruling coalition, where he is also the Cabinet member for Regeneration, Transport and Heritage.

The Green Party has picked Adam Colclough as their candidate, with Zulfiqar Ali standing for the Liberal Democrats.

See below for a full list of candidates.

Brexit battle

Image copyright Getty Images

The successful Liberal Democrat by-election campaign in Richmond Park in December was seen as a result of the party making Brexit a key issue in what was a very Remain constituency.

The wider Stoke area (which includes Stoke Central) voted strongly to Leave in June's referendum so the question is how much of an impact Brexit is likely to have.

Labour history

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The resignation of ex-Labour frontbencher Tristram Hunt caused the by-election

Since being created for the 1950 general election, Stoke Central has always returned Labour MPs.

It has traditionally been seen as rock solid Labour territory and Mr Hunt won in 2015 by a 5,179 margin.

Labour's majority has been decreasing sharply in recent years, from 49.5% in 1997 to 16.7% in 2015.

Three-year job?

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Image caption The Stoke-on-Trent Central seat is set to be abolished under boundary changes

Stoke-on-Trent Central covers the administrative centre of the six Potteries towns: Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke-upon-Trent and Tunstall.

As BBC Midlands political editor Patrick Burns notes, this may be the last time the seat is contested.

"For all its rich history and industrial heritage, it's set to be scrapped under proposed Parliamentary boundary changes which would reduce Stoke's present three seats to two," he says.

"And with (Labour MPs) Ruth Smeeth and Rob Flello apparently in no mood to relinquish their neighbouring seats, it's no wonder that this is being unofficially dubbed as a job for three years."

Campaign controversies

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Nuttall and his predecessor Nigel Farage had an egg thrown at them during campaigning

Mr Nuttall has admitted a previous claim that he lost "close personal friends" in the Hillsborough disaster was wrong.

The UKIP candidate apologised and said the quotes on his website from 2011 were "wrong" and had been taken down.

There was also a clash with Labour over whether Mr Nuttall was actually living in the Stoke house registered as his address on nomination papers. UKIP later said he had to leave the house for safety reasons after the address was circulated on social media.

Mr Snell, meanwhile, has apologised after some of his old tweets about people appearing on TV shows have re-emerged, including a description of panellists on ITV's Loose Women as "squabbling sour-faced ladies" and remarks about Janet Street-Porter and a woman on the BBC's The Apprentice.

The Labour candidate also previously posted disparaging remarks about his party's current leader Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit.

The runners and riders

Here is a list of the candidates, in alphabetical order by surname:

  • Mohammed Yaqub Akram - Independent
  • Zulfiqar Ali - Liberal Democrats
  • Jack Brereton - Conservatives
  • The Incredible Flying Brick - Official Monster Raving Loony Party
  • Adam Colclough - Green Party
  • Godfrey Davies - Christian Peoples Alliance
  • Barbara Fielding - Independent
  • David Furness - British National Party Local People First
  • Paul Nuttall - UKIP
  • Gareth Snell - Labour

Polls open at 07:00 GMT on 23 February and close at 22:00 GMT.