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Stoke Central By-Election will determine the future of UKIP

Sunday, January 22, 2017


So, a fresh start for the UK Independence Party? They leave behind months of internal fighting and leadership battles in striking parallel to their remarkable role in helping to bring about Brexit.

Their leader, Paul Nuttall, tells us they are starting a major offensive against Labour in their northern heartlands.

They can put this into action sooner than even Mr Nuttall thought with the upcoming Stoke Central by-election, where as a measure of seriousness the UKIP leader has decided to also be the candidate.

One of the most pro-Brexit parliamentary constituencies, the election has been caused by the resignation of Tristram Hunt (the wrong 'Hunt' in many's opinion). 

Hunt thought he could do more good as Director of The Victoria & Albert Museum rather than sat on the green benches of the House of Commons.

Labour’s internal struggles continue

Rumours are rife in Westminster that a number of moderate Labour MPs are intending to resign in the coming months.

It’s clear that the strategy for some Labour MPs is to stress test their leader with public opinion in the party’s heartlands such as Stoke. 

Their aim? To bring about Corbyn’s resignation, preferably before the next general election, and avoid total annihilation.

So, with such an internal crisis, Stoke represents a real test for Jeremy Corbyn. 

As a three-way marginal seat, with the Conservatives a close second to UKIP in 2015 both must believe they have good prospects for victory.

Both UKIP and the Conservatives need an 8.4% swing to take the seat from Labour.

A majority of voters in the city of Stoke-on-Trent voted to leave in the EU referendum - 69.4% - the highest Brexit vote of any city in the UK.

If we can any longer believe the pollsters, it seems true that UKIP have a huge opportunity to capitalise on the failure of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party to connect with their traditional voters.

There's a lot at stake

So both party leaders are staking a great deal on this showdown in Stoke. 

If Labour were to lose to UKIP that would be a sure fire sign that UKIP's strategy is working, the Labour vote is in trouble, and give UKIP a new voice in Westminster.

If Paul Nuttall fails to take the seat, then UKIP would suffer a serious setback. 

It would be a test of the new leader’s likeability, perhaps say to voters that after Brexit UKIP are no longer relevant, can not win and are not the political force they were under former leader Nigel Farage.

Voters go to the polls on 23 February and I’ll be doing a follow-up on the result.

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