UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has confirmed he will stand in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, promising to take up key Labour issues such as fighting for higher wages, higher NHS spending and opposing the ‘bedroom tax’.
Labour MP and former Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt sparked the by-election by stepping down last week to take up a new job heading the Victoria & Albert Museum.
UKIP and the Conservatives were effectively tied at the last election in the seat, with UKIP winning 33 more votes than the Tories. Labour’s share of the vote in the constituency has been falling for some years, and both rivals need just an 8.6 per cent swing to snatch it from Labour.
Furthermore, almost 70 per cent of the city voted for Brexit, significantly above the UK average of 51.9 per cent.
“This was the highest vote share for ‘Leave’ in any city in the United Kingdom”, said Mr. Nuttall announcing his bid. “That makes Stoke the capital of Brexit, and be clear, nobody will fight harder to make sure [Brexit] happens…” he said.
Labour backed remaining inside the European Union (EU), and UKIP has already said they will focus considerable resources on trying to win the seat.
Paul Nuttall announced as UKIP’s candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central
Posted by UK Independence Party (UKIP) on Saturday, 21 January 2017
Mr. Nuttall also said he felt “right at home” in Stoke-on-Trent, as he understood the “working-class communities of the Midlands and the North”.
In a thinly-veiled dig at the outgoing Labour MP, Mr. Hunt, he said it was hard for those “born down South with a wealth of connections” to connect with the constituency.
Mr. Hunt, the son of Julian, Baron Hunt of Chesterton, was born in Cambridge and is a lecturer in Modern British History at Queen Mary University of London.
“I will promise that I will fight for you and for you children”, Mr. Nuttall said, promising to “put even more money into the NHS”, scrap the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ and create “jobs that pay a decent wage”, appealing to former Labour voters.
“I will fight to have people with long-standing local connections prioritised on housing lists, and veterans put at the front of the queue”, he continued.
He also promised to fight for more familiar UKIP policies, such as “stronger immigration controls, tougher sentences for criminals and rebuilding our magnificent armed forces”, as well as “tackling the spread of radical Islam and sharia” and slashing the foreign aid budget.
“I am English and I am proud of it. And unlike Labour, I am proud of our flag,” he declared.