Robert Jenrick is MP for Newark.
Last Monday, when Philip Hammond visited Stoke-on-Trent Central, he described the vote on February 23 as a “great opportunity” for the Conservatives. And he is right.
Twenty years ago – even ten years ago – it would have been inconceivable to consider a Tory win in Stoke. And yet today we stand a real chance of achieving this. Following a ground-breaking set of local election results last year, the Conservatives ousted Labour as leaders of Stoke City Council and are now the junior partner in a coalition.
Our progress in Stoke is part of a wider revival in Staffordshire which I have witnessed first-hand since standing as the parliamentary candidate for Newcastle-under-Lyme back in the 2010 general election. In 2005, Labour had an majority of over over 8,000 in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Today, that majority is just 650. Labour has taken areas like the Potteries for granted for too long. People are fed up, and we have the opportunity to offer them a better alternative.
This is an opportunity for the people of Stoke to send a message that the referendum result must be respected, and to back the Prime Minister’s clear plan to make a success of Brexit. The Conservatives are the only party that could have delivered Stoke the referendum on the European Union. And we are the only party equipped to provide the strong leadership needed to take us out of the EU.
Of course, parliamentary by-elections can be both unpredictable and historic. We know this is going to be a tough fight. But with Labour in disarray over Brexit and having let down Stoke so badly, for so long, the Lib Dems failing to respect the will of the people, and UKIP using most of their energy on internal disputes, we have a real opportunity on our hands. That is why we have been hitting the ground hard. Campaigning in Stoke is very much underway, with teams of MPs already out on the doorstep talking to residents.
In Jack Brereton, we have a strong local candidate who will make sure Stoke’s vote in the referendum is not ignored. Jack is Stoke born and bred. As Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group and the cabinet member for regeneration, transport and heritage, he has been responsible for delivering £500 million of investment into Stoke and improving local infrastructure. There’s a real sense that Jack and the new leadership of the council have brought sanity and integrity to Stoke’s leadership after years of drift and failure.
Stoke has been let down by parachuted-in candidates for too long. The last thing the city needs is to fall into the hands of Paul Nuttall, who sees it as a political pawn rather than – as Jack does – his home and community. It’s about time Stoke was represented by a true Stokie!
There is no reason why we can’t turn Stoke blue on 23rd February – but we need your help to deliver our message to local residents in Stoke that it’s the Conservatives who are building a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.
If you’d like to help us win in Stoke, please do so by signing up to make calls either from CCHQ, from a phone bank in your area, or from your own home. Otherwise jump in the car, on the train and come up to Stoke in person: please email the campaign team to let us know. You will be guaranteed a warm welcome, even if the weather is a bit cold.