UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has confirmed that he will contest the Stoke-on-Trent by-election on 23 February and is confident he will win the seat off Labour. This by-election is a huge test for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but is an even bigger test for UKIP.
Stoke-on-Trent voted Brexit and this is a seat that UKIP could potentially win. Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear that Labour will not block Article 50, which will go down very well with voters, but his mixed messages on immigration will not. As a Corbyn supporter, even I am confused by his stance on immigration.
Labour MPs in the party’s northern heartlands have repeatedly warned Corbyn that he must change his stance on immigration otherwise the party’s supporters will look to UKIP. There is no room for complacency in politics and to assume that Labour will keep its safe seats in its northern heartlands is a very misguided view.
UKIP is exploiting Labour’s mixed message on immigration and this is dangerous. Nuttall is an ex-Tory who stood for the party in 2002 but failed to get elected. He is still a Tory at heart and far from being a man of the working class.
Nuttall backs Tory austerity, NHS privatisation, grammar schools, has an appalling attitude towards women and the BAME and LGBT community. And he recently attacked Jeremy Corbyn for proposing a cap on bankers’ and fatcat pay by labelling it the ‘politics of envy’. Nuttall also blames Labour and immigration for Britain’s problems, but stays silent about the Tories. He also stays silent about UKIP and the Tories working together in Stoke-on-Trent which has led to the closure of children’s centres and cuts to local services.
Corbyn has attacked the Establishment, Tory austerity, the NHS crisis, inequality, homelessness, in-work poverty, rising food bank use and the housing crisis while Nuttall and UKIP remain silent because they are afraid of standing up to the Tories, Establishment and upsetting the apple cart.
I am confident that Labour will win the Stoke-on-Trent by election, and if UKIP fails to win this seat then the party’s future will be questionable. People are now saying that Theresa May’s recent Brexit speech has made UKIP irrelevant and redundant, and I am in agreement. UKIP support is falling across the country and the party is performing badly in local council elections.
All eyes will be on Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent on 23 February and it will be a fight for survival for UKIP – but the press will be more focused on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.