Why residents of Labour stronghold Stoke-on-Trent loathe Jeremy Corbyn and are ready to vote Tory

THE old brick kilns that dot The Potteries skyline dominate what has been a Labour bastion for generations.

Stoke-on-Trent’s sweat and toil made its ceramic industry globally famous and its workers have instinctively voted red.

Getty - Contributor
Stoke-on-Trent has been a Labour stronghold for generations but now residents are ready to vote Conservative[/caption]

SWNS:South West News Service
Tory candidate Jo Gideon says voters will back the Conservatives as they want Brexit[/caption]

Now this proudly working-class city of 270,000, dubbed the “Capital of Brexit”, could turn Tory blue.

It’s a notion once unthinkable in this “pits and pots” city built on the unionised graft of miners, steel workers and potters.

Businesswoman Jo Gideon, the Tory candidate in Stoke Central, tells me voters will back the Conservatives as they want Brexit and loathe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Birmingham-born gran said: “I’ve knocked on lots of doors. People here like Boris and think he’ll get Brexit done. What they say about Jeremy Corbyn is unprintable.”

Talking to folk amid Stoke’s red brick terraces, there’s evidence to support her assertion.


Former coal miner and dyed-in-the-wool Labour man James Tomkinson, 61, is ready to return Old Etonian Boris Johnson to No10.

The dad of three told The Sun: “My whole family has always voted Labour. I’ve always voted Labour but I just can’t bring myself to vote for them under Jeremy Corbyn.

“He’d be a disaster as Prime Minister. In fact he’d be a disaster for everything — the economy, defence, Brexit, you name it. He’d have open borders which people don’t want. I’m definitely voting Conservative.”

Salesman Dominic Wilson, 45, said: “I haven’t much time for any of them but at least Boris wants to get Brexit done. I was a Labour voter but not now. I’ll be voting Tory.”

Even some sticking with Labour like Boris more than Mr Corbyn.

Unemployed carer Janine Duff, 47, said “I’ve always voted Labour and will vote Labour again. Mind you, I do prefer Boris to Corbyn.”

Traditionally, Stoke is a Labour heartland. Until Tory Jack Brereton took Stoke South in the 2017 General Election, its three seats had been Labour since their creation in 1950.


Now, both Stoke Central and Stoke North are being eyed by the Tories.

Stoke North returned a 72 per cent Leave vote and Stoke Central 65 per cent. Neighbouring Newcastle-under-Lyme — 62 per cent Leave — looks set to go blue, with Labour defending a wafer-thin majority of 30.

In the market town’s centre this weekend dad-of-two Robert Doherty, 71, said he thought Labour’s Shadow Cabinet was packed with “Communists”.

He said: “My dad was a shop steward and I was a Labour voter but not now. Not with Corbyn, McDonnell, Thornberry and Rebecca Long-Bailey. The Labour Party has been infected by the hard Left. I’m now voting Conservative.”

Built on rich clay and coal deposits in Staffordshire, Stoke was a crucible of the Industrial Revolution. Its 300-year-old ceramics industry saw brands including Wedgwood and Royal Doulton gain global renown.

A generation ago the industry employed 58,000. Today it is about 7,000. New jobs have been created but wages are well below the ­national average — and some areas are among the country’s poorest.

The city has reinvented itself as a logistics and warehousing hub for firms such as Amazon. Online gaming giant Bet365 is based here.

Its co-founder, miner’s son Peter Coates, paid for three coaches to take protesters to London for last month’s People’s Vote demo.

Many local Brexit voters in the area feel they have been portrayed as ill-informed or stupid. Mrs ­Gideon said: “It’s been patronising. People are very cross. The response on the doorstep is, ‘Of course I knew what I was voting for’.


“People are straight-talking here. They say, ‘We voted Leave, why haven’t we left?’ If you look around you’ll see Stoke’s suffered from a lack of regeneration. There’s a sense money has gone to Europe rather than being invested locally. Working- class people are voting Tory.”

Recent polls back the claim. A YouGov survey put the Tories on 47 per cent among working-class ­voters — 20 per cent ahead of Labour.

ComRes found 43 per cent of skilled and semi-skilled manual workers plan to vote Tory, up from just 35 per cent in 2017.

Stoke Central Labour MP Gareth Snell, who voted for Mr Johnson’s deal but then for its delay, has a 3,897 majority. Mrs Gideon would need a swing of 5.9 per cent to win.

He tweeted he will “always stand up for locals, not London”. He said: “I believe that with me as the local MP, we can stop Boris’ sell-off of the NHS, we can get a Brexit deal that works for our city, and we can re-invest in our public services.”

The Tories need a 2.8 swing to take Stoke North where Labour’s Ruth Smeeth has a 2,359 majority.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and its precursor Ukip, have strong support here. Their votes could sway the seats red or blue.

Waiting for a bus in Burslem town centre, Labour-voting NHS worker Steven Price, 49, is now backing the Brexit Party. He said: “With all this mess, we need a strong leader — I’m thinking we should give Nigel Farage a go.”

Dr Tariq Mahmood, the Brexit Party’s candidate in Stoke Central, insists a vote for him won’t let in Mr Snell.

The barrister told me: “Traditional Labour voters who want to leave feel more comfortable voting for us than for the Tories.”

Mrs Gideon disagrees, saying: “If you vote Brexit Party you let ­Labour in and that means Remain. Only the Tories can deliver Brexit.”

Mr Johnson will need the two Stoke seats along with Newcastle-under-Lyme to claim a commanding majority. This city of pits, pots and Brexit will again play a decisive hand in Britain’s future.

�AndyKelvin / Kelvin Media
Dad-of-two Robert Doherty, 71, says Labour has been ‘infected by the hard Left’[/caption]

�AndyKelvin / Kelvin Media
Unemployed carer Janine Duff, 47, said she prefers Boris to Corbyn[/caption]

The Tories need a 2.8 swing to take Stoke North where Labour’s Ruth Smeeth has a 2,359 majority[/caption]

Getty Images - Getty
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and its precursor Ukip, also have strong support in Stoke[/caption]

Voters in Stoke also loathe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Booming city hit by gloom

By Alice Hall

MINING and ceramics made The Potteries a booming industrial hub — but the area lost its place on the map years back.

Pits shut, with 1,100 jobs shed when Silverdale Colliery near Stoke, the last deep mine in Staffordshire, closed in 1998.

The average full-time weekly wage is £497 against the £569 UK average. Workers are typically less skilled and qualified in the city whose famous sons include Stanley Matthews and Robbie Williams.

In a recent poll, only 15 per cent of people said they would relocate to Stoke for a job.


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