Thursday’s Question Time featured an interesting discussion of a particularly potent local issue: why, it was asked, were so many BNP councillors getting elected in Stoke On Trent, and what was to be done about it. The usual arguments on the BNP arose, but, it was suggested, the difference in Stoke On Trent was that the council is run by a coalition of all three main parties, because the council is hung (although predominantly Labour since nineteen canteen). This lack of a conventional opposition was leading people, it was suggested, to register discontent with a coalition-run council and Labour mayor by voting BNP.
Interested, I thought I’d have a look what’s going on here. Here‘s the results of the last local elections, meaning that the council stands as follows:
British National Party 9
Liberal Democrat 5
So that’s a total of 60 seats on the council, and no overall control means that a coalition of 31 needs to be formed in order to wield a majority.
It is notable that, if a general sense of discontent with Labour meant that an alternative was wanted, it ought to be quite easy to build a rainbow coalition type thing with LibDem, Tory and these “Others”. So the question I asked myself was “Why hasn’t this happened, and who are these others?”
Well, if you break the council make-up down by party on their website, you discover (or maybe already know, if you’re actually from Stoke-On-Trent, and not just whimsically looking into their political situation for half an hour on a Sunday) the following:
Labour 16 (+1 Elected Mayor)
City Independents 15
Conservative and Independent Alliance 9
Lib Dem 6 (if we count Gavin Webb again, now)
The Potteries Alliance 2
Most notable here is the fact that, because they don’t fit into a national picture, the BBC and other national commentators have ignored what looks to be a fairly major presence, something calling itself the City Independents. But who are they? What do they stand for? I can’t seem to find much on the web to inform me about them, so I am left to speculate. Since there are “Non-aligned” independents as well as “City Independents” independents, the implication is that the City Independents are something more than a simple mutually supportive grouping of independents with no overall policy platform. So is this the case?
One of the only things I have turned up about them is the suggestion in this comments thread that they might be BNP-in-all-but-name, which would be a frightening thought, but this is disputed.
So can someone who knows a bit more about Stoke-On-Trent politics enlighten me?