Labour sees off Ukip threat to win Stoke-on-Trent Central byelection
Gareth Snell defeats Ukip leader Paul Nuttall in contest that was triggered by resignation of Tristram Hunt
Labour has seen off Ukips leader, Paul Nuttall, in the battle for Stoke-on-Trent Central, with a victory that will bring relief to party chiefs about the threat posed by the anti-EU party in the Brexit heartlands.
Gareth Snell defeated Nuttall by 7,853 votes to 5,233, giving him a majority of 2,620. The Ukip leader, who is from Merseyside and admitted he had few links to the city in Staffordshire, had gambled that the seat was winnable on the basis of the constituencys 69% leave vote in the June 2016 EU referendum. The Conservatives Jack Brereton came third with 5,154 votes and the Lib Dems Zulifiqar Ali was fourth with 2,083.
Nuttalls defeat will undermine his oft-stated ambition to replace Labour as the voice of the working class and will leave many questioning the partys relevance.
Ukips campaign billboards relentlessly focused on Labours historical opposition to Brexit despite the partys three-line whip to support the article 50 bill. Snell, a local councillor, had campaigned for remain but repeatedly pledged he would do nothing to thwart the referendum result and would focus on delivering a Brexit that would not damage the key industries in the Potteries.
In his victory speech Snell said his win proved Stoke would not allow itself to be defined by the referendum result. The city lazily dubbed by some as the capital of Brexit has once again proven to the world that we are so much more than that, he said.
So for those who have come to Stoke-on-Trent to sow hatred and division, and to try to turn us away from our friends and neighbours, I have one message: you have failed, he said to cheers from Labour activists. Tonight the people of Stoke-on-Trent have chosen the politics of hope over the politics of fear. We have said with one voice that hatred and bigotry are not welcome here. This is a proud city and we stand together.