The SKWAWKBOX has strong links with Stafford, as a result of the detailed investigation this blog conducted into the alleged ‘avoidable deaths’ at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, which revealed that there were nowere no such ‘excess’ deaths and the hospital was being smeared because of a statistical anomaly, for political purposes.
I have heard from a number of people in Stafford – which is just down the road (18 miles as the crow flies) from Stoke, which will soon be holding the Stoke Central by-election to replace departing MP Tristram Hunt – of UKIP supporters switching to support the Labour party.
The evidence is anecdotal, but not without empirical precedent. Natasha Maroni recently beat over-confident ex-councillor Brian Silvester into a poor third place in a council by-election in nearby (and demographically similar) Crewe; in Horsehay, just over the border in Tory stronghold Shropshire, Labour won with a 24.3% swing while UKIP lost ground.
One of those former UKIP supporters, a self-employed craftsman and resident of Stafford that we’ll call Andy (because that’s his name) spoke to the SKWAWKBOX about his previous support for UKIP and why he’s now a strong Labour supporter.
SKWAWKBOX: Andy, thanks for making time to speak to me about your politics. I’ve been told that you used to support UKIP.
Andy: More than a supporter – I was a member of UKIP since Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall came to Stafford to support us in our fight to save our hospital, which unfortunately was mostly unsuccessful.
S: And before you joined UKIP?
A: I was a Conservative voter.
S: And now you support Labour?
A: Absolutely. I’d never think of supporting the Tories again – or UKIP, which is almost the same thing.
S: That’s quite a turnaround! What caused it?
A: From the way our hospital was treated by the Conservatives, I know you just can’t trust them with the NHS and it will be the same in Stoke, their hospital is falling apart because of the extra demand from our hospital being downgraded. For a while I was taken in by UKIP but not any more.
S: Because of the reports of UKIP’s involvement in corruption and fraud?
A: Not specifically at the time, though it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. My change of mind – not heart, I believe you should always vote with your head – started when Jeremy Corbyn became leader of Labour.
S: Really?! But the media – and a lot of Labour MPs – are always telling us he’s unelectable. That he doesn’t appeal to working people, especially compared to UKIP.
A: I know, and it’s obvious why they do it.
S: What do you mean?
A: Listen, Labour doesn’t stand a cat in hell‘s chance if they dump Corbyn, but there are a lot of them [MPs] who are so fond to keep their positions that they’d rather get rid of him to get back to how things were, even if it means they can’t get elected.
S: What is is that you like about Jeremy Corbyn so much?
A: He’s a real person. I mean, not all image, manufactured like the rest of them.
S: But the media are always saying how he can’t relate to working people in ‘Labour heartlands’ and that’s why UKIP are supposed to be a threat.
A: Yes they say that and it’s b******t.
S: So what do you think of Paul Nuttall’s decision to stand in Stoke?
A: I really wish he hadn’t. I’ve met him a few times and he was always alright with me, but I think UKIP’s a spent force. I mean, what’s the point of them now, after the Brexit vote?
S: And what do you think the result will be?
A: Labour will win – as long as the MPs shut up and stop telling people he’s not worth voting for.
So now you know, direct from one ex-UKIP supporter – and it seems, from people who contact this blog and from recent electoral results, that this is anything but an unusual phenomenon.
The media – and some Labour MPs – love to talk up the UKIP threat and the idea of the danger every by-election poses to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
If you’re a voter in Stoke (or Copeland) or have the opportunity to go to either constituency to campaign, please do turn out because there’s no room for complacency – but similarly, there’s no cause for despair or despondency, at least with regard to voter intent and the much-trumpeted ‘UKIP threat’, while there’s plenty of reason some people would want you to think otherwise.
And if you’re a former UKIP supporter (or of another party for that matter) who has switched to Labour and would like to tell this blog about it, do get in touch. We need better news than the vested interests will give us.
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