You should definitely vote Labour on Thursday 23rd February. And depending on which way you're leaning, I'm going to tell you why.
Firstly, if you're finding UKIP attractive you should bear a few things in mind. Just take a look at Paul Nuttall. Here you have a man whose sole distinguishing characteristic is his lying. This isn't fibbing to make a CV look a little better, no, he's taken Hillsborough and used it to cast himself as a victim, as someone scarred by tragedy. You have to ask yourself, is this the sort of man you want representing you in Parliament? It's also worth looking at his record as a politician. Since being elected as a MEP, he has acquired one of the worst attendance records in the parliament. Now, you might agree with him. The European Parliament might well be a waste of time. You may sympathise with his view that he's there to show the place the contempt it deserves, but you also know that the best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour. He's drawn his salary and done sod all as a MEP. He'll draw his salary and do sod all as your MP.
I know why you might find UKIP a tempting prospect. Labour have had all of Stoke's MPs since forever. It's run the local council more often than not. And during that time, local industry has disappeared. Whole streets have been bulldozed without getting rebuilt. Regeneration, a buzzword that has peppered the local paper's pages for 30 years never seems to get anywhere. Jobs are scarce and low paid, housing waiting lists are long, and every time somewhere new opens in Hanley another place closes. What you have to ask yourself is how will Paul Nuttall and UKIP turn that around. If he wins, the party will only have two MPs. Labour currently has 228, and had more before the last general election. But because it was in a minority, that couldn't stop the Tories and LibDems from targeting places like Stoke for cuts, cuts which meant replacement housing wasn't built, that local services were slashed, and which has resulted in a crisis at the hospital and chaos in social care. Assuming the UKIP leader breaks with his past and does some work for a change, what can he do with his even more limited reach? He can shout about immigration and blame East Europeans and other foreigners for Stoke's woes, but you know this has nothing to do with them. You know that if every single immigrant left, whether a recent arrival or second/third generation, there would still be these problems. Voting UKIP might feel like you're getting revenge on the world, but what is that going to achieve?
Because you also know that a UKIP win would be no good for Stoke. Labour has a plan for jobs, and you can see how Gareth Snell will carry it out. The Conservatives too have a plan, even if they're merely implementing what Labour drew up when it ran the council. What's UKIP's plan? Unfortunately, a win for them means a backward step for the city. I don't know if you voted for the BNP in the past, but outside the city their high levels of support meant Stoke acquired a racist reputation. If UKIP win, the repairs done to that reputation will be torn down. Fair enough, you might not care what people outside of Stoke think about us, but you should. Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment skipped the city in the noughties because we were associated with the BNP. A similar identification with UKIP will have the same effect. Imagine, if you're someone from outside Stoke thinking about coming to university here, going for a job here, setting up a business here, would being the UKIP capital of the country encourage them? You might think "sod 'em", but that's money not getting spent in Stoke shops. That money not going into the pockets of Stokies. It's fitting UKIP have decided to decorate their leaflets with boarded up shops, because we'll be seeing more of them if they win.
If you're thinking about voting for UKIP these are the things you should consider. You want a better future for your family, for your kids and grandkids, for your friends and for your community. UKIP are not the gate way to better times. Quite the reverse, they will set Stoke back years and condemn the city to dereliction. To more of the same, in other words.
And if you're not going to be voting UKIP but, for whatever reason you don't like Labour and are intending to vote Conservative, Liberal Democrat, or Green, on this occasion I'm asking you to swallow your party loyalty and put your cross next to Gareth Snell's name. You know well the reasons why UKIP would be a disaster for Stoke-on-Trent. And you're aware that this battle is between them and Labour. Should Labour win I'm sure there will be things your new MP does that irritates the hell out of you. But looking at his platform, a jobs plan for Stoke, the creation of better paid and more secure work, working to attract more investment and taking on the divisions in our city that makes it appear so attractive to racists and opportunists, what do you disagree with? As a Labour member and party activist, you won't be surprised to learn that I think our candidate is the best. But whatever you think of him and our party, he's the only way you can get the things you want too. And so when you enter the polling booth, as your pencil hovers above the ballot paper, think tactically and vote Labour. Not only will a Labour win spare Stoke the hardship of carrying the racist town tag again, a huge gap between ourselves and UKIP will throw them into terminal crisis. Tomorrow is the only opportunity we're getting to send a clear message that, despite what people elsewhere may have seen or read, The Potteries is an open, tolerant and friendly place. Crushing UKIP in this by-election is going to help clean up our national politics too. And all you have to do is vote Labour.