General Election Special: Runners and riders in Staffordshire

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Parliamentary candidates for seven north and mid Staffordshire constituencies have now been unveiled.

And more than 10 parties are represented across Stoke-on-Trent North, Stoke-on-Trent Central, Stoke-on-Trent South, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stone, Stafford and Staffordshire Moorlands.

Now the race is on to reach the finishing line first as voters prepare to flock to the polls on May 7.

High profile figures in the race include Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, who will fight to retain his Stoke Central seat.

Veteran Staffordshire politician Joan Walley will be retiring as an MP for Stoke North after nearly 30 years in the job.

Elsewhere, for the first time in its history, the Green Party will field candidates for all constituencies in the city.

Read on as Staffslive goes over the runners and riders.

Stoke-on-Trent North

Labour’s prized filly Joan Walley will be retiring to the yard after 28 years leaving behind her a closely fought race with no clear favourite in sight.

New Labour runner Ruth Smeeth will have a hard act to follow protecting a majority of over 8,000.

Although the Tunstall resident is no political novice, after studying politics at Birmingham University and also standing for Burton and Uttoxeter at the previous election – her emphasis will be on jobs.

Conservative Ben Adams will look to end his party’s dry spell with the county councillor, who has lived in the area for a quarter of a century, pledging to safeguard healthcare and create apprenticeships.

The Green Party's Sean Adam

The Green Party’s Sean Adam

Outside shouts could come from UKIP’s Geoffrey Locke, who will be hoping for second time lucky standing in the constituency after a rise in popularity for his party following last springs EU parliament elections.

Also looking to fill Walley’s place at the Westminster stable will be the Liberal Democrat’s Paul Roberts.

And the Green Party will make history by fielding their first ever Stoke North candidate in the form of young gun Sean Adams and away from the main pack John Millward and Craig Pond will stand as independents.

 

Stoke-on-Trent Central

Clear favourite Tristram Hunt will be looking to gallop to the tape with many believing victory for the current Shadow Education Secretary seems like a formality.

Despite this, the Labour thoroughbred, who could form a crucial part of a future government, will see opposition from all ends of the political spectrum.  The Lib Dems will stand as Hunt’s biggest hurdle after a strong showing last time out.

Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt

Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt

Former NHS cardiologist Dr Zulfiqar Ali will be taking up the reins for Nick Clegg’s party come May 7.

Elsewhere, UKIP will be backing Mick Harold, a former pottery worker from the city with a recent history of local government who could well prove a dark horse.

Tory hopes rest with former councillor Liam Ascough who slammed opponent Hunt last year over declining education standards in the area. Also in the field is 26-year-old Independent candidate Mark Breeze – the son of late councillor Paul.

He will be joined by fellow first timer Jan Zablocki for the Greens. Unknown quantities on the start line come in the form of Ali Majid representing the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol Party and Paul Toussaint standing for The Ubuntu Party.

 

Stoke-on-Trent South

Labour candidate for Stoke-on-Trent South Rob Flello

The bookies formbook nods towards Labour’s Rob Flello, who has successfully held the seat for a decade.

Although despite this past glory, he did see his majority slashed in 2010.

Flello will be hoping to have the edge over a fresh-faced pack that includes plenty of newcomers.

Barrister duo of Joe Rich, for the Conservatives, and Tariq Mahmood representing UKIP, will be looking to lay down the law in their bid for parliament.

Alongside them will be Lib Dem candidate Peter Andras, who has previous experience running for Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Greens continue to break new ground in the city with Luke Bellamy their third new candidate in as many constituencies that could cause a stir.

With such a close contest, rank outsider Matt Wright standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition may come up short.

 

Newcastle-under-Lyme

Labour’s Paul Farrelly is the favourite in this race.

Farrelly has been the MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme since 2001 but only beat the Conservatives last time by just more than 1,000 votes, a real photo finish.

Tony Cox, 35, will be the main competition this year, running for the Tories. He is pledging to stand up for local green areas, fighting against Labour’s plans to sell them off.

Liberal Democrat candidate Ian Wilkes

Liberal Democrat candidate Ian Wilkes

This constituency looks more like a two-horse race, but Ian Wilkes from the Lib Dems, who has run his local Post Office in the borough for the last 25 years, believes he can challenge the leading front-runners.

Wilkes feels more money should be invested in the NHS.

The outside runners in this one are Sam Gibbons (Green Party), David Nixon (Independent) and Phil Wood (UKIP).

Nixon, who ran for UKIP in the 2010 election, is now standing as an Independent after a long-running internal row with his old party.

 

Stone

Veteran stallion Bill Cash has served as Stone’s MP since 1997 and is looking to reign once more at the age of 74 for the Conservatives.

He looks like the hot favourite, so CASH in now.

Current Conservative MP for Stone Bill Cash

Current Conservative MP for Stone Bill Cash

Sam Hale is a young colt from Cheadle running for Labour and is in his early 20s. He is campaigning to protect Stone’s local health services.

He is the most likely challenger to Cash in this three-horse race along with Liberal Democrats’ Martin Lewis.

Lewis, who now resides in Clayton, believes the Liberal Democrats were right in going into a coalition five years ago.

The Lib Dems were runners up in this one last time and will give the Conservatives and Labour a run for their money once more.

Bringing up the rear is Andrew Illsley, who has been chairman of the Stone UKIP branch for the past five years also chairman of UKIP Staffordshire for the same period.

John Coutouvidis (Independent) is a 70-year-old veteran from Barlaston, a retired lecturer who taught history at Staffordshire and Keele Universities.

These two are clear underdogs in this constituency, along with Wenslie Naylon who is standing for the Green Party.

 

Stafford

All the bookies are pointing to Conservative’s Jeremy Lefroy in this race, who has been Stafford’s MP since the last election.

Lefroy is promising to support new and growing businesses and social enterprises if he is re-elected.

UKIP candidate for Stafford will be Ed Whitfield

UKIP candidate for Stafford will be Ed Whitfield

Kate Godfrey will be standing for Labour who came second in this constituency in 2010.

She is claiming the Tories won’t fight for Stafford Hospital or tackle the ‘damage being done to a town that is forever being ‘consulted’ and never listened to’.

Lib Dems have taken a punt on Keith Miller to spearhead their race, and despite receiving 16.3% of the votes last time round, they look to finish in third place once more.

The stragglers in the pack in this constituency appear to be UKIP’s Ed Whitfield, the Green Party’s Mike Shone, and Karen Howell, from the National Health Action Party.

Shone was actually Stafford’s Mayor but stepped down from the Labour party, disagreeing with new policies and the direction the party was going in.

 

Staffordshire Moorlands

Conservative Karen Bradley is looking to be re-elected for the first time after winning 45.2% of the vote five years ago.

Bradley is promising to protect the countryside whilst promoting the Moorlands in a bid to boost local economy.

Karen Bradley will contest the Staffordshire Moorlands seat

Karen Bradley will contest the Staffordshire Moorlands seat

Trudie McGuinness, born and bred in the Moorlands, is running for Labour and will challenge Bradley at the front of the pack.

She is pledging action on jobs, education, housing and the cost of living if she wins this race.

John Redfern will be competing for the Lib Dems and the 55-year-old who works for Stoke-on-Trent College, has been a councillor on Biddulph South ward on the Moorlands District Council for 17 years.

The odds are stacked against The Green Party’s Brian Smith and UKIP’s George Langley-Poole, who works on his parents’ farm in Ellastone.

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