As the Polls Close

As the polls close in the by-elections, two Young Fabian members share their experiences campaigning.

John Morris

It's impossible to be in Stoke Central and not fear that Storm Doris is an eerie metaphor for the political storm which reaches its zenith today. Will this by-election be the one where UKIP finally break through and win? Grey clouds, hailstorms, gale force winds and a constant bombardment of rain has battered tenacious Labour activists as they pound the sodden streets of Stoke. I had numerous occasions where Doris has chucked wheelybins, cardboard boxes and random junk at me, and it's a common sight to see uprooted trees and the contents of rubbish bins spewed across the street.

However, Doris hasn't just been attacking Labour. Its winds has caused one of UKIP's large motorway billboards, asking Stoke to trust UKIP to take the country out the EU, to collapse. There is an unshakable optimism on the ground amongst activists despite Doris.

We've never lost Stoke Central before, the ground campaign has been strong, and we've got an excellent candidate in local man, and former Leader of neighbouring Newcastle-under-Lyme Council, Gareth Snell. If Labour lose Stoke it won't be because of the activists. Supporters from across the country have come on mass to elect Gareth Snell and defeat UKIP. They've braved the weather and done their best to convince people to vote.

During my travels I've come across students from Manchester and Nottingham trudging along rounds whilst also bumping into more experienced activists from Derby, Essex and Wales. Dozens of MPs have come up for polling day too, including Rob Marris , Wes Streeting and Ruth Smeeth, not to mention all those who have visited in the weeks prior. I've campaigned with people who have supported Labour for decades and those who have only been a member for days. On the doors our vote does seems to be holding up as well.

Constituents have not been impressed by either Paul Nuttall's ill-judged comments about losing close friends during the Hillsborough Disaster, or the fact he's not local to the area and never has been. Only time will tell if this will be enough to sink him. Whatever happens today though, I can proud to be Labour. Never have I seen such a large, dedicated group of activists who have had to brave the worst weather I've ever campaigned in. However, as I sit here writing this, I notice a change outside. The downpour has stopped and Doris appears to have abated. Touch wood, but maybe things will turn out okay after all.

Luke John Davies

From talking to people out on the doorstep and in HQ, they seem semi-confident, though with all the caveats, addendums and nervousness of all by-election campaigns. It's generally accepted that it's going to come down to turnout and postal votes, and the concern is around UKIP voters switching to the Tories following the Hillsborough revelations about Paul Nuttall. This might allow the Conservatives to creep through the middle. Storm Doris absolutely battered Stoke this morning with utterly vile weather - back at the GMB offices where the HQ is, one lady got the job of drying out returned contact sheets with a hairdryer.

Since 1 o'clock in the afternoon, however, the rain has more or less stopped, although the wind is still high. The rail chaos caused by the storm has stopped some activists from arriving from elsewhere in the West Midlands, but has also trapped some here, many of whom are responding by getting back on the doorstep. In the parts I have doorknocked, most of those who answered have already been to vote. Overall, if we can get all our promises to the polling stations, it should be enough for Labour to hold on to the seat. Some Tories have, however, said they think they might have pulled off an upset. As always, time and the count will tell. 

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