Why residents of Labour stronghold Stoke-on-Trent loathe Jeremy Corbyn and are ready to vote Tory

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THE old brick kilns that dot The Potteries skyline dominate what has been a Labour bastion for generations.

Stoke-on-Trents sweat and toil made its ceramic industry globally famous and its workers have instinctively voted red.

Stoke-on-Trent has been a Labour stronghold for generations but now residents are ready to vote Conservative

Tory candidate Jo Gideon says voters will back the Conservatives as they want Brexit

Now this proudly working-class city of 270,000, dubbed the Capital of Brexit, could turn Tory blue.

Its a notion once unthinkable in this pits and pots city built on the unionised graft of miners, steel workers and potters.

Businesswoman Jo Gideon, the Tory candidate in Stoke Central, tells me voters will back the Conservatives as they want Brexit and loathe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Birmingham-born gran said: Ive knocked on lots of doors. People here like Boris and think hell get Brexit done. What they say about Jeremy Corbyn is unprintable.

Talking to folk amid Stokes red brick terraces, theres evidence to support her assertion.

‘HE’D BE A DISASTER’

Former coal miner and dyed-in-the-wool Labour man James Tomkinson, 61, is ready to return Old Etonian Boris Johnson to No10.

The dad of three told HOAR: My whole family has always voted Labour. Ive always voted Labour but I just cant bring myself to vote for them under Jeremy Corbyn.

Hed be a disaster as Prime Minister. In fact hed be a disaster for everything the economy, defence, Brexit, you name it. Hed have open borders which people dont want. Im definitely voting Conservative.

Salesman Dominic Wilson, 45, said: I havent much time for any of them but at least Boris wants to get Brexit done. I was a Labour voter but not now. Ill be voting Tory.

Even some sticking with Labour like Boris more than Mr Corbyn.

Unemployed carer Janine Duff, 47, said Ive always voted Labour and will vote Labour again. Mind you, I do prefer Boris to Corbyn.

Traditionally, Stoke is a Labour heartland. Until Tory Jack Brereton took Stoke South in the 2017 General Election, its three seats had been Labour since their creation in 1950.

‘INFECTED BY THE HARD LEFT’

Now, both Stoke Central and Stoke North are being eyed by the Tories.

Stoke North returned a 72 per cent Leave vote and Stoke Central 65 per cent. Neighbouring Newcastle-under-Lyme 62 per cent Leave looks set to go blue, with Labour defending a wafer-thin majority of 30.

In the market towns centre this weekend dad-of-two Robert Doherty, 71, said he thought Labours Shadow Cabinet was packed with Communists.

He said: My dad was a shop steward and I was a Labour voter but not now. Not with Corbyn, McDonnell, Thornberry and Rebecca Long-Bailey. The Labour Party has been infected by the hard Left. Im now voting Conservative.

Built on rich clay and coal deposits in Staffordshire, Stoke was a crucible of the Industrial Revolution. Its 300-year-old ceramics industry saw brands including Wedgwood and Royal Doulton gain global renown.

A generation ago the industry employed 58,000. Today it is about 7,000. New jobs have been created but wages are well below the national average and some areas are among the countrys poorest.

The city has reinvented itself as a logistics and warehousing hub for firms such as Amazon. Online gaming giant Bet365 is based here.

Its co-founder, miners son Peter Coates, paid for three coaches to take protesters to London for last months Peoples Vote demo.

Many local Brexit voters in the area feel they have been portrayed as ill-informed or stupid. Mrs Gideon said: Its been patronising. People are very cross. The response on the doorstep is, Of course I knew what I was voting for.

‘LACK OF REGENERATION’

People are straight-talking here. They say, We voted Leave, why havent we left? If you look around youll see Stokes suffered from a lack of regeneration. Theres a sense money has gone to Europe rather than being invested locally. Working- class people are voting Tory.

Recent polls back the claim. A YouGov survey put the Tories on 47 per cent among working-class voters 20 per cent ahead of Labour.

ComRes found 43 per cent of skilled and semi-skilled manual workers plan to vote Tory, up from just 35 per cent in 2017.

Stoke Central Labour MP Gareth Snell, who voted for Mr Johnsons deal but then for its delay, has a 3,897 majority. Mrs Gideon would need a swing of 5.9 per cent to win.

He tweeted he will always stand up for locals, not London. He said: I believe that with me as the local MP, we can stop Boris sell-off of the NHS, we can get a Brexit deal that works for our city, and we can re-invest in our public services.

The Tories need a 2.8 swing to take Stoke North where Labours Ruth Smeeth has a 2,359 majority.

Nigel Farages Brexit Party, and its precursor Ukip, have strong support here. Their votes could sway the seats red or blue.

Waiting for a bus in Burslem town centre, Labour-voting NHS worker Steven Price, 49, is now backing the Brexit Party. He said: With all this mess, we need a strong leader Im thinking we should give Nigel Farage a go.

Dr Tariq Mahmood, the Brexit Partys candidate in Stoke Central, insists a vote for him wont let in Mr Snell.

The barrister told me: Traditional Labour voters who want to leave feel more comfortable voting for us than for the Tories.

Mrs Gideon disagrees, saying: If you vote Brexit Party you let Labour in and that means Remain. Only the Tories can deliver Brexit.

Mr Johnson will need the two Stoke seats along with Newcastle-under-Lyme to claim a commanding majority. This city of pits, pots and Brexit will again play a decisive hand in Britains future.

Dad-of-two Robert Doherty, 71, says Labour has been ‘infected by the hard Left’

Unemployed carer Janine Duff, 47, said she prefers Boris to Corbyn

The Tories need a 2.8 swing to take Stoke North where Labours Ruth Smeeth has a 2,359 majority

Nigel Farages Brexit Party, and its precursor Ukip, also have strong support in Stoke

Voters in Stoke also loathe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

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