Where is the leader capable of inspiring Stoke-on-Trent?

BNP leader Nick Griffin launches his election manifesto in Stoke-on-Trent.

BNP leader Nick Griffin launches his election manifesto in Stoke-on-Trent.

The more time goes on, the more unlikely it seems the Government will intervene directly in the running of Stoke-on-Trent.

Councillors and MPs alike are doubtless starting to breathe a little easier, but while they may be quietly humming the tune of the Great Escape, I’m starting to wonder whether or not this is actually an opportunity missed.

Let’s face it, the city is a rudderless ship at present – lacking any real direction and buffeted by the winds of fate.

The man who is currently the city’s most senior local politician is Mohammed Pervez, the Deputy Elected Mayor.

Except that he wasn’t actually elected to that role at all. He is simply a ward councillor who finds himself on the bridge of the aforementioned vessel staring bleakly into the fog.

Mr Pervez is also, with all due respect, a relative newcomer to the civic centre and I wonder just how equipped he is to steer us through the treacherous waters we currently find ourselves in.

Around him sits a coalition of convenience – a damned alliance of politicians of different hues which simply allows the local authority to function rather than make any real progress.

Hovering in the background, like the proverbial spectres at the feast, are nine democratically-elected BNP members.

Their party’s national leader, Nick Griffin, describes Stoke-on-Trent as the jewel in his crown. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?

From this sea of mediocrity, I’m struggling to see who will rise up to champion Stoke-on-Trent.

The Whitehall-appointed Governance Commission itself stated that: “The evidence presented to us clearly questioned the capacity of the current members to carry out the role of a modern-day councillor.”

Note that the commission was simply referring to the role of a councillor – never mind someone equipped to lead a place that the naked eye can see lags about 20 years behind other comparable cities.

When a depressing 19 per cent of the electorate bothered to turn out to axe the elected mayor system, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Through the 1990s, as a city we lurched like a punch-drunk boxer from one crisis to another (the Cultural Quarter, Worldgate, etc) until the electorate finally said enough was enough and we scrapped the old council leader system in favour of having an elected mayor.

A few years down the line, and it’s Back To The Future time.

Instead of simply voting out two unpopular elected mayors, we’ve gone and killed off the one post that gave the safe-as-houses Labour stronghold that is Stoke-on-Trent the chance to have a national figurehead who wasn’t constrained by party politics.

All this may sound cynical, but, as someone who cares passionately about North Staffordshire, I’d prefer to think of it as me being realistic.

The electorate may be overwhelmingly apathetic when it comes to local politics, but the majority of voters aren’t stupid.

The fact is, the city has been poorly served in recent years by its elected leaders.

By the same token, no current sitting councillor stands out as someone who is going to do what needs to be done – namely, to grab the city by the scruff of its neck, give it some direction and, crucially, restore some public confidence into the much-maligned city council or, indeed, the role of public office locally.

All this makes me wonder if it may not have been better for the city to have been declared the basket case it so obviously is and for the Government to have placed us into special measures.

There is some wonderful work going on to help regenerate the Potteries, but over and above this we desperately need some strong leadership and radical thinking to banish the parochialism that continues to frustrate us at every turn.

It’s all well and good trumpeting the fact that we have “the most improved local council”, but when that improvement is from such a low starting point and we are still miles behind other comparable cities then it’s hardly time to break out the Moet, is it?

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