Potteries braced for second round of election fever

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Election fever is coming to the Potteries for the second time in two months with the snap June poll announcement coming on the heels of a by-election earlier this year.

In Stoke-on-Trent Central, Labour MP Gareth Snell is on the campaign trail yet again in a bid to win the seat he only secured on February 23.

On that occasion he dispatched a high-profile challenge from Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, securing a 2,620 vote majority on a typically low by-election turnout of 38%.

The Staffordshire by-election battle was dominated by Brexit in an area where a clear majority of voters backed Vote Leave in last year's EU referendum.

Earlier this week, during campaigning, Mr Snell tweeted he wanted an end to what he called "this rancid and toxic Government".

After meeting voters on the doorsteps, he added: "Lots of people wanting a change in Government and voting Labour."

Mr Snell will face-off against Conservative challenger and Stoke city councillor Daniel Jellyman, while the other parties have yet to announce their picks.

In February, the Tories' then candidate Jack Brereton ran Ukip much closer in the seat than had been forecast, missing out on the second place result of 5,233 by just 79 votes.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats' by-election candidate Dr Zulfiqar Ali? has ruled out another run for parliament - because the NHS consultant cardiologist cannot get the time off work.

Mr Ali, who came fourth in the February poll, said: "I can't take time off so soon after the by-election. Hence I would not be a candidate in snap GE. I would miss my participation in politics."

Elsewhere in the Potteries, Owen Meredith has been selected as Conservative candidate for the key marginal of Newcastle-under-Lyme, where Labour MP Paul Farrelly holds the seat with a narrow majority of 650.

Mr Meredith, who is deputy chairman of the independent Tory Reform Group - whose president is Tory MP Ken Clarke, is a Keele University graduate.

The 31-year-old is currently a director at the Professional Publishers Association but said it was a "huge honour" to stand in an area where he had strong roots.

He said: "Newcastle is where I went to university, got my first job and bought my first home.

"I love this town and I will be a passionate local champion for Newcastle and North Staffordshire if elected to represent you in Westminster.

"I will work tirelessly to boost business and investment in Newcastle to create more high-skilled, high-paid jobs; to improve our local NHS and social care; and to deliver much needed investment in local transport infrastructure."

He added: "Jeremy Corbyn inside Downing Street would just bring chaos putting jobs and livelihoods in Newcastle at risk."

The Liberal Democrats' Nigel Jones will also be standing.

In Stoke-on-Trent South, Labour MP Rob Flello is defending a majority of 2,539, while the other parties have yet to select their candidates.

At the other end of the Potteries, in Stoke-on-Trent North, sitting MP for Labour Ruth Smeeth will be standing on a majority of 4,836, with the Conservatives' Ben Adams challenging.