Stoke-on-Trent Local History





Federation of the six towns
31st March 1910 saw the federation of the
six towns to form the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent



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Federation article by local historian - Fred Hughes

People who made the Potteries
Parliamentary Elections - Pt 2

Whichever way you vote on Thursday [Parliamentary elections in 2010] you shouldn’t run away with the idea you’ve started a revolution. We Brits don’t do revolution very well. Yes, we’ve occasionally drifted into civil war, but insurgency is so un-British – we’d much prefer political appeasement than rivers of blood. That’s not to say we haven’t had a few brief affairs with nationalist factions and courtships with communism. By European standards, though, our revolutions have been tame. So what did happen to those who saw the fires of rebellion fizzle out

Take communism for instance. Forget that it originated in 18th century France and found its ideological voice in Victorian London’s East End. As far as our patch goes communism ignited in 1920, its flames stoked by a humble Silverdale woman named Fanny Deakin (1883-1968).

As the child of poverty Fanny was appalled by the acute deprivation she saw in Newcastle’s mining villages and decided the route to salvation lay in worker’s revolution. She joined Labour and was the first woman to be elected to Wolstanton Council. Revolution, though, wasn’t written in Labour’s manifesto so she signed-up to communism in 1927 gaining the moniker Red Fanny on the way.

She visited the Soviet Union twice and several times turned down invitations to stand as a communist parliamentary candidate concluding that she served her community best from home. The death of four of her five children in infancy drove Fanny to campaign for improved maternity care, and a meeting with Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald resulted in local councils providing free milk to pregnant mothers and children to the age of five.

In 1941 she became Newcastle-under-Lyme’s first communist alderman followed in 1946 as an alderman for Staffordshire County Council. A year later she opened the pioneering Fanny Deakin Maternity Home at Chesterton. Red Fanny achieved great social reforms, and yet managed to do it without a united revolution. 

Increasing the vote in 1970 to include people age 18 failed to impress the new electorate. Two years after the seminal international student rebellion in 1968, redbrick university undergraduates returned to serious study as election turnouts plummeted. 

Still, even as European Marxism was retreating, the British Communist Party decided to put up Sam Lomas from the city works department, a traditional hotbed of Stoke-on-Trent left wing politics, who won 480 votes in Stoke South. On the other side of the political scale in the same election, a candidate in Newcastle for the Independent United Kingdom Party (IUKP), polled a lot less. ‘I only thought I’d get 13 votes,’ a flabbergasted Sydney Rowe told the Sentinel after getting 256 people to vote for his ‘no-policies revolution’ manifesto.

The 1979 election saw the National Front putting up its lone revolutionary in Stoke North. Charles Baugh got just 341 votes in a year when the far right party contested half the UK seats and polled sixth in the number of votes cast. But that was the Front’s best-ever year and it utterly failed to persuade the British public to revolt against its liberal values.

In 1983 it was the turn of the silly people to stage their revolution. London-born pop musician Screaming Lord Sutch, brought his Monster Raving Loony Party to town causing much amusement at the launch of its candidate, ‘Legendary’ Lonny Cook (real name Clive), at Lonnie’s record shop in Stoke. 

Sutch, dressed in a leopard-skin cat suit and top hat, and Lonnie, attired in his customary country-music garb, went walkabout in Stoke exhorting townsfolk to adopt his policy of wearing whatever clothes you fancied even if you liked going naked. ‘If every smile we’ve had today was a vote I’d win by a landslide,’ he told the Sentinel as he went on to lose massively to Labour’s new MP, Mark Fisher. 

That year Labour slumped with many of its MPs defecting to a new group, the Social Democrat Party, campaigning in a revolutionary coalition with the Liberals. The SDP/Liberal Alliance won an impressive 25.4% of the national vote in 1983 compared with Labour's 27.6%. And yet the first-past-the-post system returned only 23 Alliance MPs to Labour's 209.

Meanwhile, Newcastle-under-Lyme’s long-serving Labour MP, John Golding, stood down in 1986 controversially replaced by his wife Llin. A by-election portended a straight contest between Mrs Golding and the popular SDP candidate Alan Thomas. There were others contestants – Screaming Lord Sutch was one – but in truth Labour was fighting itself.

The election attracted nationwide interest with visits from the Tory whiz kid Jeffery Archer, and Glenys Kinnock the wife of Labour’s new leader; while the Alliance waded in with heavyweight Shirley Williams and overweight MP, 22-stone Cyril Smith. In the event ‘old’ Labour managed to scrape through effectively ending the Alliance revolution. Unlike buses, it took until 1997 for the next one to arrive. Like I say – the British don’t do revolution well.

previous: Parliamentary Elections Pt 1
contents: Index page for Federation