Labour members in Stoke tonight picked a former council leader to defend their seat from the expected UKIP onslaught.
Gareth Snell, the former leader of nearby Newcastle-under-Lyme council, won out over two activists at the end of a quick selection process.
Snell, who has previously worked for Tristram Hunt, the outgoing MP, immediately gave an indication of the direction of his campaign when he highlighted UKIP’s plans to sell the NHS to “the highest bidder”.
He won the nomination to protect Labour’s 12,220 votes by beating Allison Gardner, a councillor from Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Trudie McGuinness, a GMB activist from Staffordshire who sits on the party’s national policy forum.
“I’m delighted to have been chosen by local Labour members here in Stoke-on-Trent Central to be the voice of local people,” said Snell.
“I’m proud to come from the Potteries and even prouder to be standing to represent our home in parliament.
“Labour has always stood up for local people here in Stoke-on-Trent, whether it’s building our first new hospital in 100 years or defending our vital children’s centres.
“The Tories haven’t done anything for our city, and now they’re trying to sell off £1.2bn of cancer and end of life care in North Staffordshire. And UKIP’s plans for our NHS are clear – sell it all off to the highest bidder.”
The by-election is on February 23. Paul Nuttall, leader of UKIP, has been confirmed as his party’s candidate.