John Harris

Journalist & Author

‘It feels like a wilfully ignored secret’: how commentators painted Stoke-on-Trent all wrong

The labels that media and politicans use – ‘Brexit capital of Britain’ for Stoke, for example – aren’t always fair, and can be damaging, argues John Harris, who admits he’s done it too

For days before Stoke-on-Trent’s big byelection, the pedestrianised space next to its Potteries shopping centre crawled with activists. They spanned the entire political spectrum, from the Greens to the BNP. Many had come a very long way: there were Labour disciples from London and Manchester, Lib Dems from Gloucester and Merseyside, and Ukip believers from as far afield as Kent and northern Scotland.

One of the Ukippers, who was from Essex, had dyed her hair purple especially for the occasion. Outside a shop front plastered with posters featuring the party’s leader and doomed candidate Paul Nuttall, I asked her what she was doing here. “The ordinary people want change,” she said.

Related: Paul Nuttall is paying the price for Ukip’s success being built on blurring the truth | Phil McDuff

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