Snell begins campaign with funding scandal
Gareth Snell, Labour’s PPC for the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat vacated by Tristram Hunt, is set to begin his campaign facing questions about election expenses after it was revealed a leaflet attacking UKIP candidate Paul Nuttall was funded by an organisation run by a close colleague and fellow Labour councillor.
The leaflet – “6 reasons to vote against UKIP” – bears the imprint of Hope not Hate and local
‘Norscarf’ (North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism and Fascism), proving
there’s nothing like self-interest to bring together the Progress and Momentum
funded wings of the Labour Party. The leaflet is helpfully printed in Labour’s
red and yellow colours.
The Hope not Hate/NORSCARF leaflet
delivered with Labour leaflets
The registration of the Norscarf website lists a single contact phone number – 07563245515. A quick Google of that number reveals it is the personal mobile phone number of Councillor Chris Spence, a colleague of Snell’s on Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council, which neighbours the Stoke Central constituency. Spence originally put his own name forward to be the candidate, but failed to make Labour’s long list.
Our source reveals that he received the leaflet – alongside a Labour one – on Saturday evening (the 21st January). Which is interesting, as Gareth Snell tweeted a photograph that evening of Spence delivering Labour leaflets in the same area of Stoke under the caption ‘What better way to spend your evening after a hard day at work than campaigning for @Stoke_Labour and our #NHS’. If you look at the picture, you can see the ‘6 reasons’ leaflet sticking out of the top of the Labour one, which may explain the ‘winky face’ Spence finished his Tweet with.
Snell's colleague Cllr Chris Spence delivering Labour
leaflets - the HnH/NORSCARF leaflet can be seen
sticking out of the top of the Labour one
The participation of Hope not Hate – funded by the anti-Corbyn ‘Progress’ wing of the Labour Party – with the decidedly Corbynite ‘Norscarf’ is perhaps less surprising that it appears. Stoke North MP Ruth Smeeth is a former General Secretary of Hope not Hate, while Tristram Hunt, Stoke’s outgoing MP, is a member of the Labour Friends of Israel, one of the few groups in the Labour Party which stood by Smeeth after she was subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by Labour members when it announced the outcome of its investigation into anti-Semitism. Snell – a former leader of Newcastle Borough Council who lost his seat to UKIP before regaining a different seat at a by-election - is on Hunt’s staff.
A senior UKIP source said that it was "rare for expenditure scandals to begin before the candidate had been selected but was a clear indication of just how worried Labour were about losing the formerly safe seat to the new UKIP insurgency."
UKIP insiders say that they expect Labour to include the cost of the Hope not Hate leaflets on their expenditure returns as they are clearly published with a view to aiding Labour's faltering chances of retaining the seat. A UKIP source close to the campaign said, "They are required to account for all expenditure. The active participation of two organisations with close links to the Labour Party using Labour councillors to deliver the leaflets alongside official Labour literature with the clear approval of the candidate makes it difficult to pretend these are anything other than Labour leaflets in disguise. Hope not Hate have considerable form for this sort of thing, which has gone unremarked and unpunished for too long. It simply allows Labour to effectively double its election spending without having to account for it."
A poll for Labour Leave published on Wednesday showed Nuttall 10% ahead of Labour, while on Thursday bookies shortened the odds on a UKIP victory to make the party the odds-on favourite, with Labour slipping to evens ahead of the also-ran Tories and Lib Dems on 33-1.