A comedian and writer has told of his time working as a Stoke-on-Trent political advisor during the Mark Meredith Mayoral years of the late 2000s.
The writer also has a new book out, entitled ‘Politically Homeless’, which includes stories from his days fighting the rise of the British National Party (BNP) in Stoke-on-Trent as Mark’s political advisor.
The book takes a hilarious and insightful journey through his time in politics working for the Labour Party and in public affairs.
The former Labour member quit the party when Jeremy Corbyn became leader and describes himself as a moderate, fed-up with the extremes of today’s political landscape, hence the title of the book.
Of his around two years in Stoke-on-Trent, Matt said: “The pub I always wanted to go in near the council building was The White Star. Oh man, I used to walk past that everyday and think ‘I’m gonna go in there one day and get bladdered!’ And I never did, so I’ve got unfinished business [in Stoke].”
Since his time in the city the political make-up at council and parliamentary level of the region has witnessed a sea-change from a red-wall heartland to being the driving force of the Tory Party’s new blue blood.
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“You could see the undercurrents were there,” said Matt, who has also written for Channel 4’s ‘8 Out of 10 Cats’ show.
“It’s similar to what happened to Labour in Scotland as I always think of Stoke-on-Trent as this heartland for Labour. And when Labour was collapsing, it was happening in the city way before it happened in Scotland.
“You had a period before I was there when Labour had every seat on the council, and that’s just really not healthy.
“You do need some form of opposition because it will emerge. I think when a party is too successful in an area, the collapse is then far more profound.
“It’s far healthier to have a half-decent majority and be kept on your toes, because in Stoke-on-Trent you could just feel people moving against Labour for a number of reasons that were years in the making.
“When I was there the BNP were doing quite well and that was really scary. You could just tell people were really unhappy with Labour at that point.
“I think it was a mixture of things, in defence of the last Labour government, I think Labour invested hugely in places like Stoke-on-Trent. In its public services and delivered things like a minimum wage and protection for workers and all those things that people in Stoke-on-Trent benefited from.
“But I think Labour’s problem really for quite a while was it was seen as quite London-centric. I think places like Stoke-on-Trent, they just think ‘these aren’t our kind of people’, you know?
“I think the main problem was in the city, Labour had gotten so used to winning, they thought they’d never lose. I think the complacency in the end was what did it. I think it was similar in Scotland, it was, ‘they’re always going to vote for us’.
“You’ve got to always be out there campaigning all the time. And I think long before Mark got there, Labour had stopped campaigning properly. And the local party just thought it was always going to win and was proved wrong.”
Matt has no plans to rejoin any political party despite his previous tenure as a Labour member since the age of 15.
“The problem is, I’d rejoin, and then I’d get annoyed and leave again,” joked the Spitting Image writer. “I want Labour to be sensible and to win again because broadly those politics are mine.”
Even with his career in television reaching lofty heights, Matt admits he still has an affinity for the city, he said: “I loved working in Stoke-on-Trent.
“I have real warm memories of the place. Even though the politics was ferocious and at times, insane. The place itself is brilliant and I loved it and I loved working there. I loved the people of Stoke-on-Trent, they’re really cool.
“It’s a really cool place. Obviously in the book it concentrates on the politics which was berserk. There’s a fair bit of Stoke-on-Trent in there, I talk about working for Mark and the experience of fighting the BNP. That was a really scary thing.”
Hearing of Tunstall’s recent issues with anti-social behaviour, Matt was kind enough to voice a fictional Boris Johnson trip to the town which you can hear in the clip below:
Matt’s book is out now from all good bookshops in the physical and online realms. Spitting Image is streaming now on BritBox.