Danny Moran gives the insider scoop on which seats might change hands tomorrow, and who is fond of a wonk mag?
Browned-off with Westminster, born to stand up for the north, and hoping to win four more years of finding himself as Greater Manchester’s Labour mayor, Andy Burnham goes to the electorate tomorrow hot favourite to stay on as the region’s reigning champion of devolved local government.
“The job brings out the real me,” he came out to reporters at the launch of his campaign.
Keeping it real, perhaps, his manifesto is a curiously downbeat affair, stressing the need for Whitehall to make good on its promissories in order that Andy and co. can make good on theirs to (variously) fix the policing shambles, restart the jobs market, fettle the housing crisis, wrest more power from London and join up the transport network London-style so we can all go on journeys to find ourselves with the aid of some kind of Oyster card.
Those with grand visions of defeating him are headed up by Tory businesswoman Laura Evans, who claims with some credibility that “people in Greater Manchester don’t feel safe on the streets” – not so much because they’re afraid of the legions of violent criminals stalking their neighbourhoods as that they’re terrified of a police service which logs their complaints and then routinely forwards them to GMP’s elite Recycle Bin unit.
Evans’ apparent unifying theory that the region’s many problems will begin to smooth themselves out once the contents of said bin are Restored and Dealt With would no doubt be truly terrifying if it was ever actually to be put to the test.
Liberal Democrat Simon Lepori, meanwhile, is hoping to coax the party’s share of the mayoral vote to an ‘it’s not the winning’ ten percent level of reward. Conspicuously, the Lib Dems’ own screed is three times longer than Labour’s, running to an ambitious 69 pages, and appears to list encyclopedically every single policy a centre-left voter might have thought of in the last ten years in a parallel world where the ruling Labour party had not become the paramilitary wing of the National Union of Property Developers.
From pay rises to frontline health workers to enquiries into the housing scam; a bed for every rough sleeper and a pie of tarmac for every pothole…voters can sleep easy in the knowledge that every policy the party in office should have touted will remain snagged in the starting blocks while smuggled in the skirts of the shamed handmaidens of austerity.
The Lib Dems’ injunction to ‘Heal’ – to note the title of their own mission statement – scores high in subliminal undertones given Lepori’s former life as a healthcare professional and the grueling zero hours contract the Grim Reaper has been toiling under recently. Unless Lepori can pull off some Lazarus-level miracles in the next 24 hours we may have to accept that things are going to go once again with The Abu Dhabi Manchester Status Quo Life Company.
Set against the dynamism and drama of the mayoral contest you might be tempted to consider the machinations of Manchester’s council elections comparatively small beer.
Think again, my friend, and savour the cream from your shot glass of Boddingtons.
Should you be in need of a recap: Labour holds 93 of the council’s 96 seats with two sitting Liberal Democrat representatives in the Didsbury West ward (party leader John Leech and his young deputy, Richard Kilpatrick – the third Didsbury West Lib Dem, Greg Stanton, having defected to Labour last year amid some weapons-grade handbag throwing) and a further seat in Clayton and Openshawn being vacated by independent and boxing gym firebrand Ken Dobson who has decided not to come out for this round.
With an additional by-election to be held in Brooklands following the death of former council deputy leader Sue Murphy, it will be jeux sans frontieres in 34 contests across the 32 wards.
Of these only about half a dozen or so are thought to hold in store any prospect of seats being whipped out from under their incumbents – assuming there isn’t some kind of Starmer-inspired shock meltdown in the Labour vote.
The most marginal on the card is Deansgate where the veteran Lib Dem campaigner John Bridges is looking to overturn Marcus Johns’ slender 48 majority for Labour. The theory was put to Confidentials recently over a jug of turnip moonshine that with the impending acceleration of development in the city centre, political representation there might become subject to greater natural selection as discontent festers and lesser councillors fall by the wayside amid the spiralling anarchy – so watch those wards for any sign of politically buff future prime ministers armed only with litter pickers owning the streets.
“We’ll find out in Deansgate whether ‘small l’ liberal votes were merely lent us during the austerity years,” postulated one city centre Labour representative with an evident weakness for wonk mags.
Speaking to candidates there it’s apparent just how much campaigning is done blind. There may be a ‘Spoons and a fancy library but this is an arctic wasteland, politically speaking, with a significant transient population, high levels of unregistered voters, large numbers of students, conspicuously low turnouts and diamond-heist levels of difficulty involved for any candidate determined to dodge the concierge, knock on doors and encounter one of the voter-people.
Such word as has made it back from Planet Deansgate is that 12 months of enforced apartment dwelling have led to a collective clamour for green space among the natives and a suspicion of impending developments on account of the whispers blowing in from across town in Ancoats and Beswick.
It’s there, you may recall, that the council recently suffered a reverse at the hands of local campaigners enraged by the temporary car park proposed at the old retail park site opposite New Islington Free School.
“There’s a lot of anger here over that and a lot of people prepared to vote on the issues rather than along party lines” reports the young Lib Dem candidate Alan Good, who nevertheless faces an uphill challenge to defeat social justice campaigner Marcia Hutchinson (MBE) in what was a safe seat for Labour last time out.
Beyond that, Lib Dem John Cameron is another politician-in-scrubs ready to operate in local government should he manage to extract Labour’s Linda Foley in Didsbury East. Debbie Hilal has hopes of breaking up that slightly blokey Lib Dem cadre down there in posh South Manc, though Richard Kilpatrick may secretly fancy his chances of repelling the Labour challenge as The Lib Dem It’s Okay To Like in Didsbury West. And whatever your politics if April Preston succeeds in getting herself elected in Withington the former indie musician and care home girl could bring colour and heart-on-sleeve candour to the political scene. Labour’s Chris Wills, the incumbent, may or may not have the numbers on his side.
Oh, and watch out for the Greens in Woodhouse Park in their bid to unseat Labour veteran Brian O’Neill.
Now that the airport needs weeding, like.