Posts Tagged ‘Manchester’

No matter what the Tories hope, Britain is not an island

30/05/2017, 07:38:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

We’re wasting the finite time that Article 50 affords the UK to agree terms for our departure from the EU on an election supposedly about Brexit in which Brexit has hardly featured. This exit is not a trifling concern: no part of national life will be untouched by it.

“We’re being infantilised as a democracy,” Matthew Parris observes (£) of the lack of Brexit debate during the general election. But if there is a group of people with less appetite for Brexit discussion than our political class, it seems to be the general public.

“When it comes to Brexit, people have moved on,” wrote James Bethell after canvassing one Labour and two Conservative seats in East Anglia. The UKIP vote has moved on to the Conservatives. The Remain vote has failed to move on to the Liberal Democrats.

Roughly half of those Remain voters now accept that the UK must leave the EU – the other half want a government to ignore the referendum result or find means of overturning it. Whereas the defeated side remained energised after the Scottish referendum in 2014, the passion of the 48% has quickly dissipated.

Britain is over Brexit but Brexit isn’t over Britain. The grim prophecies of Remain have not really gone away. The UK’s trade balance, for example, has worsened by 1.8% of GDP since the final quarter of 2015. The fall in Sterling that Brexit triggered has sucked in imports, which are pushing up inflation, with no compensating rise in exports.

Our ability to pay our way is deteriorating – before tariffs are paid on goods moving from the UK to the continent (due to our exit from the customs union) and regulatory divergence further undermines the UK’s competitiveness (as a result of single market departure). To say nothing of the loss of labour and productivity induced by the end of free movement.

We’re on course to gut the NHS of the European workers upon which it depends but what happens in Libya, won’t stay in Libya. The things that we dislike about abroad (e.g. Islamic extremism) won’t avoid us just because we inadvertently curb the things we like from beyond our shores (e.g. NHS workers).

Did we intervene too much in Libya (in using aerial power to help topple Gaddafi who was butchering his own people) or too little (in failing to stabilise the country afterwards)?


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Muscular centrism is needed after Manchester

24/05/2017, 09:40:42 PM

By Atul Hatwal

Manchester isn’t the first and is unlikely to be the last. As the shock slowly subsides, action is needed, but not of the kind yapped out in the hot takes of some on the left and right.

On the left, there are too many whose efforts to explain, blur into a case to excuse.

Talk of the iniquities of the Prevent strategy, marginalisation of Muslim communities and British foreign policy, is irrelevant.

Just as it is irrelevant to talk about poverty or cultural anxiety when explaining the radicalisation of Thomas Mair, the man who killed Jo Cox last year.

There is no explanatory leap that connects life in Britain today to ideologies such as Islamism or Nazism.

Inflicting terror on innocents is always an unacceptable means to an end, but sometimes it is used in the service of a cause which can be understood, if not agreed with.

The IRA, PLO, ETA and Irgun would all fall into this broad category. The presence of justice in the cause is an essential prerequisite for a route to eventual peace  – it is the underpinning for a rational discourse between opponents.

But Islamism, like Nazism, advocates slaughter of the impure as an intrinsic part of the cause.

There can be no understanding or engagement with this.

No wittering about context is required. We don’t need a sociology debate. This is a matter of winning or losing.


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We’ve been weak in the face of Islamist lunacy for too long

24/05/2017, 10:19:03 AM

by Kevin Meagher

‘It was a monster not a Muslim’ read a message left with some flowers in Manchester yesterday. A well-intentioned sentiment, no doubt, but it’s no slander on ordinary Muslims to point out the killer of 22 people and the maiming of scores more, Salman Abedi, was plainly both.

Islam is more than a religion. ‘Islamism’ – the warped and extreme interpretation of it that drives the hate we saw in Manchester – is a hard line, violent, impossibilist, political ideology. In reducing the gaping risk it poses to our society we must be free to critique it as such.

This requires countering the phoney grievances of its adherents and the pernicious false narrative that all non-Islamists are legitimate targets. The statement from Isis claiming responsibility for the attack referred to those killed as ‘Crusaders.’ Such insanity apparently justifies deliberately targeting a pop concert full of children.

It is adjoined to a twin lunacy; that of the global jihadist’s pipedream of a worldwide Caliphate. If the methods of Islamic terror are appalling enough, the cause they kill and maim for is arguably worse: Global enslavement under an ignorant and brutal despotism. That a reasoning human being could buy into such a dystopian vision makes the attack in Manchester and all those that have taken place before it, even harder to comprehend.

I repeat – as we should – that not all Muslims are Islamists, but all Muslims are on the frontline of this clash within a civilisation, fighting for a correct and just interpretation of their faith. They are the only ones who can win this culture war between a virtuous Islam that is capable of accommodating itself to living and thriving in the West and the nihilism of a minority of their co-religionists who demonstrably cannot.

In the short-term, shock and grief are appropriate responses to the massacre in Manchester. We can talk about ‘bringing everyone together’ in a spirit of solidarity in the immediate aftermath of an atrocity, but in the longer term our public policy responses should be obvious enough: A more sustained and emphatic bid to flush out and destroy Islamism, isolating and prosecuting its demented followers.


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Labour is the party for small businesses

01/05/2015, 05:58:41 PM

by Michael Taylor

Given I’ve got a business background and that I’ve campaigned with lots of businesses on regional infrastructure issues, it’s been really emboldening in his general election campaign to take Labour’s message that we are on the side of small business and that our entrepreneurs deserve better.

My dad was a milkman who became self-employed in 1979 and voted Thatcher. Once. That idea that you take control of a part of your life, take on the new challenges of running a business and therefore become part of the ruling class business elite is so outdated and plays counter to the experience of so many small business owners and self-employed contractors. That’s why the shambolic Tory letter in the Telegraph seemed such an outdated and hollow stunt.

As a parliamentary candidate in a Greater Manchester seat the conversation is increasingly about a system that’s stacked in favour of the powerful. Nowhere has this been as apparent in how small companies have been shafted under this government. Especially when it comes to the important commitment to protect small companies against exploitation from bullying behavior from big corporates.

This idea of a monolithic “business community” which only cares about what’s good for business with dog whistle demands for the cutting of red tape bears no relation to how people live their lives.


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Breathe in, breathe out

11/11/2014, 02:03:24 PM

by Mike Amesbury

Unity, discipline, being on message (with a coherent message), self-belief and a vision of hope are essential ingredients of a winning campaign. Over the last week a small and cowardly bunch of Labour MPs seem to be suffering from a collective dose of amnesia.

Take your minds back to the wilderness years of 18 years of opposition, the self-indulgent politics of many in our ranks and our disastrous elections campaigns of the 1980s and early 90s. These were characterised by regular mishaps, media briefings and counter briefings; with shadow ministers contradicting each other and untimely sniping about our own leadership.

Not only were we letting ourselves down, more importantly we let our supporters, potential supporters and nation suffer the consequences of Thatcherism. Please, please, wake up and smell the coffee and don’t do this again.

I, for one, am pretty determined to cheer on every Tory and Lib Dem defeat throughout the night of the 7th May 2015 and the early hours of the 8th. I don’t want to mark the day after my 46th birthday with pictures of this Prime Minister Cameron all over media, I don’t want another four years of him unleashing further hell on our nation.

For all its faults, (and there were quite a few) the Blair years were known for professional and disciplined campaigns – 1997, 2001, and 2005 (give or take the odd punch from John Prescott).

The harsh lessons of the wilderness years became engrained in the DNA of the Labour party. The electorate does not like disunity.  A common joke amongst officials (of which I was one) and front benchers were references to Peter Mandelson instructing us to “breathe in and breathe out”.

Call me old fashioned if you will, but I have always been keen on winning elections in order to implement a Labour manifesto. We won an unprecedented three successive Labour victories, built a record amount of new schools and hospitals, introduced the minimum wage and implemented measures such as tax credits while reducing child poverty.  This discipline combined with staying on a Labour message is needed now more than ever.

A Labour  message that talks about, saving the NHS, building a million new homes, increasing the minimum wage, scrapping the bedroom tax, freezing energy bills and creating a responsible and fair economy for all. These are the only briefings that I want to hear as an activist.

Start breathing it in and out over the coming months, in the media, at public meetings and on the doorstep. Let us fight to be the country we should be, one that is prosperous and fair for all, one that offers my young son better opportunities than I had. For this we need a Labour prime minister making that victory speech on the 8thMay 2015.

Mike Amesbury is a Manchester City Councillor, a National Policy Forum Rep and former Labour North West Regional Official

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Conference diary

24/09/2014, 04:09:45 PM

How big has the Labour conference been this year? With the party looking to form a government next May this was the last chance for the usual retinue of lobbyists and influence peddlers to ply their trade to shadow ministers who just might be making actual decisions in a few months’ time.

Certainly the ring of steel surrounding the conference centre here in Manchester seemed smaller than in recent years and the security was noticeably less oppressive.

But how do you measure the size of a conference and whether you’re attracting the movers and shakers? Square footage of steel fencing? Numbers queuing at the Midland Hotel bar?

“Young women” says a journalist at one of the better newspapers. “That’s how you tell if you’re winning, how many young women are attending.”

Metaphor of the week: Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Mary Creagh, describing buses as a “Cinderella service”. But didn’t Cinders prefer to travel by coach and horse?


Conference hall Kremlinology. Former Countryfile presenter, Miriam O’Reilly, who successfully sued the BBC over ageism, was in action on Tuesday, chairing a session of conference.

A favourite of Harriet Harman, O’Reilly was shortlisted for the Heywood and Middleton by-election, despite having no obvious connection to the area. This led to a peasants’ revolt against and an effort to back eventual winner Liz McInnes.

But O’Reilly is nothing if not tenacious and her appearance on the platform guarantees we haven’t seen the last of her.


One of the undoubted benefits of holding political conferences in cities is the range of pubs and restaurants available.

One of the downsides is that delegates disperse to the four winds leaving many evening fringe events and the main conference hotel bars half empty – until they return in the wee small hours because its the only place left open.

Welcome competition this year came from a food and drink festival in St Peter’s Square which became a favourite of conference-goers.

And the top tipple for a party once committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament and slashing defence spending? ’13 Guns.’

Who says Labour can’t identify any cuts. Over at the New Statesman, the enterprising Harry Lambert has calculated that frontbench speeches were on average just 1,200 words long, with rumours of a word count to corral any windy shadow ministers.

Tough on boilerplate rhetoric, tough on the cause of boilerplate rhetoric? We approve.

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The proud history of towns like Manchester and Leeds offers Labour a model for practical socialism

28/09/2012, 09:53:53 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Alan Bennett has written that he felt growing up in Leeds in the 1940s can’t have been unlike growing up in a fifteenth-century Italian city state, such was Leeds’ sense of itself. Now Leeds has more councillors over the age of 80 than under the age of 35. It is not ageist to see this, sadly, as a sign of civic decline.

Similarly, the grandeur of Manchester town hall, which will again play host to events at Labour party conference, seems to recall a time when the city was more certainly in command of its future.

Paul Salveson recently published a book that describes and celebrates a distinctive northern socialism that never waited for a hand out or hand up from London. Long before the classic social democracy of Crosland and Hattersley, which saw mechanical reform from the commanding heights of Whitehall as the road to socialism, Salveson’s heroes – such as Hannah Mitchell, Benjamin Rushton and Ben Turner – got on with morally reforming themselves and their communities with a swagger to put the Stone Roses in the shade.

Salveson’s writings uncover a past where active equality, driven by civic pride, was the norm. A pride which brings to mind in a more localised sense a line that Tim Soutphommasane, an inspiration to Jon Cruddas, is said to be fond of: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

This is not the socialism of ambiguous metropolitanism but an urgency to right the wrongs and champion the distinctiveness of the particular and specific place that forms and is formed by its people.

The building blocks of the national rebuilding that Cruddas seeks are to be found in recovering this urgency. The UK will be rebuilt street by street, community by community, city by city, country by country.

Hope does not reside in nebulous, arm-chair discussions on the nature of Britishness, Englishness or Scottishness, but in the practical steps of active equality. Action precedes hope, not the other way around, pace Barack Obama 2008 vintage.

Unsurprisingly, Richard Florida reports that mayors are more popular than other politicians. They are potent vessels of civic pride, which Mitchell, Rushton and Turner would recognise, targeted only upon pragmatic solutions. While Whitehall mandarins fight their turf wars and most politicians fixate on the urgent, mayors knock heads together, cross dress and build allegiances beyond tribal lines as required to secure the important.

Mayors were largely rejected at referendums in England in May. However, as Henry Ford knew, people would have stated a preference for faster horses before knowing what cars are. As far as possible, the attributes of automobiles must now be grafted on to the equine structures that grasp towards leadership of our cities. In other words, we should devolve power to the existing institutions, rather than seeking to have institutional change precede this. Putting rocket boosters under the city deals programme is an obvious way of advancing this.


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Cameron must rethink police cuts

11/08/2011, 02:14:05 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

Two weeks ago, I highlighted the embarrassing gulf between David Cameron’s pre-election promise that cuts would not affect the front line, and the reality of the planned police cuts, as set out in the recent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

There is undoubtedly scope for efficiency savings in the police, but as HMIC set out, with 81% of police funding going on staff costs, and another 10% going on areas like transport and premises, cuts of 20% were always going to cut deep into police numbers. HMIC’s report is the most systematic and rigorous attempt so far, to estimate not just the likely effect on total police numbers – a cut of 16,000 by 2015, ironically the exact number the Met have deployed on London’s streets in recent nights – but also the likely effect on the front line for different forces around the country.

This is relevant to Cameron’s defence of the policing cuts today, when he was confronted in the Commons by former Home Secretary Jack Straw. To justify his assertion that the cuts will not affect the front line, or visible patrolling, Cameron chose to discuss his own local force, Thames Valley. This choice was either ignorant, or disingenuous. A glance at the graph on page 22 of the HMIC report shows the difference in the scale of the challenge faced by Thames Valley Police, in trying to protect the front line from spending cuts, compared to those forces who have been dealing with the riots, including the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Merseyside. Thames Valley Police would have to reduce their non-front-line officers by just under 50%, in order to avoid cutting into the front line. That is challenging, but arguably possible. By contrast, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, and Merseyside forces would have to cut their non-front-line officers by 100%. Even those who hold the simplistic view that almost all ‘back office’ jobs are unnecessary would have to admit that to cut at this level without affecting front line police numbers is simply impossible.

As public concern about crime and policing soars, the government seems to be trapped in defending two increasingly indefensible claims: first, that the cuts won’t reduce front line police numbers, and second, that anyway police numbers don’t affect crime. This position was already starting to look naïve or complacent before the riots, especially with the signs that the long downward trend in crime may be on the turn. Now it looks reckless and hopelessly out of touch, as even Conservative MPs and ‘ministerial sources’ admit.

It has been amusing, if also a bit depressing, to watch Tory cheerleaders like Tim Montgomerie suggest that the way out of this problem is for Theresa May to introduce a new target for how much time police officers actually spend doing visible work. In fact, May inherited such a target from Labour. Admittedly, it was applied only to Neighbourhood Policing Teams, but she could have chosen to extend it; instead, in those heady days of last summer when ministers were falling over themselves to mock Labour’s ‘top-down targets’, she scrapped it.

Even more ridiculous is the spectacle of Conservative MPs and Conservative-leaning think-tankers trying to use the riots to back up the case for elected police commissioners – just like they did with the scandal over the Met’s links to News International – without realising that the Met is precisely the one police force which is already very close to the elected commissioner model.

These rather desperate moves are not surprising, since other than elected commissioners, and some useful development of Labour’s introduction of online crime maps, the government doesn’t really have any crime policies – and yet they need to talk about something other than police cuts. But these moves aren’t working. As John McTernan noted this morning, Cameron’s reluctance to break off his holiday to grip the riots ignored the “basic political law, that if you’re going to have to do something, you should do it of your own free will, rather than being forced to.” He needs to realise that rethinking the police cuts falls in the same category.

Matt Cavanagh was a special adviser on crime and justice under the last Labour government.

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Join the Labour heist on the Tory crown jewels: Trafford

08/04/2011, 12:00:22 PM

by Andrew Leask

The past few weeks have been a difficult time for communities across the country. But none more so than Greater Manchester. It has been said before, that the PM’s politics may well have been developed on the playing fields of Eton. In recent years Cameron has flirted with Manchester: there was the getting to know you PM direct session, spending the night during party conferences and even gifts: Greater Manchester will soon become the country’s first combined authority. But he is now performing the parliamentary equivalent of pulling Manchester’s hair, spreading rumours about it on the bus and calling it names in the playground. It seems that what they say about Cameron’s politics is true.

So how has the Tory-Lib Dem government got away with its repeated accusations that Manchester (in particular) is subjecting its citizens to politically motivated cuts. Cuts entirely of their own making and not due to anything the national government may have done or wanted. Well, obviously there is outright propaganda and spin. But beyond that, the Tories have sought to use their “jewel” in the north, their only council in the entire Greater Manchester region: Trafford.

Time and again, Conservatives have used Trafford as a comparison piece when trying to claim that national cuts do not have to mean job losses or reduced services. But regardless of the differences of need, resource and actual funding allocations of Manchester and Trafford, it is fundamentally untrue that services are not suffering and that people will not lose their jobs. For example, in the ward I’m fighting in, Broadheath, our local park wardens have already lost their jobs. Not only does this add to the skyrocketing unemployment statistics, but it has a real effect on our local community. Without park wardens, our green spaces are slowly falling into a state of disrepair and being used for all sorts of anti social behaviour. The Trafford cuts are real, and they are affecting all of us in the local community.

So the Labour group in Trafford is fighting hard in every ward. But to win Trafford, we need to win Broadheath. We’re up against the sitting mayor, so not only will a victory help push the council back towards a Labour majority, but will be a great PR victory too. But to win here, we’ve decided to do things a little differently.

Building on the stunning work done by people like Caroline Badley, we have built our campaign on the principles of community organising. We are seeking to equip and empower our volunteers and truly understand our local community. Whilst we’ve not quite reached Obama like levels of efficiency, we are taking huge strides. And we have been kept focused by one guiding principle: to reconnect with our volunteers, and through them, the community at large.

We have spent a long time going to churches, community groups and people’s homes and simply asking what can we do to help keep this area great. We’ve asked people to let us work with them to solve the problems they face. Already, we are starting to have an effect. Quite apart from the broken streetlights and awful potholes that we have got fixed, there’s the residents who have told us again and again, that no one has ever bothered to ask their opinion. By the simple fact we’ve done even that, they feel valued, respected and ready to engage again with the political process.

I love the community that I’m standing in. I believe the people of Trafford deserve better than a Tory council cheerleading national cuts. Looking at the voting history, we know that an extra 800 votes or so will be needed to win in my ward. We have a modern, dynamic strategy that is learning from the best political movements across the world. We are engaging volunteers by giving them responsibility, building around their skills and interests and engaging with a broad base of supporters and residents to make a positive difference in their lives.

But we don’t yet have enough people to ensure a Labour victory in May. So we’re asking activists from across the country, and particularly the north, to come and join us. To help us rob the Tory northern crown jewels.

We will be campaigning every day between now and 5 May. But in particular we want to encourage activists to come and get involved at the weekends, when we can spend the most time talking to residents and ensuring that they turn out to vote. We’ll also be phone banking Monday to Friday. So if you’re interested in helping, please email me or visit our website for more information.

Andrew Leask is the Labour candidate for Broadheath

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Where the reds play at home, by Kevin Meagher

01/10/2010, 02:30:10 PM

MANCHESTER has had a good week. This is now the best Labour conference venue by a mile. Lots to do and easy to get to. And a place where beer is served as it should be: with a head on it. Take note you lager-guzzling southerners.

Not convinced? OK, it’s also a good Labour town too. In fact, about as resolutely Labour as you get. The only Lib Dem MP for the city, John Leach, even spoke at a fringe meeting earlier this week making the case for a future Lab-Lib co-operation. And he voted against his party’s coalition deal with the Tories. Might he come over? He used to work for McDonalds so he’s used to flipping.

The first ever trades union congress was held in Manchester (1868 at the Mechanics’ Institute, since you ask).  Marx and Engels knocked out part of The Communist Manifesto sat at the wooden desk in the window alcove of the reading room of the Chetham Library in the city centre. (more…)

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