The promise was simple, and cheap.
The promise was not made in haste.
The promise was repeated.
The promise… has, of course… been broken.
A month after receiving an Open Letter from Manchester citizens offering to help take climate action, Councillor Kate Chappell wrote the following;
“I’ve asked for a blog to be created for me on the Council website. Not sure why you’ve suggested March 15th as particular deadline, but I’ll aim for it. I’ll ask any other Exec members if they would like to have a blog as well.”
She missed that deadline, but that’s okay, these things happen. During a video interview on 8th April she was asked about the blog. You can see the section below (it starts at 6 mins 40)
“I am trying to resolve some.. um.. some resourcing requirements within the Council to deliver that. But it’s taking a bit of time because it’s not a top priority amongst all the things that are on my desk and other people’s desks to get the blog up and running. But I recognise that it would be a good thing to do and it’s on the list…”
Asked last week, 3 months after the promised start date, she was asked where things were up to. Came the reply – “no blog.”
Why it matters
Some will say “so what?” That’s fine. If they are happy with politicians routinely breaking simple promises, they will have nothing but joy these coming years.
Other people will wonder how citizens are supposed to trust a single word now that such a simple promise can be blithely cast aside.
This is the latest missed opportunity for a Council that claims it understands the need for doing things differently. A blog could have created a new link – and two-way communication channel -for a city that has “Single Party Control” (or, if you like, is a “One Party State”).
This is a Jump the Shark moment, as far as I’m concerned. If Councillor Chappell is so happy to take the kudos that comes from “listening”, and making promises, but cares so little for her credibility in the eyes of those beyond the charmed circle of the Town Hall and its outposts, then there’s really not much more to say, is there? Why should MCFly waste people’s time and take up Internet bandwidth by dutifully reporting her speeches and promises? Anyone?
Why this has happened
No official statement has been made. Logically, there are three possibilities. In order of escalating horror –
1) The Executive (the 9 other “top” councillors) put the kibosh on it. Unlikely (Richard Leese has a blog, after all) and they’ve been doing a certain amount of hand-wringing about doing things differently. Also, my impression is that individual Executive members have a certain amount of autonomy.
2) The Labour Group (the 94 other councillors) put the kibosh on it. Unlikely. I’ve not heard whispers to this effect, and Councillor Chappell is extremely popular (having won the ballot to become Executive Member for the Environment with a stonking majority).
3) Finally, and most sinister and alarming – the unelected officers have squashed the promised blog. In this scenario some Humphrey Appleby-type has raised eyebrows often enough that Councillor Chappell has simply backed down, perhaps in the promise of co-operation on some other “bigger” projects. Well, you know, public servant. The clue is in the name; not public “master” – public servant.
What you are “supposed” to do
“Don’t die in a ditch”, say people who are prone to giving advice. In this city you are supposed to smile when the Labour Party and their mafia kick you in the teeth. You are supposed to say “thank you, please kick me some more. I will forget last year’s broken promises. What are this year’s lines that I should be believing and parroting?”
There are lots of individuals and groups who do this (they know who they are). They think it’s better to be ‘inside the tent.’ They think access equates to influence.
Yeah, that’s really working out so well.
MCFly has never been willing (or indeed able) to play that game. For a little while, there seemed to be some hope that – with a new Executive Member for the Environment and a new Chair of the Steering Group – there might be a better way of doing things, that Manchester might pull out of its tail-spin.
Other people may still have that hope. At MCFly? Not so much.
What you can do
1) Write to Councillor Kate Chappell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and
a) tell her what you think of her decision to break her (repeated) promise on this, and
b) ask her for a full explanation of why this has happened.
2) Save the date. Monday 7th July, 7pm to 8.30pm. Details to follow.