SHOCK NEWS: Manchester Climate Monthly writes nice things about a) anyone and b) councillors.
The local council elections on Thursday ended Manchester Labour’s complete control. They now only have 95 of the 96 council seats. The one odd-person-out is John Leech, who was a Liberal Democrat councillor before he was an MP (Withington 2005-2015). It will be interesting to see which scrutiny committee(s) he tries to get onto, which he succeeds in getting onto, and what he does both on and off those scrutiny committees. Manchester City Council’s string of broken promises on the environment (especially climate change) is a very very long one; Leech may be willing and able to force the council to respond, and get media coverage in a way that MCFly has basically failed to do so.
If, as is widely assumed, the 2018 local elections are an “all out” affair (because Manchester’s population growth over the last 15 years merits an overhaul of ward boundaries), then Labour’s grip might be loosened further. The Lib Dems will fancy getting a few more seats in South Manchester, and the Greens will fancy their chances too. In the intervening two years though, there is an enormous amount of non-election-focused work to be done. It remains to be seen if the non-Labour political parties are willing or indeed able to do this.
Finally, this; there were a number of Councillors who chose not to contest these elections.
Some of them MCFly didn’t know, but had heard good things about (e.g. Bridie Adams). Others we’d had interactions (positive, mostly) with. Four stand out.
Fran Shone, who was a single-term councillor in Northenden showed an interest in environmental matters and a willingness to ask awkward questions and to express discontent with the fob-off answers she was given. It was an uphill battle in Neighbourhoods Scrutiny, and that has not been solved yet.
Dan Gillard was another single-term councillor, who represented Withington. From early days Dan expressed an interest in environmental issues, and an all-too-rare willingness to engage constructively beyond the walls of Castle Grayskull. Dan was, for one year only, chair of Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee (now renamed, on his initiative, the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee). He is leaving the Council, an intensely hierarchical and doctrinaire organisation for the less trying locale of… the priesthood (I shit you not). Manchester Labour Party can ill-afford to lose people of his intelligence, humour and integrity, nor can the city itself. Our loss is the Vatican’s gain.
Alistair Cox has been a ward councillor for Moss Side for 16 years. In the time I’ve known him, he has been diligent, hard-working, generous, interested, and not “up himself”. He assures me that the new councillor is a good ‘un. Whatever happens, they are big shoes to fill (as also they were when another long-serving councillor, Roy Waters, stepped down in 2014). I’ve heard a lot of scurrilous gossip about many councillors (none of it printable). I’ve never heard a negative word said of Alistair.
Finally, Neil Swannick was a councillor for Bradford ward from 1998. Neil was also the second Executive Member for the Environment and did an enormous amount to get environmental issues generally – and climate change specifically – onto the Council’s agenda before it became ‘sexy’ in 2008-9. His “Principles Document” from 2007 makes for depressing reading now (i.e. ‘look how far we haven’t come’). It is an absolute tragedy that the momentum he built, and the policies he proposed, were not continued after his term finished. No Executive Member for the Environment since then has come within a thousand miles of his ability; If and when the history of Manchester City Council and its environmental policy failures is written, there will be a chapter entitled “If only…” with Neil’s name throughout.
MCFly wishes these four councillors all the best for their futures, and thanks them for doing what they did.