This Council is ugly as a dog that has been chasing too many parked cars. Even if the parked cars are, as our exalted life-time leader points out, “are zero emissions, they’re only a problem when they move.”
Manchester City Council’s Planning Committee today had a choice. It chose to chase more parked cars. Outraged residents? Whatevs. An eleven thousand signature petition? Talk to the hand, sister. It seems that despite declaring a climate emergency three months ago, despite announcing they would create a ‘low carbon culture’ ten years ago, we are still in the early steps of a “journey” when it comes to, you know, respecting human life and health.
The Trees not Cars campaign had tried valiantly to resist the inevitable. Manchester City Council had bought out the leese – sorry, lease- for 37 million quid. According to a leaked email read out by the Trees not Cars superb spokeswoman, the council leader (since 1996), Richard Lease, had admitted that recouping some of that money through having a 440 space car park next to a school was therefore a Good Thing.
And of course, when it comes down to impact statements, the numbers had massaged, and apples compared to oranges (the old car park was never busy-to-full, weekends and match days not considered) but since it was a car park, well, no change there then. Yeah, of course – in the same way that a butter knife and a machete are the same thing and you’d let a three year old play with both.
But it was always (for now – see below) going to end the way it did. A couple of impassioned and articulate councillors denouncing it, others hedging and asking for some token changes that could be put on an election leaflet. Bish bosh, 7 to 3 in favour, next agenda point please. Shocked members of the public, shat on again, though this time knowing it, left the chamber…
There’s a dead white male – Antonio Gramsci (1) – who had lots of useful things to say. One of them (sorry, it is overquoted, but what are you gonna do?) is this-
“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
We have an old in every sense leadership of the council (with some young apparatchiks, it’s true). Old in body, old in thinking, unable to see that the usual tactics, of empty energy-sapping promises and misdirection, are likely not going to work in future. They do not know what to do, other than cling on, with the same blandishments, and hope that the storm of concern blows itself out. Meanwhile the new are too small in number, not yet sure of themselves, not legitimate or connected enough. The task is to continue to expose the bankruptcy of the current regime, and to work to build coalitions. It’s boring, it’s frustrating, and there have been far too many (buried and memory holed) failures in the past. But what are you gonna do?
So, a defeat again for a campaign. And what do our lords and masters want, what do they rely on at moments of fragile victory like this? They rely on the following
a) that the leadership of the campaign that has suffered a palpable defeat is unable to support their supporters through the anger and despair of the grieving phase,
b) that the leadreship cannot help people maintain and extend the skills, the knowledge and relationships that have been formed over the last weeks and months.
c) that if (as would be sensible) the campaign group connects with other groups, which connect with others, then ultimately the coalition will get
i) co-opted by a political party or
ii), or captured by dreary newspaper selling Trots, with interminable meetings and stitch-ups behind the scenes.
None of that has to turn out that way. It’s the choice of activists, but like so many choices in life, not a conscious choice, but one of the usual compromises, the usual patterns and habits, the usual fear of innovating.
Here’s another smart guy (and yes, this post has been a sausage fest – my bad) to close out with –
“If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that’s something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can’t live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.”
Random points that I probably should have integrated above, but it’s hella late and nobody is paying me for this.
1) Maybe if senior officers and chairs of committees might spend as much time informing themselves of what the filming meetings policy of the Council ACTUALLY says as they do in trying to get people not to film, they might have a little more credibility and get a little respect. #justsaying and watch this space…
2) Anyone wanna bet that in two years the Council, quite liking the income the park generates, say something like “well, it’s already been here two years, so the little tikes’ lungs have probably gotten use to it – what’s another two years between ‘friends’. [assumimg the whole thing doesn’t become a pitched battle site with XR etc stopping it being done]
(1) I recently had cause to reflect that just because somebody likes Gramsci, it doesn’t mean they are not a worse-than-useless twunt. Sorry for the venomous attack. Not sorry.