Manchester City Council’s full council meetings, which happen about 6 times a year, or so (1) are generally a circus, and a second-rate one (2). Maybe it was ever thus, but the recent total dominance of the council by the Labour Party (3) has not helped it become a beacon of reasoned debate. Today was no exception.
There was the usual opening plea for reasoned and dignified debate. This was literally nodded through. And – in the time allotted to a presentation by Manchester City football club about its sustainability actions – then forgotten.
Because then, when it came time for the sole motion….
Let’s back up a moment. If one party dominates so entirely, then what is full Council for? Well, obvs they have a legal obligation to meet, even if it’s show business. But what it has meant is that Council comes to serve three purposes
- propagandising and stiffening the spines of councillors who may be wondering if things are on track. That’s what today’s aforementioned Manchester City presentation was about. Councillors can now say to worried residents “I sw a very useful and inspiring presentation about sustainability. The COuncil and its allies are doing a good job’. It’s akin to glossy in-house magazines in corporate world. Not there to inform, but to soothe.
- public speaking practice for councillors new and old (and some of the new ones are old-hands, while some of the old ones are… well, moving swiftly on
- the passing of headline-grabbing and patronage/pandering motions, which usually have an “also, Liberal Democrats are awful human beings” amendment or some such.
Which brings us back to the sole motion today .
It started life as a simple “20 years of the Christmas Markets: how cool is that? How cool are we?” So far, so standard. Councillor Pat Karney proposed it. Councillor Luthfur Rahman seconded it, in six words (there is a God).
While Karney was proposing the motion, he took note of the movements of the leader of the opposition, Cllr John Leech. Leech had gone up to talk to the City Councillor. Karney was amused and mocking “we’re all wondering why Councillor Leech is so agitated and irritated…” and then pretending Leech wanted to start the Xmas markets in September.
Karney was stepping on a rake. Again.
Leech was (I presume) actually pointing out to the City Solicitor that the second amendment to the motion was out of order.
And so she later declared, saying it had nowt to do with the original motion.
It was, in fact, an electioneering stunt, the standard (and fwiw accurate/I agree with it) denunciation of the Tories record these last ten years.
But thanks to Leech’s “agitation and irritation”, the amendment was not put to a vote. (Thanks to Our Glorious Leader’s pursuit, the speaker and seconder of the motion still got to have their says (both of which, interestingly, included reference to climate change. More on that later).)
Do amendments to motions get ruled out of order often? We consulted someone who knows about these things, and they told us nope, it’s quite rare indeed. As often as the closing of Deansgate by climate extremists, perhaps, to choose an example at random…
You can see the whole thing here (at 45 minutes in) https://manchester.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/393655
(1) it may be more – it certainly feels like it)
(2) Have a read of Colin Thubron’s wonderful novel ‘Falling’
(3) 93 of the 96 Councillors are Labour. Three are Liberal Democrats. There may be some change after next May. Watch this space.