People look at the Manchester Climate Change “Agency” and are lost in figuring out how it relates to the other bits of the puzzle; who funds it, who scrutinises it, who sets the direction, who is – ultimately -responsible. And they wonder if the confusion is an accident.
Sure, you should usually go for “cock-up” over conspiracy, but in this case….
the secrecy, the opaqueness, the lack of accountability? Those are all features, not bugs. It was designed for this. It is functioning exactly as intended. As a camoflague stabvest lightning rod. It’s doing exactly what it is supposed to. Fooling the taxpayer, with taxpayer funds, no less (1).
Between 2010 and 2015 the Council had failed to have a “stakeholder steering group” that even so much as allowed stakeholders to observe. The “Agency” was set up as a community interest company at the end of this period. Fun fact – they are immune from the Freedom of Information Act. Such luck!
The very question of who gets to be a stakeholder is crucial, and when it comes to Manchester, easy. As long as you are willing to be a cheerleader. That’s what they mean when they say “stakeholder.”
Yeah, look, academics will take get hold of this and they will dress it up “sociologists invent words than mean ‘industrial disease’.” And they will say Ranciere-this and Badiou-that and governmentality maybe and Foucault and capillary power. Some may even manage to squeeze Bourdieu and the whole habitus in too, if they’re determined.
Let’s cut to the chase – “stakeholder” has three syllables. So, we need another easy phrase that explains what stakeholders – in the city council’s version – are.
It has to be in commonly understood, and no more than three syllables.
I’ll give you two “cheerleader” and “human shield.”
If you are willing to lobotomize yourself, refuse to remember last year’s promises, and just applaud and say, “Oh, you know, finally the council is moving, these things take time” then you may have the honour and the privilege of being an approved stakeholder. If however, you have two brain cells to rub together and or a spine, or God forbid both, and you challenge the council about last year’s promises and shifting baselines, then you are part of the – here’s another three syllables – “awkward squad” and you are no longer a stakeholder You are a troublemaker a malcontent.
And that, my friends is how democracy is played. Now, it’s not unique to Manchester. But there are several factors that make the use of this tactic in Manchester, particularly easy and particularly persistent. But that’s for another time.
(1) “Am I buying a stick to beat myself with, or contributing to party funds?” sings TV Smith. Quite.
This reminds me of an organisation called ‘The Chorlton Community Land Trust’ (CCLT) which mysteriously appeared out of nowhere a couple of years ago. There is much suspicion, locally, that this is a council stooge organisation the purpose of which is to give fake legitimacy to development in Chorlton. Unsurprisingly, the CCLT approves of development on Ryebank Fields – a valuable local green field site which the the council gifted to one of Manchester Metropolitan University’s predecessors, as playing fields, several years ago. MMU now want to sell the land off for development. The ‘real’ community is fiercely opposed to any such development.
But the language that big business understands best is one of increased consumerism, economic stimulation and profit-margin growth.
The usual tradeoff, of course, is big business’s destruction and max-exploitation of laborers, resources, and natural environment. For example, fossil fuel extraction, including the toxic mess it often leaves behind, is euphemistically referred to as the “energy sector,” even by corporate news-media (at least here in Canada).
And they’ll repeat stupid-sounding catchphrases, like “It’s the economy, stupid”.
I’ve found that to have a steady comfortably-livable-wage job thus reliable healthy food and shelter in contemporary society are increasingly being considered a privilege.
To such mega-money-minded people, ‘practical’ (including human and environment friendly) solutions will always be predicated on economic ‘reality,’ the latter which is mostly created and entrenched according to industry interests.
Indeed, for an elected leader to try reworking this virtual corporate-rule ‘reality’ would seriously risk his/her own governance, however a landslide election victory he/she may have won.