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.