TL:DR – it comes down to citizen action. It was always going to come down to citizen action, it will always come down to citizen action. Party politics is a) the shadow cast on society by big business (Dewey) and b) show business for ugly people. “Salvation” comes from citizen action. This article “analyses” (glibly glosses) the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, the Greens and Labour in #Manchester, speculates on what is coming up and closes out with that hardy perennial “what is to be done?” (Did I mention citizen action?).
First off, I suck at predictions. Take everything that follows with that in mind. I guessed plus two Lib Dems and plus zero Greens. What happened? Minus one Lib Dem and plus one Green.
Second, read the disclaimer at the end of this article.
Third, saddle up, mofos. If you want any sort of in-the-same-universe-as-adequacy response to the climate catastrophe, you ain’t getting it from our elected Lords and Masters. Nor from our unelected ones. As someone once said, we are the ones we have been waiting for…
Fun facts. There are 32 wards in Manchester – from Higher Blackely in the north to Woodhouse Park in the south. 3 councillors per ward. Each councillor gets a four year term. Elections usually take place 3 years out of 4.
Before today it was 92 Labour, 2 Lib Dem, two vacancies.
Now it is 94 Labour, 1 Lib Dem, 1 Green.
What does it mean for climate action? What role does each other parties play in this ecosystem? What next for each of them? What, more broadly, does the future look like for Manchester? What are “we” non-party-hack people of good-ish faith supposed to do? Also, that disclaimer.
The Tories are simply not a force here, and they know it. They run paper candidates, don’t bother to respond to invites to take part in hustings, don’t get their candidates to respond to climate commitments. They come a distant second in a handful of wards. Nationally they make a good (in several senses) excuse for the City Council’s inaction on a bunch of things that the City Council could be acting on. Beyond that, locally, fuggedaboutit.
Oh my they will be disconsolate. In 2010 they had a third of the council seats in this city, chaired two scrutiny committees, thought they might take over in another 5 years with some luck. Then Nick Clegg did his deal to get a limo and some red boxes, thus enabling Cameron and Osborne and their vicious class war. Manchester voters did not forgive, and have not forgotten. The beachhead that they opened up in Didsbury West a few years ago, which saw John Leech followed by two other candidates, is now closing. One of the other two went to Labour, the other lost his seat this time round. The marginal-in-2019 seat of Withington is now safe Labour, and the City Centre did not turn out for them whatsoever.
They now have just the one councillor, Leech (will he sit on any scrutiny committees? We shall see). Labour will come for him at the next election. They will choose an energetic young campaigner (the demographics can be speculated on) and go hard. It’s not like they are defending any marginals elsewhere – they can afford to redirect people and money. Without a phalanx of other Lib Dem councillors who have been getting stuff done, getting name recognition, building morale, Leech will be exquisitely vulnerable. Obviously anything can happen, but the chances of a Lib Dem presence, let alone aresurgence, well… this was a good year to challenge Labour, and it’s not clear future years will be any easier… Some supporters and candidates will head for the exits (others of course will stick around, new ones may show up). Once you lose momentum though, it’s hard to attract and retain new folks (as various environmental groups have found/will find – the dynamics are the same.)
Personal prediction – Labour will take Didsbury West next year, the Lib Dems will not pick up any other seats and it will be 2013 to 2017 all over again…
I misunderestimated the Greens this year. Partly because I live so far from Woodhouse Park, partly because I was relying on now-outdated knowledge (like everyone else only maybe moreso, I can be intellectually lazy.)
The Greens now have a councillor again, for the first time since 2008.
Which scrutiny commmittee(s) will he sit on? What else will he do? He will obviously want to work very hard on local-to-Woodhouse Park issues, but will he also come out swinging on climate change (he signed up to the 3 climate commitments of Climate Emergency Manchester.
Will the Green Party of today (see above – a different beast to that of 15 years ago) be able to support him effectively in his ward?
What other target wards can the Greens seriously look at? They would need a two or three year strategy (at least!) given the size of Labour’s majorities everywhere else. Three options seem to be Whalley Range (their last target ward – they came unstuck in the all-out election in 2018), Fallowfield (too many students, who don’t vote? too close to the Withington and Moss Side strongholds?) and Piccadilly, where their paper candidate did very nicely indeed. This third option would allow them to talk about air quality but also the skyscraper-itis/developer-friendly ideology of Manchester Labour. They’d need a solid, media-friendly local-to-ward candidate who was definitely up for a minimum of 24 months of back-breaking slog to have even the faintest whiff of a chance…
The Greens will also have to find meaningful work for their new members (they will pick up some new members from this – nothing succeeds like success) and maybe some disaffected Lib Dems, and be (much much) better at retaining them than they were in that green surge of the mid 2010s. Do they have those skills and capacities? We shall see.
While all around (insert Hartlepool reference, insert Oldham reference blah de blah) Labour strongholds were falling, Manchester is still full of bast…ions of red.
Why? Oh, Brexit/Leave resentment not a thing here. Metropolitan/cosmopolitan. Habit. Inertia. It ain’t that tens of thousands have been lifted out of poverty by well-paid retail and service industry jobs, and the City Council’s ambitious redistributive and social justice efforts, it really isn’t.
What does this mean for climate action? It means that the forces of delay, derision and spin are as strong as ever, if not stronger. If Labour had gotten a bloody nose here (lost 4 seats to Lib Dems, and 1 to the Green), then those who think that a change should come would have had the wind in their sails. That ship has sailed/sunk (as has the image). The Glorious Leader MAY still step down next March (as some unsubstantiated rumour had it). And maybe it is in fact more rather than less likely, now that it would more clearly be his choice. Or maybe TGL will try to go on and on like a certain M. Thatcher. It’s unclear who the Heseltine is though…
Labour will continue to be wedded to the inward investment at all costs model that it has had since the 1987 election defeat of Kinnock. Climate and green issues will be thought of through that prism. The fact that they have suffered precisely zero electoral consequences for either the Great Ancoats St debacle or the Central Retail Park will massively strengthen the hand of the “smear the dirty hippies” brigade. Fun times.
Obviously some Labour councillors (old and new) “get it” and both know and act like it is an emergency (yes, I am in fact saying #NotAllLabourCouncillors). But they remain relatively few, relatively isolated. Others who were in that category have instead decided… well, there are very nasty libel laws in this country, so Imma move on…
What is coming up?
Oh, so a helluva lot is coming up before the actual apocalypse (pencilled in for 2030, since you ask). But of this we shall not speak in depth (because there is an official Climate Emergency Manchester post on this very topic on Monday. But this – the Manchester Climate Change “Agency” is now literally a headless chicken – they’ve failed to appoint a director twice already, and an employee who has been there since it was invented to replace the laughable “Stakeholder Steering Group” of 2010-2015, is moving on to pastures … well, different pastures. They are supposed to be putting together yet another wretched “framework” for the years 2022-5 (everyone’s lost count of how many relaunches, refreshes we are up to now).
They will try to
a) spin their way out of a carbon budget blow-out in September by going on and on and ON about COP26 and Glasgow (climate as opportunity to talk about Manchester on world stage, example 2353)
b) minimise the attack surface by treating the new Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny Committee as shabbily as possible, and then some.
What is to be done?
- Don’t expect the “parties” to do the heavy lifting (though the Greens will do the best they can).
- Get involved in a group that is taking the acquisition, sharing and keeping-up-to-date of skills, knowledge and relationships seriously.
- Get involved in a group that has the stomach, spine, feet, hands, mouth and brains for a prolonged, forensic, granular engagement with these issues, that can hold the Council to account, that can contribute to making a bigger, ever-more-densely-connected network of citizens, residents and organisations so that the truth is both told and acted upon.
- On climate – and I am obviously entirely biased – I only know one group that comes close to fulfilling all those criteria (though in a year’s time, maybe there will be more).
Which brings us, diminuendo, to the disclaimer…
Disclaimer: The author of this piece, Dr Marc Hudson, is not a member of any political party. Never has been. IS a core group member of the infamous Climate Emergency Manchester. This above is his personal view, has not been seen before publication by any other CEM core grouper, does not represent blah blah etc All rights reserved. Cocker Protocol blah blah.