Discover more from The Mill
A loud protest from Greater Manchester’s 'forgotten towns'
Plus: Andy Burnham’s path back to Westminster, and the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s briefing. We’ve got a bit more local politics analysis, a report on what happened in Bury’s elections last week, a lovely Didsbury flat for sale and a recommended read about a music festival in 1970s Wigan.
🎧 In place of a weekend read, we recorded a special podcast episode that took an in-depth look into what the results of GM’s elections mean. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or on Spotify below.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “Our weather will turn cooler and mixed this week, however there are signs of much warmer weather soon.”
Tuesday 🌦 Overnight rain will promptly clear to leave a windy day consisting of sunshine and a few showers. Max 17°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Breezy with sunny intervals and occasional blustery showers. Feeling cooler than of late. Max 15°c.
Thursday ☁️ Mostly cloudy and cool with light showers possible. Max 14°c.
Friday ⛅️ Largely cloudy and breezy with occasional showers. Max 15°c.
Weekend ⛅️Turning warmer and sunnier with high pressure likely to build in. Temperatures could reach the low twenties from Sunday onwards.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: What we can learn from Bury’s election
Top line: Despite lots of jitters in recent weeks, Labour held on to its majority on Bury Council last week. And that result is worth considering if we want to understand where politics is going in Greater Manchester (and the country).
Some context: Lots of people were watching Bury at last week’s local elections. Firstly, because it had “all outs” elections, meaning all its councillors were facing voters. And secondly, because Bury is one of the most marginal areas in the country — the Conservatives won Bury North by just 105 votes at the last General Election, making it the most marginal constituency. They also won Bury South by 402 votes, making it the 10th most marginal seat, before the new MP Christian Wakeford defected to Labour earlier this year.
As one Labour councillor put it to us a few weeks ago, if the party can’t start performing well in Bury again, it won’t form the next government.
Labour held the council and actually increased their majority by one seat, so they now have 29 councillors out of a total of 51.
The Conservatives lost four seats, leaving them with 12 councillors.
Analysis: Clearly, Labour has stopped its recent slide in Bury. The controversial Clean Air Zone didn’t seem to hurt Labour as much as some councillors feared. Local elections guru Chris Terry says that the party’s improving relations with the Jewish community might have helped too, and he pointed to the changing demographics of areas like the rapidly-gentrifying Prestwich, where Labour now has eight of the nine seats after taking three from the Lib Dems.
An interesting trend is the rise of hyperlocal party Radcliffe First, who took two seats from the Tories and now have five councillors in Radcliffe’s three wards. This is a trend we’ve seen across Greater Manchester in recent years, in Leave-voting towns like Farnworth, Failsworth and Middleton, where hyperlocal parties have successfully argued that their towns are being overlooked by the boroughs they sit in.
The brand new Middleton Independents Party won five seats last week and are now the third largest party in Rochdale, having run on a “Middleton before Rochdale” message (our friends at Rochdale Online have a great report on results there). The Failsworth Independent Party picked up two more seats on Oldham Council, having unseated former leader Sean Fielding last year, so they now have five councillors.
Labour figures tend to dismiss these parties as ex-UKIP cranks who spread the idea that their mostly white areas are losing out on funding to the more diverse communities of Oldham/Rochdale/Bolton etc. The hyperlocals — many of whom had nothing to do with UKIP — say they are highlighting important local issues.
For example, Radcliffe hasn’t had a secondary school for over a decade, something which an issue that was the centrepiece of traditional parties in the area and was the centrepiece of Radcliffe First’s campaign. Eamonn O’Brien, the Labour leader of Bury, told The Mill that Radcliffe First is a “classic protest party,” but admitted the area hasn’t been given enough help:
I’ve recognised that Radcliffe is a place that has struggled, has had real challenges as a result of austerity, and I was honest, I said I don’t think we’ve done enough as a council to help people and services and institutions in Radcliffe.
Radcliffe First leader James Mason told us: “if we’re a protest party, and we’re getting voted in, then the people are protesting.” Mason said more independent parties are the key to local councils getting things done, and that the “blue-red divide” that defines most councils in GM isn’t in the best interests of local people: “they won’t vote for something good because it’s the opposition’s idea.”
Highlight of the night: In a great moment of local election drama, two Tory candidates for Radcliffe North — deputy leader Paul Cropper and his colleague Jo Lancaster — received the same number of votes. They had to draw straws to decide who would take the seat, Cropper drew the short straw and promptly left the election count.
As we pointed out in Friday’s edition, Labour lost seats overall across Greater Manchester. The results seem to show that the party has stopped haemorrhaging support to the Tories in Leave-voting areas, but isn’t showing great strength either. Sarah Longlands from the influential Centre for Local Economic Strategies told us:
The results in Greater Manchester and other places in the North are not convincing for Labour. They weren't providing a bold enough or clear enough alternative on the economy or on the cost of living. It doesn't convince me that Labour is going to romp home at the next general election.
Want to hear more about last week’s local elections? Listen to Joshi and Darryl discuss the results on our special weekend podcast.
Home of the Week
Inside this lovely Didsbury building is a 2-bedroom ground floor flat. It features a walk-in bay window and a balcony. It’s on the market for £295,000.
Your Mill news briefing
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer promised today that he will quit if he is fined by police over “beergate”. And if he does stand down, it will probably be Greater Manchester that provides the replacement, with Andy Burnham, Angela Rayner and Lisa Nandy all very popular among party members. This weekend, Nandy was asked if she would run for leader again and she gave an answer that “sounded a little bit like another leadership pitch” according to Sky’s political presenter Sophy Ridge. Rayner, as deputy leader, is an obvious replacement. But what about Burnham? We hear that his path back to Westminster, should he choose to return, would come via the Wigan constituency of Makerfield, where sitting MP Yvonne Fovargue might announce her retirement at a time that suits the mayor. That might not work in time for a Beergate-induced leadership election, however — a Labour source thinks Burnham’s rivals would block his return by making sure the party’s ruling executive didn’t allow a by-election before the leadership contest.
There might be more glassy towers going up around Deansgate Square. Renaker, one of Manchester’s most prolific builders, are in talks to acquire a site on Great Jackson Street which “has planning permission in place for a three-tower development comprising 399 apartments,” says Place North West, with one of them reaching 32 storeys. Will these new edifices add some much-needed variety to the Manchester skyline? Don’t hold your breath. They have been designed by SimpsonHaugh, the architects behind the existing Deansgate Square towers and the firm that seems to win big projects in Manchester with unerring predictability. More here.
An inquest has opened into the death of 24-year-old Kyle Bolton, the latest young person to die after attending an event at The Warehouse Project. Bolton died in the early hours of April 10, just over a month ago, and was understood to have taken MDMA before becoming unwell. The coroner has adjourned the inquest to a later date. More here. Members can read our report on the inquest of James Diss, a 20-year-old DJ who died after collapsing at The Warehouse Project last September.
Greater Manchester’s broadband gets an upgrade
If you live in Stockport, Didsbury, Withington or the Heatons (or anywhere in that neck of the woods) you will soon be able to get your broadband via 100% fibre optic cables, with prices starting at £25 a month. Brsk, a new independent broadband provider, are installing lightning-fast internet connections across the south of Greater Manchester, and they have sponsored this week’s Monday briefing. Someone at Brsk is a longtime Miller and they wanted to both support us and spread the good news about their work to upgrade and future-proof the city’s digital infrastructure. Many households currently have access to fibre broadband, but it is provided by part-fibre, part-copper cables, which are slow and unreliable. That’s why you are experiencing lag and buffering when streaming your favourite shows — and waiting longer for your Mill newsletters. Click here to find out more and register your interest, or call 0330 0886947.
Our favourite reads
Obituary — Sir James Anderton, ‘God’s Cop’ — The Telegraph
Branded as “outspoken” and “controversial”, Sir James Anderton was the chief constable of Greater Manchester. “He would typically pray for the strength to ‘smite the devil from the streets’, an echo of his early days as a beat bobby in Moss Side where the prostitutes would laugh in his face, and where he was known as Bible Jim.”
Death threats for imam who took on fanatics — The Sunday Times
This is the story of the Manchester imam, Mohammed El-Saeiti, who spoke out at the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena Bombing. “A week after he gave evidence, El-Saeiti was confronted in the street outside his home by three men who threatened him. One told him in no uncertain terms what the consequences would be if he continued to speak out. “You’ll be dead,’ he told the terrified imam.”
An Ode to Curry Mile — Huck Magazine
This is a lovely piece by journalist Zesha Saleem, who shares her memories of Wilmslow Road, and writes about Rusholme’s rich history and the influence of the South Asian community. There are also some great portraits to go with the piece. “And of course, there’s no trip to the Curry Mile if you don’t bump into people you know.”
Lost in the mud — Tortoise
Longtime Miller David Barnett wrote a great piece about Bickershaw Festival in Wigan in 1972. He has absolutely no memory of it (he was two at the time), but knows it was “amazing”. For starters, it was organised by a “flamboyant” Wigan trader known as the Count and a pair of Salford businessmen. He tracked down a few people who can remember what it was like. “The Count didn’t have a clue about anything other than waltzing around in a top hat,” says someone who went to the festival.
Seizing the means of food production and loving it — The Meteor
Meet some of Manchester’s urban gardeners who are growing their own food — there are fruit trees and bees in Seymour Grove Allotments and free-range chickens in Fallowfield. Andy Warmen, who has lived in Fallowfield for 16 years, told The Meteor: “It really kept me busy in lockdown but now with the price of food going up so much and the friendly exchanges with neighbours and friends why stop?”
🕵️♀️ Our eyes and ears
Our office on St Ann’s Square is a great place to drop in for a chat. If you have a story or some information you’d like to share, do feel free to come in for a cup of tea. If the city centre’s too far for a visit, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
Our to do list
💐 As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, flower growers Bloom & Gorgeous in Altrincham is running a flower arranging workshop. You’ll learn how to create a beautiful bouquet. Starts 6.30pm. Book here.
📺 Celebrate 100 years of the BBC at the Science and Industry Museum. Learn about one of the UK’s earliest radio stations, which was based in Manchester, and how technology is changing the way we watch and listen. Info here.
💌 John Rylands Library is hosting an interesting lecture called “The Ghost of the Letter: Corresponding Subjects and Objects”. Starts 5.30pm with a drinks reception. Book here.
💊 The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society is holding a talk at the Midlands Hotel. If you work in the research or medical field — or are just curious — you’re invited to come along. Starts at 6.30pm. Book here.
🍝 Sugo Pasta Kitchen has opened in Sale, which is good news for all you pasta aficionados (they promise that their pasta is best eaten with a spoon). Info here.
📚 Creative Society Manchester is bringing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to life in The Portico Library. Get crafty and creative with paints, but beware — Friday the 13th is unlucky for some! Book here.
💬 OT Creative Space in Old Trafford is inviting people to share their stories over a cuppa as they eye up a brand new audio trail. Join them between 6-7pm. Info here.
Letters to the editor
I love your article about the secret garden (‘In search of the secret garden’). So much rings true! Nature is glorious and so good for us humans. I recently got to know a new species of conifer, the most graceful dancers in the wind. I don’t know whether it’s a fit noble or a cedar. But having noticed them, I now see them everywhere. Brigitte, Fallowfield
Manchester leading the way forward again by reaching for the stars, or at least Mars (‘Blood, sweat and moon dust’). Time that the scientific community here got national media coverage rather than US comedy coverage? I always smile when I see the caption “BBC/ITV/C4 Northern correspondent” — one person covering nearly 20 million people. Tony, Macclesfield
On your foray into the wild area at the end of your piece (‘In search of the secret garden’), it encouraged me to look at one of my Alan Godfrey maps of the park dating 1922. There were many large houses built around Buile Hill in Victorian times, villas called Summer Hill, Gorsefield, Chaseley House and Fern Hill all opposite Sandy Grove and Brentwood. Maybe it was one of those gardens, now derelict that you went in. Anne, West Midlands