Discover more from The Mill
Has an 'anti-woke' police chief rescued GMP?
The return to 'basic policing', plus: Manchester Museum pitches itself to 'ordinary folk'
Dear Millers — as the darkness descends on Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve as it used to be known, we have some thematically inappropriate news to bring: not of death or terror but the joyous tidings that we’ve had our best 24 hours for new subscriptions in many months, with 50 new members joining up since we sent Joshi’s editor’s note yesterday. It means we’ve now passed 1,550 paying subs, a few days after reaching 1,500.
So, first of all, a very warm welcome to all of our new members! It feels like a great vote of confidence in our future growth that so many of you have joined at this particular moment. Joshi’s note about The Mill reaching break-even after two years of publishing has prompted a massive response — thanks for all your emails and tweets.
Here’s a sample of the reactions: “Great to see a UK startup making local news pay,” tweeted the New Statesman’s media correspondent William Turvill. Local reporter Rebecca Maer said the news was “A clear signal of hope for local journalism”. “I believed in what you were doing over 2 years ago and I still do,” wrote Anne, a longtime member, in the comments. “What a great moment! I’m so glad to be a part of the Mill,” wrote another member Dorli, adding: “Let’s keep going for a very long time.”
Ok, indulge us, here are a handful more: “This is such a great organisation, producing some fantastic journalism,” tweeted Mark Lomas. Longtime Miller Nigel Sarbutts tweeted: “If you're not from Manchester, take a look at how city region level, serious reporting can make money. If you are from Manchester, cough up a few quid each month to get more of this.”
A member called Marie-Clare wrote: “This is fabulous news, I’m so pleased, I’ve been supporting you since day 1, plus I’ve bought subscriptions for my sons as gifts … spreading the word. Congratulations, you are amazing.” And we loved this from Carin: “As a long term (!) subscriber in a household that has more than one, my ongoing contribution is to spread the word to as many people as possible.” Thanks so much to all of you.
As we said yesterday, breaking even means we’re now a financially sustainable media company that can commit to publishing in this city for the long term. Every new member we get now is about growing our reporting budgets, growing the team next year, and establishing The Mill as the authoritative quality newspaper in Greater Manchester. If you haven’t joined yet, but you’d like to be a big part of what we’re doing and get all our reporting in your inbox, please do hit that button below.
If you missed our thought-provoking weekend read by Jack Dulhanty — “Is this the end of Chinatown — or a new beginning?” — you can read that here. In last week’s members-only editions we broke a story about major problems at a fancy apartment block in New Islington (“the experience has been absolutely shocking,” one resident told us) and sent out a members’ edition containing lovely pieces about people celebrating Diwali and the re-opening of Wythenshawe Hall.
Ok, now onwards with today’s newsletter: Greater Manchester Police has been lifted out of “special measures”, where it has been since 2020 when inspectors found it had failed to record 80,000 crimes. We take a look at what that means below, and also bring you our favourite reads and best recommendations for the week ahead.
This week’s weather
Our forecast is from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “November will start unsettled and temperatures will soon fall close to the seasonal average. Still, there are no signs of a cold snap anytime soon.”
Tuesday 🌧 Breezy and cooler with rain at times. Max 14°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Windy with sunny spells giving way to cloudy skies and eventually rain later in the afternoon. Feeling cool. Max 13°c.
Thursday 🌦 Sunny intervals and isolated heavy showers. Breezy. Max 12°c.
Friday 🌦 Cool and breezy with occasional blustery showers. Max 12°c.
Weekend 🌦 Low pressure is set to dominate with more rain and wind. Possibly some drier periods depending on the timing of weather fronts.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Has an “anti-woke” police chief rescued GMP?
Top line: Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have made “clear, demonstrable progress” in recent years and are no longer considered to be in “special measures” by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the policing watchdog.
Context: Rewind to 2016, when HMIC found GMP failed to record 38,000 crimes, and rated the force “inadequate'' in that area. Despite being urged to improve, in 2020 the watchdog found that the force failed to record 80,000 crimes, and so put it in special measures, or what is known as the “engage” phase.
According to inspectorate guidelines this is a response to a force that is “not responding to a cause of concern, or if it is not succeeding in managing, mitigating or eradicating the cause of concern”.
New chief: GMP’s new chief inspector Stephen Watson, who joined last year form South Yorkshire, has been hailed as an “anti-woke police chief” by the Daily Mail, while this weekend the Telegraph told its readers: “Anti-woke chief constable turns failing force around with back-to-basics approach”.
What does that mean? The evidence for him being “anti-woke” seems slightly thin, but the following factors have been cited:
In an interview with the Telegraph, Watson said that wearing rainbow laces and taking the knee would put the police’s impartiality at risk. “I would probably kneel before the Queen, God, and Mrs Watson, that’s it.”
Watson has projected an “old school” image, enforcing standards about how officers look, like neat hair and cleanly shaved faces, and handing out new uniforms to replace cheaper ones without the force’s insignia on them.
No plain sailing: The two years since haven’t been easy. As recently as March this year, the watchdog reported the force was “not achieving the expected level of service”.
So, what’s changed? In its latest report, published Friday, the watchdog found the force had slashed call response times, improved support for staff and halved its number of open investigations. Removing the force from special measures, chief inspector of constabulary Andy Cooke said:
In the light of this recent evidence, and while acknowledging that there is still more to do in some areas, I have decided that Greater Manchester Police will be removed from the ‘engage’ phase of force monitoring.
‘Back-to-basics’: Watson has placed a heavy emphasis on investigating every crime and getting “bobbies back on the beat”.
Since he took charge, this approach has resulted in a huge increase in investigations resulting in charges, up 42% to 23,500.
It has also meant stop and searches increased fourfold, with 2,093 of 2,528 stops in September resulting in an arrest.
Bottom line: Emerging out of special measures doesn’t mean the force are serving the public to a high level, but clearly Watson is making progress. He still faces major challenges like staffing, as we reported back in July when officers were being redeployed to handle 999 calls. And, there are still concerns surrounding the force’s shambolic computer system. Plus, there’s also the mess further up the justice system to think about — massive backlogs in the courts mean that justice is taking a long time to be served in many cases, undermining the fight against crime.
Know something about policing in GM? Drop us an email — just hit reply to today’s briefing.
Home of the week
This terraced stone cottage in Egerton, Bolton, is a short walk from the community allotments, where you can (maybe) subsist on homegrown lettuce and carrots. You can also walk to a nearby grocery shop and pub. It’s on the market for £170,000.
Your Mill briefing
Part two of the findings of the Manchester Arena Inquiry will be published this Thursday. Concerning the response of emergency services, the report is expected to be highly critical; it took paramedics 43 minutes to reach the scene, the fire service mustered three miles away from the arena, and it took GMP two and a half hours to declare a major incident. The report will hinge on the crucial question of whether 8-year-old Saffie-Rose Roussos, the attack’s youngest victim, and 28-year-old John Atkinson could have survived if they had arrived at hospital faster.
Five metro mayors from across the North have called on the government to do something about the region’s failing train operators. In a joint statement, the mayors of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North of Tyne and Liverpool said the failings were causing “serious damage” and “making life miserable for people in the north”
More transport news, but good news: The “GM Ringway” — a new long-distance walking trail — is set to go ahead with funding from the lottery. Designed around existing footpaths, parks and open-access land, all 20 stages of the 186-mile route around the region are designed to be accessible by public transport.
Manchester Museum’s £15m renovation will be completed next year, and the Guardian has spoken to director Esme Ward about the museum’s plans to be more inclusive, including the opening of a new South Asian gallery, co-curated by 31 people from local diaspora communities. We spoke to Ward about the museum’s “decolonisation” efforts for our podcast a few months ago. You can listen here.
A 19-year-old man has been charged with the murder of Luke O’Connor, a student who was stabbed last week near university accommodation in Fallowfield. Shiloh George Pottinger has also been charged with possession of a bladed article. Pottinger, who is also 19, is from Fallowfield and appeared at Salford and Manchester Magistrates Court this morning.
Our favourite reads
A BBC investigation found a conspiracy theorist has been tracking down survivors of the Manchester Arena bombing, visiting their homes and workplaces to see if their injuries are real. Richard D Hall claims those killed in the attack are really living abroad, the injured are “crisis actors” and the attack was a hoax. When a BBC journalist tracked him down, he refused to discuss the “evidence” he says he has to back up his claims.
The age of algorithmic anxiety — The New Yorker
This feature uses the experience of Valerie Peter, a 23-year-old Manchester student, as a peg to open up a wider discussion about whether algorithms show us who we are and what we want. When Peter realised her online shopping addiction could be pinned down to how often she was marketed to, she began seeing social media algorithms as an intrusion. “Is there a human curator out there who actually loves these things? When they start popping up in my Instagram feed, will I learn to love them, too? You’d think the algorithm would know me better by now.”
A British Paint Company Blends a New Environmental Effort — The New York Times
Little Greene, a family-run paint business with headquarters in Manchester, gets the New York Times treatment in this feature about taking business in a more environmentally-friendly direction. Re:mix, a new collection of 20 matte and eggshell shades, is reformulated from leftover paint in the hopes of creating a sustainable product.
The final curtain — Tortoise
Did exposure to asbestos in the National Theatre contribute to an actor’s death? This investigation explores the death of John Harding, an actor who cut his teeth at the University of Manchester in the ‘60s. He died one year after a diagnosis of mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lungs, at the age of 66.
Our to do list
🤣 Local comedians Will and Tom promise extremely relaxing and chilled comedy — no offensive jokes, awkward pauses or heckling from the audience — in a show on the first Tuesday of every month at Fuel in Withington. It starts at 8pm.
🎶 Expect a varied performance from Chuva, a Manchester-based folk and classical trio who came together after meeting through study at RNCM. Their influences range from Croatian to Latin American genres. They’re playing at the Carlton Club in Whalley Range. Tickets are £6.
📽 The Chapeltown Picturehouse, a cinema in Cheetham Hill screening films you might find in a university cinephiles social, hosts an international short film festival every month. It starts at 8pm, but we recommend arriving early for street food and craft beer from GRUB.
🎻 The Hallé Orchestra are performing Andromède, an energetic symphonic poem by the 19th-century French composer Augusta Holmès, who wrote compositions her male contemporaries described as “masculine” and “vile”. She once said: “I must show the males what I’m made of.” Tickets here.
🎺 There’s a free gig at Band on The Wall on Thursday night. Magari, a six-piece jazz and soul fusion band, are playing a blend of original songs and lush classics like La Vie En Rose. More here.
🎨 A new exhibition at the Whitworth explores the life’s work of Althea McNish, who designed colourful and vibrant textiles for clients like Dior, overturning the sedate traditions of mid-century design. McNish was the first Caribbean designer to achieve international recognition. More here.
To be that friend who always seems to know what’s going on in the city, subscribe to get our weekend to-do list, which we send to paying members every Thursday.