Local elections special: Labour fluffs its lines in Greater Manchester
Oldham loses its leader and Stockport Council hangs in the balance again, plus: skating with Manchester's first men's roller derby team
Dear Millers — the Mill team spent their evenings at election counts across Greater Manchester last night, drinking cups of instant coffee into the early hours. Our election group chat eventually went quiet just after 4am, and in this edition we will try to bring you up to date. Here are the top lines:
Oldham has lost *another* council leader after Arooj Shah was unseated in Chadderton South on a very bad night for Labour there. After her defeat, she told us she had faced a “really personal campaign”, including inflammatory attack leaflets from the online activist Raja Miah.
The leadership of Stockport is truly up in the air again. The Lib Dems picked up seats from the Conservatives and are now the biggest party by three seats, but it doesn’t sound like Labour is going to politely cede power. We've been speaking to all the party leaders there.
Labour didn't make the gains it was hoping for in Bolton, where the Conservatives are still the biggest party.
As always, this end-of-week edition is mostly just for members, but the top section goes out to our whole mailing list. Join up as a member to read it all. Tomorrow, we will have another political newsletter, focusing on what happened in Oldham and the results in Bury and Rochdale, which are only coming through now.
On the hunt for Salford’s secret garden
Our latest podcast episode is absolutely lovely, even if we say so ourselves. We have themed it around Sophie’s very popular weekend read about her hunt for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s secret garden, featuring a reading from the book by our new intern Alexandria. Sophie talks about why she wanted to write the piece, why she reads The Secret Garden every year, and the invigorating power of the northern countryside in spring. We also have our usual round-up of local headlines you should know about, including some bad news about the buses.
Some non-political news
Sir James Anderton, the former chief constable known as “God’s Cop”, has died at the age of 89. Anderton led Greater Manchester Police from the mid-1970s until 1991, during which time he became notorious for his heavy-handed tactics and socially conservative views. He was born into a mining family in Wigan and became a national figure during the Moss Side riot in 1981. “I knew James Anderton very well and I have to say that we didn't get on too well,” writes longtime Miller Mike Unger, who edited the MEN when Anderton was running GMP. “He had very strong so-called Christian views and was vehemently anti-gay among other prejudices. He had faced calls to step down after claiming victims of HIV/Aids were in a ‘human cesspool of their own making’. He also supported the reintroduction of capital punishment and called on rapists to be castrated — all of which we exposed and were highly critical of.”
A LinkedIn post by a Manchester businessman has gone viral. Gareth Hoyle has announced his firm Marketing Signals is switching to a four-day working week. To date, his post has amassed over 20 million views. Speaking to The Messenger last week, he said: "I actually believe most of my clients won't even notice — as long as we get the work done, who cares?”
The mothers of Rhamero West and Kennie Carter, two 16-year-old boys who were stabbed to death four months apart, have installed emergency medical kits in Stretford in their memory. Each kit contains gauze and dressing to put pressure on wounds. The women said they “understood each other’s pain” and that they hoped the kits would save lives. More here.
Rates of Covid-19 continue to fall in Greater Manchester. The region's daily rate of infection is 92.6 new cases per 100,000 people, down 38.1% in a week. The national daily rate of infection is 111.6 new cases per 100,000 people, down 37.4%. In Greater Manchester, rates of infection are highest in Wigan and lowest in Manchester.
Our media picks
👓 Watch: This brilliant documentary is about the national Post Office scandal that changed the lives of people like Della Robinson, from Dukinfield, who we met last year. Della doesn’t feature in the film, but many of the subpostmasters caught up in the Post Office’s mass miscarriage of justice do, and it shows for the first time how much the company’s senior executives knew about the problems in their Horizon computer system. Watch on BBC iPlayer.
🎧 Listen: In this episode of podcast We Built This City, Lisa Morton sits down with the Director of the Science and Industry Museum, Sally MacDonald. Hear about how the museum brings together old and new technologies. Listen here.
📖 Read: The Boy with a Pound in His Pocket tells the story of Jade Akoum’s fight for justice for her brother Yousef Makki. The title of the book draws on one detail: when she collected Yousef’s blood-stained clothes and personal possessions, he had a single pound coin in his pocket. Available to buy here.
Local elections: Greens and Lib Dems pick up seats on a disappointing night for Labour
You didn’t need to stay up till 4am to know what was going to happen in Greater Manchester’s local elections, as we did. You just needed to read The Mill a fortnight ago, when we published an edition called “Labour losses, attempted decapitations and Partygate”, predicting a much more difficult set of results for Labour than the national polling had people expecting. “Locally quite a few Labour figures sound worried,” we reported then, and they were right to be.
Let’s start in Oldham, where the party has been decapitated again. Last year, the council’s young leader Sean Fielding fell to a local independent party, in a shock result that pointed to some very interesting online dynamics taking place in the borough (read our long piece from last year: “Grooming gangs, cartels and the poisoning of Oldham's politics”). Last night, the woman who replaced Fielding, becoming the first female Muslim council leader in the North, was voted out in Chadderton South. Labour figures began panicking about losing Arooj Shah’s seat last month and sent dozens of activists in to try to shore her up.
But the ward was always a very tight marginal, and the conspiratorial online activist Raja Miah, who decided to back the Tories last year, has been aggressively attacking Shah with very personal leaflets. Labour lost six seats in total, and picked up one, leaving its majority vulnerable at next year’s “all out” elections. “It was a personal campaign, they dehumanised me completely,” Shah told our reporter Alexandria Slater after her loss. “The Conservatives in this last year have made me feel more brown than I've ever felt in my life.” There’s so much to write about what’s going on in Oldham, so we’ll send you a fuller piece this weekend focusing on the borough.
At last night’s count at Stockport Town Hall, the body language was as interesting as the results. The council’s Labour leader Elise Wilson was smiling and laughing with aides, even when it became clear that her party had made little headway and that the Liberal Democrats had extended their lead as the largest party from one seat to three in a council that is still under “no overall control”. Mark Hunter, the former coalition government minister and leader of the Lib Dems in Stockport, said he was pleased with his party’s strong night, but didn’t sound at all confident about forming the next administration. “I'm sure there will be conversations taking place over the weekend to see how we can move forward,” he told The Mill at about 3am.
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