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Senior Manchester councillor suspended
Our exclusive story, plus the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s Mill briefing. We hope you had a lovely weekend in the snow.
This morning we broke the news that a senior Manchester councillor has been suspended from the Labour Party and questioned by police over an allegation of homophobia — scroll down to the Big Story to read the latest on that and join us as a member to get a fuller report in your inbox tomorrow.
Update, December 15: Exclusive: Police drop their probe into Rabnawaz Akbar. Rabnawaz Akbar is no longer suspended from the Labour Party, and Greater Manchester Police have told him that they are not going to take any action against him. Akbar has told us the claims against him were “outrageous and malicious allegations”. The police’s investigating officer told Akbar: “I can confirm the matter for which you were interviewed has now been finalised and no further action is to be taken in respect of the allegations made.
Millers’ Carols at St Ann’s 🎄
Save the date! Thursday 16th December is our first ever Chrstmas concert at the beautiful St Ann’s Church. We’re jointly raising funds for The Mill and the church’s Covid-19 Recovery Fund and it’s going to be a lovely evening filled with candlelight, readings and singing. We’d really love it if you could join us — go ahead and book tickets here and support two great Manchester institutions.
This week’s weather 🌥
Our forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who says: “As we say goodbye to November and welcome in the final month of 2021, our weather will be changeable. Overall temperatures will be cold, minus Tuesday, which will bring us milder weather briefly.”
Monday 🌥 Very cold with ice on untreated surfaces early on. Milder air and patchy rain will arrive after dark and overnight, helping to thaw out any stubborn snow. Max 5°c.
Tuesday 🌧 Cloudy with patchy rain at times. A cold front will bring outbreaks of heavy rain overnight. Much milder. Max 12°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Breezy with showers at times, especially during the morning. Cold, clear and frosty overnight. Max 8°c.
Thursday 🌤 Cold, largely sunny and dry aside from the odd snow shower. Max 5°c.
Friday 🌧 Windy with outbreaks of rain, preceded by snow on higher ground. Max 7°c.
Weekend ❄️ Chilly and unsettled.
For the full forecast please visit Manchester Weather. Forecasts are released 6.15am every day.
Big story: Senior councillor questioned by police
Exclusive: The Mill understands that senior Manchester city councillor Rabnawaz Akbar has been administratively suspended from the Labour Party, pending investigation, and questioned by police. Akbar is the council’s executive member for neighbourhoods and represents the ward of Rusholme. We broke the news on Twitter this morning, and can now reveal more.
(Important update, December 15: Exclusive: Police drop their probe into Rabnawaz Akbar. Rabnawaz Akbar is no longer suspended from the Labour Party, and Greater Manchester Police have told him that they are not going to take any action against him. The police’s investigating officer told Akbar: “I can confirm the matter for which you were interviewed has now been finalised and no further action is to be taken in respect of the allegations made.)
The allegation: Akbar has been accused of making a homophobic remark to a council candidate in Burnage before a Labour Party selection meeting in the ward last month. He is said to be strenuously denying the allegation, and a friend of his describes it as “vexatious and politically motivated”. They say he has evidence that he was at home with his family when the alleged encounter is supposed to have taken place. He has not been arrested or charged with an offence.
Context: Akbar is a high-profile member of Manchester’s all-powerful Labour group. He was named by Place North West as an outside bet for the leadership when Sir Richard Leese announced he was stepping down. Akbar grew up in Blackburn and was elected to his ward in 2010.
We understand that the allegation was made to the Labour Party in late October and reported to the police as a hate crime. Akbar was interviewed by police at West Didsbury police station a week ago. A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police told The Mill:
We can confirm that we have received a report of an incident of public disorder between two men on Thursday 7 October just before a local Labour Party meeting took place at Burnage Academy for boys. Officers are currently investigating the allegations, no arrests have been made, and enquiries are ongoing.
This morning, we were told that the leaders of the city’s Labour group were discussing the matter at a lunchtime meeting, but the group has not provided us with a statement, and neither has the council’s press office. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the national Labour Party told us:
The Labour Party takes all complaints seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate action is taken.
Councillor Akbar told us he was not able to comment on the story but he is said to have told friends that the allegation against him has been entirely invented and will be proven false. On November 5th he posted two graphics on his Facebook page. “Strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up,” one said, and the other begins: “To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves.”
Background: This is a historic week in Manchester politics — at a council meeting on Wednesday Leese will formally step down after 25 years, and Bev Craig will take over as the city’s first-ever female leader.
Bottom line: The Akbar story will focus attention on the post-Leese power struggles — and in particular a very bad-tempered political fight in Craig’s ward Burnage. Left-wing Labour councillor Ben Clay was recently deselected there, having been critical of the direction of the council under Leese.
The alleged incident being investigated by police is said to have taken place before a selection meeting in the ward last month.
“There’s a massive feud going on,” one senior Labour figure told The Mill.
Up next: We’ll have a report on this story and what is going on in Burnage in our members-only edition tomorrow afternoon. If you haven’t yet, join as a member now to get that and all our members’ reporting in your inbox. And if you have any information to add, please hit reply or email email@example.com.
Update, December 2: Read our in-depth members-only story about the background to the allegation against Akbar, and why what’s happening in Burnage might spell trouble for Bev Craig.
Update, December 15: Exclusive: Police drop their probe into Rabnawaz Akbar. Rabnawaz Akbar is no longer suspended from the Labour Party, and Greater Manchester Police have told him that they are not going to take any action against him. Akbar has told us the claims against him were “outrageous and malicious allegations”. The police’s investigating officer told Akbar: “I can confirm the matter for which you were interviewed has now been finalised and no further action is to be taken in respect of the allegations made.”
Home of the week
This 3-bed townhouse near Ramsbottom has plenty of character and comes with a charming farmhouse kitchen. It’s on the market for £400,000.
🕵️♂️ Grist to The Mill: If you want to tell us about a story or pass on some information, please 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. Get in touch.
Other local news in brief
The number of rough sleepers in Greater Manchester has fallen to double figures, 89, for the first time since 2013. At its peak, there were 268 rough sleepers in GM in 2017. The figures were shared by Mayor Andy Burnham on Twitter. He said: “Pleased to say our ground-breaking approach is working: we’re back in double figures for the first time since 2013. But we keep going as 89 is still 89 too many.”
A Manchester woman who died after complications from an AstraZeneca vaccination was wrongly diagnosed, a coroner has said. Michelle Barlow developed blood clots and died two weeks after getting jabbed. She experienced multiple organ failure, which was the result of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, a condition not recognised at the time of her death. Read more.
The Sunday Times’ Economics Editor makes the case for levelling up the UK’s regional cities, which lag behind their European counterparts. Cities like Manchester have attracted “low productivity” activities such as hospitality, arts and entertainment, which “do not bring innovation and lasting prosperity,” David Smith writes. Read more.
The Covid-19 case rate for Greater Manchester is 372.4, up 0.7% in a week, compared to England’s 439.6, up 3.6%. Salford has the highest infection rates in GM, around the 400-mark. Oldham has the lowest, about 300.
Photo of the week
A man pulls a milk cart during heavy snowfall in Manchester, December 1946. Photo: Getty Images.
Our to do list
🎶 Concert | On Wednesday, The Piccadilly Sinfonietta will be performing a candlelit concert at Manchester Cathedral. They’ll also be playing Corelli and Bach, but the showstopper will be Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Tickets here.
⛪ Tour | The Monastery in Gorton has guided tours every Monday. You’ll get the chance to hear about its fascinating history, as well as take a look at its stunning architecture. Tickets here.
❓ Quiz | Newly-opened Sale Food Hall is holding a Christmas quiz night this Thursday. It's £1 entry, with a £50 bar tab going to the winners. Start getting your team together. More info here.
💍 Fair | The Northern Contemporary Craft Fair is back this weekend, but you’ll be able to avoid the crowds as it’s online. Get a head start on Christmas shopping. Link here.
🍻 Drink | This Saturday marks the return of Absolutely Weasted (no, that’s not a typo), a winter beer festival at Seven Brothers Taproom in Salford. The festival’s bringing together local distillers and brewers. Book here.
👨🎨 Workshop | There's a social event coming up for risograph — that’s printing layers with a machine — enthusiasts at Underbank Studios this Friday. It’s free to attend. Tickets here.
🎨 Exhibition | There are a few lovely exhibitions at The Parsonage in Didsbury, including “Indian Expressionism” and an eclectic collection of paintings and photographs in their Winter Exhibition. Find out more.
Book of the week: The Moth and the Mountain by Ed Caesar
Congratulations to longtime Miller Ed Caesar, whose book The Moth and the Mountain has been shortlisted at the Costa Book Awards. It tells the story of Maurice Wilson, a man with no experience of flying or mountaineering who decides to take on Everest. Read our long read about the book from this time last year.
The Moth and the Mountain is available to buy here.
Our favourite reads
86 mysterious grey boxes have appeared on our pavements, each bearing a message declaring they’re temporary features. This piece takes us to meet some of the people who’ve had enough. “Lately they’ve become a target for irate Mancunians, who normally like to pick a side, were unusually unanimous: they hated the boxes. They were not placated when the council stuck big labels on the front explaining that they were temporary features ‘as part of the installation of upgraded digital advertising displays.’”
This story highlights the tragic journey of 24-year-old Baran Nuri Muhammadamin, who drowned attempting to cross the Channel, and the experiences of other migrants who tried to do the same. Sangar Ahmed, who lived in Manchester before being deported, is scared that six of his friends drowned after receiving a “desperate final call” as they prepared to start the crossing. “‘They said the boat was really overcrowded, it was really concerning them,’ said Ahmed.’“The people smugglers crammed about 50 people in.’”
The Hilarious, Heartbreaking Life and Music of Malcolm Arnold — The New York Times
Malcolm Arnold was known as one of the “most popular British composers of his time.” On the 100th anniversary of his birth, Mill writer and Manchester resident Hugh Morris writes about the composer’s life, which was marked by periods of debilitating mental illness. “At his peak, Arnold wrote over 20 hours of music a year, including six films, demonstrating a maniacal creativity that, together with an unhealthy obsession with sex, periods of complete despondency and unabated alcoholism throughout his adult life, coalesced in a crippling manic-depressive tendency.”
Manchester’s cold war — BBC
This excellent piece delves into the world of how Manchester’s rival football clubs scout talent, and the lengths they go to nurture it. “Old Trafford lies four miles and several worlds away, across the flat suburban streets of Stretford to the north-west. The Etihad Stadium is six miles to the north-east, beyond Rusholme and Ardwick, new oil-money-bright in an old coal town. And yet these council fields are the new front line in the battle for supremacy between United and City, and these kids — shivering, laughing, falling over and pushing past — are the trophies both clubs are fighting for.”
Len Johnson, a man who changed a city — Boxing News
This article offers an insight into the life and work of legendary boxer Len Johnson, who was mixed-race and faced racism during his lifetime. He died with little money to his name, despite being highly-regarded in a sport that had been stymied by prejudice. “He was one hell of a guy,” one of his adopted daughters said. “I can’t put my feelings into words.” “Johnson never lost hope nor did he drop his beliefs in the face of adversity. He had faith, and sometimes faith can be rewarded either with a small or grand gesture. ”
Letters to the editor
Wonderful to see Back on Track ('I was frightened that I couldn’t do it’) getting some much deserved praise. The work they do is fantastic and provides a lot of people not just with skills and education but most importantly with connection to other human beings. The team there are caring, empathetic and professional and it is a safe and welcoming environment for some people who have often found themselves isolated and alone. For many of the people who go there, it is genuinely life-changing. It’s a fantastic project. David, Wythenshawe
It was good to have an update from the shielders, (‘A year ago they were shielding. How are they feeling now?’) and even better to find out that they had survived and were getting on with their lives. It's a real shame though that the ignorance and carelessness of others mean that they are still being put at risk. It seems that many people think Covid is all over and life has returned to normal. I would have thought 140,000 (or thereabouts) deaths so far, and on average 2000 per week across the UK still dying of Covid would be enough to make them think, wear a mask and keep their distance from other folks. Elaine, Bury