New year in the one party state

Another year, another Manchester…so what now? Strange to see Sir Richard Leese roughed up in The Mill the other week, barely three weeks out of his job, staring a thousand yards out of subscribers’ inboxes like a man being made an example of. Whatever you think of his politics, to look back on the career of the man who ran Manchester for twenty-five years and lead on the domestic violence incident had an air of thuggishness about it…enough to make you wonder about The Mill, in fact. The Substack franchise has made a splash this past year or so, even if take-up remains reportedly modest. Conventional wisdom suggests that in the long run it may struggle against the tide of online attention spans. What its agenda is, or its politics, or whose interests it represents have yet to be questioned.
On the political street, meanwhile, eyes are on the Ancoats & Beswick by-election, where the Lib Dems are already crying “Foul!” “According to the advice we’ve received [Labour candidate] Gareth Worthington is ineligible to be a councillor,” a Lib Dem insider tells us, the alleged infraction being that as a CityCo employee Worthington contravenes the 1972 Local Government Act. “A person shall be disqualified for being elected or being a member of a local authority if he holds any paid office or employment other than the office of chairman, vice-chairman, deputy-chairman, presiding member or deputy presiding member or in the case of a local authority which are operating executive arrangements which involve a leader and cabinet executive, appointments or elections to which are or may be made or confirmed by the local authority [Lib Dem man’s verbal italics]”
Not sure we entirely follow that but in the spirit of anarchy we’re happy to lob that particular grenade into the proceedings and see what eventuates. What say you, Gareth Worthington? Are you legit?
The Lib Dem’s own candidate, Alan Goode, of course, is seeking to overturn the 1300 majority he ceded to Marcia Hutchinson last year, before the prominent former solicitor crashed and burned from the Labour group amid much mutual recrimination over alleged bullying and racism.
Having seen his party whittled down around him to just his own seat, and facing re-election himself this coming May, Lib Dem leader John Leech could be forgiven for seeing defeat in his nightmares to any manner of ineligible imposters…an Albanian prison inmate, an escaped aardvark from Chester Zoo, a vintage lampshade in an Argentine flea market…any of whom might seem to stand a chance against the Liberal Democrats, so sizably do the odds now seem to be stacked against what was once Manchester’s official opposition.
One upon a…
Some first-rate life writing in Manc at the moment. After John Cooper Clarke’s top-selling tell-all and Paul Morley’s Tony Wilson life-of one of the pleasures of the Christmas break was an advance copy of Howard Jacobson’s forthcoming memoir, Mother’s Boy, a conspicuously tender telling of the Prestwich boy’s life due to be published next month. Who’d have thought the disputatious old boy had it in him? Just before we broke for the shopping festival one of the city’s most extravagantly gifted nib-heavers – the curiously unpredictable Adam O’Riordan – followed up the two semi-skimmed poetry collections and world-beating short story set he’s published so far with his long-awaited debut novel, The Falling Thread. Whether with this painterly pre-WWI melodrama – son of Manchester cotton baron knocks up sisters’ governess with predictably knotty results – he’s found his métier or reveals him to be suffering incurable parodic syndrome is something you might occupy yourself with as you go along. Do so, though…O’Riordan is a local writer with global potential it will be worth keeping tabs with.
Still in the world of high-end local lit…having had a hand in its revival it would be remiss not to blondly cheerlead for Passing Time, the ‘lost classic’ Manchester novel written in the 1950s by Frenchman Michel Butor and recently brought back into print by Pariah Press. Following recent press interest the bizarre world of Butor’s experimental fiction – Passing Time concerns a man who becomes convinced a town very like Manchester is conspiring against him – is set to be illuminated by London publisher Vanguard Editions, who have a selection of the author’s essays in the works: your chance to gen up on what the dickens is going on in this paranoid Proustian thriller [pictured]. Details at the foot of the page.
Sign of the Times
Best of luck to the proprietors of Peste, the new – we kid ye not – plague-themed café bar opening on Oldham Road this week. After a soft launch late last year the new covid-age cool spot – courtesy of White Hotel honcho Ben Ward and associates – opens its doors this weekend. When we dropped by for a peek this week Ward was high on the fumes of the floor he’d been varnishing and in no state to discuss Albert Camus. “Organ recital, Sunday night…” he coughed, and returned to his sepulchre.
Passing Time by Michel Butor is available from Pariah Press HERE
Selected Essays by Michel Butor can be ordered HERE


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