In the unlikely event that freelance MP Christian Wakeford opts to reward calls for a by-election in his Bury South constituency – following his shock switch-hitting floorshow in the House of Commons yesterday – you would forgive the people of Bury South for wondering why they bother to vote.
Back in 2017, at the height of Corbymania, Magic Grandpa and all the rest of it, the constituency elected Ivan Lewis to represent them as a Labour MP, before the former minister resigned from the party to soldier on as an Independent. Finally, in an astonishing last-ditch move, he urged long-standing Labour voters to hold their noses and vote Conservative at the 2019 election. Wakeford was duly elected to the seat as a Conservative under Boris Johnson.
Now that Johnson isn’t good enough for the sitting-member-with-a-wafer-thin-majority, it seems the Labour Party is now the answer to Bury South’s problems again – despite the fact that its citizens voted for a Conservative to represent them, and despite the fact that Wakefield’s whiskery-faced maritime-style disembarkation manouevre is said to have thrown the Prime Minister a lifeline.
It does leave you feeling for Lucy Burke, the respected disability campaigner who stood for Labour two years ago only to lose out to Wakefield by a hair amid the hustings chaos; or the likes of Nathan Boroda, the rising Unsworth councillor who has been touted as the party’s candidate next time round.
If only everything were as seemingly straightforward as the lease on Bury South’s constituency office at 11 Deansgate, Radcliffe, which has managed seamlessly to accommodate the unfolding tenancies, changes and changeovers without disruption, needing only a new lick of paint each time the incumbent changes his political colours. Perhaps somewhere in that building is to be found a clue to Bury South’s hidden centre of stability. No doubt it would be of benefit to constituents to bring it out and hold it to the light.
No dress code, no firearms, no fighting
“Ineligible to stand?” Gareth Worthington sips on a Coke and makes short work of Lib Dem claims that as a CityCo employee he’s ineligible to stand in next month’s Ancoats & Beswick by-election. “We’ve checked that with legal and it turns out they didn’t know what CityCo is,” says the Labour candidate of the charge that the city centre management company is a council-appointed body. “I don’t work for the council,” he says. “I work for a private company.” Indeed. As Manchester emerges from the hangover of two years’ pandemic Gareth seems very much a man of his time: a former Dry Bar manager turned city centre fixer whose belief in the regeneration project is near total…and what finer café society citadel of the Leese project could there be, you might say, than the red brick bounded boulevards of Apartment-ville, Ancoats?
“I’m not overly political to be honest with you,” Gareth tells me over his early morning Café Cotton drink. “Everyone’s been governed so much by politics this last few years but for me the reason I’m standing here is that I live here.” We may or may not be stepping into the Prospective Council Candidate’s Training Script, but Gareth at least seems a natural, to the manner born. Ask him about almost anything…town hall in-fighting, deprivation in Beswick, the Marcia Hutchinson affair…and he sooner or later brings everything back to bins, noise, rubbish collection. “It’s like you want to put Ancoats and Beswick in a taxi and make sure it gets home safely while you clean up,” I say, towards the end of our encounter. “Yes!” he enthuses, brightly. “Yes, I like that.”
Too many broths
Did you see Boiling Point? Gf is a Stephen Graham fan so it was our Saturday night main feature last week, at the end of which I turned – she’s familiar with the ‘I used to be a film critic’ routine – and announced it might be one of the best British films I’ve ever seen.
The one-shot movie – Philip Barantini’s behind-the-scenes kitchen confidential saga unspools in a single stress-packed ninety-minute take – has grown in popularity this past twenty years, thanks in part to the success of an off-the-wall historical drama called Russian Ark in 2002. It makes for compelling spectacle if you can pull it off, cinematically, as Barantini does here – ratcheting the pressure amid the chaos of a night in an aspiring restaurant as it lurches from crisis to crisis under head chef Graham’s caving psyche.
Overcooked? There’s maybe one or two too many ingredients simmering away to mitigate against the film’s relentless – and I mean relentless – cut-throat authenticity. It’s a hell of an achievement, though, and the champagne reviews that have poured in richly deserved. With one or two more quotable lines or set piece scenes Boiling Point would be a nailed-on instant classic. How it’s reputation fares will be interesting to watch.