Fill the Irwell with sweets and let the Bev Craig era begin


    The election this week of Bev Craig to become the new leader of Manchester city council marked a historic day for the city. On December 1 she will become the first chief to not be Sir Richard Leese in a quarter of a century.

    Her public profile as an openly gay woman who supported Jeremy Corbyn in his leadership of the Labour party certainly reinforces those credentials.

    He may have fallen just short of going on for ever but the outgoing supremo leaves the city so much changed in his wake that anyone fired from a time cannon in 1996 into the balding crash mat of the present day would be likely to report that the future is not so much ‘bright’ as ‘a building site’ in a place where it became common during his tenure for Mancunians to return from holiday and not be able to find their way around.

    Told as we were to take heart from the economic promise of ‘the crane index’ – the familiar huddle of nodding gallows on the city skyline which for Mancunians supposedly augured prosperity just around some corner or other – we may argue for many years to come about the overarching Leese project of building a completely new town in the city centre and pretending the old one didn’t exist.

    Rumours as to why the Crumpsall veteran suddenly stepped aside have been rife since he announced his departure at the beginning of last month. On the left of his party some spun it that council leader had been the victim of a stitch-up between powerbrokers in his ward, teasing Leesophobes with the delicious irony that a pair of conniving landlords had evicted the Babel-building Manc-czar from his own back yard.

    Others insisted that the great man was telling the truth about being eager to spend time with the grandkids – so much easier to deal with than the actual kids, of course – and that after pimping up Manchester the only job in the world he set his cap on was chairmanship of the new Integrated Care System set to oversee the disappointment of joined-up healthcare in the North West’s pre-privatised pre-dawn.

    To some, of course, this last sounded remarkably like insisting Sir Richard stepped down because he likes to be beaten with rubber hosing on the soles of his feet while listening to Wagner, but there you go.

    Whatever the reason, when the Labour group decamped en masse to the City Arms on Tuesday night to celebrate its momentous decision there was said to be an outbreak of fraternity across its wriggling sack of back-stabbing weasels, for the most part delighted with the choice it had made. Health spokeswoman Craig defeated culture boss Luthfur Rahman by 48 votes to 41 in the second round of voting with the right-leaning Garry Bridges on 17 and left wing wildcard Ekua Bayunu trailing on 7.

    The unity candidate she is said to be, and the figurehead of a victory for the soft left. It might be suggested there’s something sinister about a city council where 94 of the 96 available seats have towels left on them by a single political party – the dark underbelly of the one party state is something we may return to fret about on this page in the future.

    First, though, the touching optimism of the today’s new dawn.

    “I think there’ll be change,” said one young councillor with flowers in his hair. “More collegiate, more caring, more about people, less about numbers, a return to services. We might finally let go of the past and actually make decisions based in reality and not on some wounded pride issue dating back to the Thatcher years. In terms of the political culture I think Manchester may actually become normal.”

    Fill the Irwell with sweets, then, and let it begin.

    More former things

    Let’s hear it for Lonelady, flame-haired wastrel of the music scene whose neurotic electro-pop reconciles the insanity of the present with the haunted landcapes of the past. The Ashton-born singer-songwriter has had quite a week after filming a triumphant segment for Later…With Jools Holland at Ancoats’ Brunswick Mill before this weekend hosting Paul Morley at HOME to discuss his long-awaited biography of Tony Wilson.

    “It was very special to honour the kind of industrial landscape I’ve wandered through, dreamed and worked in most of my adult life,” she told About Manchester after we’d explained where we got her number. “It’s such a beautifully shot piece of film.”

    And Morley’s book? What should we expect?

    “I’ve long been a fan of Paul’s writing, especially the North trilogy [completed with publication of the new book]. An invocation, a communion, loving, truthful…he gets to the real essence and magic of things.”

    No time to… 

    Farewell, then, to Daniel Craig as the sixth 007. As cinemagoers flock to see his two-and-three-quarter hour swan song the consensus seems to be he’s been a premium Bond…still shooting up town squares in other peoples’ countries but now with the cartoon stripped away so we can see the conscience-weary patriot who doesn’t wink at women’s arses any more after he’s gadget-whipped some evil Slav.

    Would I be the only commentator to ask if trying dignify him like that isn’t strangely and more tediously offensive than what went before?


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