Sir Richard hasn’t even left the stage, yet the new metrics in Mancunian politics are being brought into sharp relief over the Ben Clay deselection wrangle in Burnage. Challenged by the previously-denied Murtaza Iqbal the left winger faces a fight for his future in the ward which he happens to co-represent with leader-elect Bev Craig.
“A bit rich for Momentum to be complaining about deselection…” some have said, given that Clay himself ousted former Lord Mayor Carl Austin-Behan by the same means in 2018. But the battle lines run deeper than it may at first seem. With Craig having pipped culture supremo Luthfur Rahman to the top spot last month by just a handful of votes, leadership politics may be set now to transition from the unassailable chief model to the overheated rumour mill model. “Luthfur isn’t finished,” one senior activist intoned darkly. “He thinks he can pick off Bev’s majority, one councillor at a time.” Hence the challenge, supposedly – said to have been made with Rahman’s blessing – in Craig’s own back yard.
Feeding into all this is a whole new trope, long submersed beneath the stiller waters of Sir Richard’s reign. Twice now in recent weeks left wing councillors and senior activists have briefed about ‘vote banking’ in the wards of the present and future leader – Crumpsall and Burnage – sensing the whiff of scandal in the supposed facility of Asian-heritage landlords to command block votes of their tenants among the ward groups. ‘Baradari’, meaning ‘brotherhood’ in Urdu, is the essence of political allegiance among South Asian Muslims. This is a new discourse in local politics; the potential for kerfuffle of all kinds couldn’t be clearer.
If the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result then the arrival of Manchester’s new fleet of municipal hire bikes next week could offer an interesting diagnosis for Andy Burnham. Yes, Andy it was who this week splashed across all platforms to plead with the good people of the city not to chuck his nifty new bone shakers in the canal. “I would just say to people: these are your bikes, we own them, so please look after them,” he begged. “Damaging your own stuff doesn’t make sense.”
Well, yes. Readers will recall the fate of the Mobike scheme in 2017, when bikes ended up not only in the canal, but up lampposts, in trees, in the Arndale Centre, and in garden sheds. Mostly in the canal, though. Obviously, the solution to that problem is to provide more bikes – different colour, new design – in the hope that the hooligan impulse will be soothed by the improvements.
Of course, solving the vandalism by changing the bikes belongs in a proud tradition of Mancunian town planning. Once upon a time there was a garden in the middle of the city – but disarrayed, disadvantaged people began to proliferate in it. The answer to that problem, naturally, was to bulldoze the garden. The answer to the answer, one must fear – if you can stay with this – is that you can’t thrown the Beetham Tower in the canal so for the time being the bikes will have to do.
A sad fact widely known
Don’t know about you but sixteen quid to watch Johnny Marr run through his rehearsal room set seemed awful steep in the event. To be pedantic, the former Smiths legend’s exclusive Live At The Crazy Face Factory stream, this week, was neither crazy nor live. As a peek into the grotto where all the magic happens it was a bit like seeing the Wonka Works after the bailiffs had been in and stripped it to the wiring. Where was Johnny’s Chime Machine or his River of Arpeggiated Melancholy?
No one ever gives Jonny Marr a kicking because…well, he’s Johnny Marr. But for a supposed guitar legend is it not it the case that whenever you hear one of his records these days it doesn’t really sound like it makes a virtue of the instrument? For sure, Marr’s schtick was always to be Phil-Spector-with-a-six-string – but do all those full spectrum bandwidth plod rockers with the weak vocal and not very much space in them really pull you across genres and textures and tonalities the way his playing used to? Plus, he only ever plays the one guitar now, the signature one. Where’s the fun in that?
In his Night & Day days the former Smiths manager (and original Crazy Face jeans factory proprietor) Joe Moss once told me he used to make The Smiths limber up the way he’d seen the Brazilian football team do – which of course posits the most unflattering of mental images. “What, even Morrissey?” “Yeah, he used to do it,” said Joe, imitating. Joe reckoned the Brazilians’ warm-up was somehow at the root of their genius. So who knows…maybe instead of sitting in the lotus position with his pimped-up Fender Jag Johnny should loosen up a bit on some higher level. He’s always promising a bit of astral travel but is he really reaching for the stars?