How Manchester illuminates the issues of the general election
In the few hours before this seminal, historic, semi-colon in the 21st century story of Britain, I advise the three not-so-wise men who have come from afar to gather in Manchester to go on a last minute walk around the world’s greatest city.
My home town can illuminate the issues in this election.
Start at the Hacienda. No really, the world’s coolest nightclub, closed a decade ago to be replaced by a block of luxury flats, many of which were actually a vehicle for entirely speculative amateur landlordism. House music to house meltdown. I’d pop over to Old Trafford to see the impact of US-imported over leverage, and then to the City of Manchester stadium for a peek in to a future world of power shifting to resource-rich Eastern nations. Global geopolitics in Mancunian football microcosm, ahead of the other “Battle of Manchester” on Saturday lunchtime.
Somewhat amusingly, the Tory manifesto itself (pg 100) praises the regeneration efforts: “Manchester is one of Britain’s most dynamic cities” after “extensive urban renewal”, which was the work of a very Labour council.
I’d pop over to New Century House headquarters of the Cooperative Bank, which I am told, by senior London financiers, has been one of the unexpected winners in the battle for customers post the collapse of half our banking system.
Following Gordon Brown’s admission that he listened too much to the bleating of City of London bankers whingeing that they were over-regulated, perhaps he could reflect that he might have given stronger weight to the hippy banking of the Co-op. In the words of one of Britain’s most senior public figures: “It seems that these days Britons like the thought of bankers with hard-wired ethics”.
For David Cameron’s sake, and Big Society Toryism I would pop down to see the grand buildings and works of the Victorian era philanthropists. Wythenshawe, for example, was donated by a celebrated industrialist to the city to house new homes for those moved. (Actually David Cameron has made a few visits to Wythenshawe and a local boy’s boxing gym over the past few years). But can you imagine a banker donating there estate like that today?
Tories could also measure the extent to which they have changed their image by the swing in a constituency like Manchester Withington. It was Tory in the first election I remember, 1987. It went Labour before the country did, in 1992. But the Conservatives must ask themselves why it became Liberal Democrat at the last election.
And the Liberals, well they face an epic philosophical split if there is a hung parliament with no clear mandate. Nick Clegg should head to John Rylands Library and seek out the back issues of the Manchester school journal. Are the Libs, “rightwing” free-trading economic liberals, or progressive social liberals? They may well have to make a choice rather soon.
* My one preview for tonight is the below video clip from a presidential debate which actually did propel a little known and unfancied Governor of Arkansas to become President Clinton.
“How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives, and if it hasn’t how else can you find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what is ailing them? How has it affected you personally?” A totally nonsensical question, which Bush tried to answer literally, in what would be current Cameroonian tones.
Amid the confusion, Bill Clinton steps down from the podium towards the questioner, and says “Tell me how it’s affected you again?” “The National debt is not the only cause of the job losses, it’s because the US has not invested in its people, and 12 years of trickledown economics. It’s because we are in the grip of a failed economic theory”. The rest is history.
Can Cameron, Clegg or Brown do that?