Inside The One Party State 
Did Manchester City Council rig the vote on a controversial car park development? Was the Leese administration “rehearsed in private and performed in public”? Twelve guerrillas snapshots from the municipal front line
July, 2002. I’m sitting in an ambulance in northern Palestine as a boy who has been shot by the Israeli military is driven to hospital. It is a tense and politicised time, ten months after 9/11, eight months before the start of the Iraq War; I‘m reporting on the activities of Mancunian peace activists for City Life magazine.
Since the disturbances in Seattle at the World Trade Organisation conference in 1999 protesters of many types have been mobilising across the planet, Mancunians among their number. Anarchists, anti-war activists, pro-Palestine campaigners…their Manchester home is Hulme: cooking-up strategies for civil disobedience, role-playing the West Bank in newbuild community spaces, flying out to be ‘human shields’ at the messy end of the Middle East conflict.
But just who are these people stoking the anti-war movement and the pro-Palestine faction?
Who is sending out all these young people to get mixed up in the war?
Twenty years and one almighty antisemitism controversy later I see familiar faces and fellow travellers heading up NGOs and pressure groups across the landscape of local politics…taking the fight to the council over housing, climate change, development. They sit in the galleries as their pet issues are debated, there to support those few voices on the chamber floor speaking up against the Leese regime.
Twenty years ago there was an opposition in Mancunian local politics…as many as thirty-eight Liberal Democrats squared off against the ruling Labour party in 2004.
Now, with the Lib Dems down to just Leech and his granny on bongos there is scarcely an opposition ‘party’ at all.
If austerity-era toxicity is not a boot to his neck already, the tread on his cheek reveals a tale Labour never tire of bringing up: the misstep he made while having the hubris to get himself elected to Westminster in 2005.
Having campaigned to SAVE CHRISTIE HOSPITAL – some of whose services, though rather less its actual existence, were under review – Leech has never been allowed to forget that he ‘played politics with the lives of cancer patients’ the year he shocked the city to un-seat Tony Blair’s deputy chief whip, Keith Bradley.
“Pat’s mother died of cancer. You can imagine how he feels,” one Labour councillor told me, shaking his head as he brought to mind the Lib Dem leader’s calumny, decades earlier.
“I never said they were going to close the hospital,” Leech told me, of the campaign which rewarded him with a ten-year stint in the House of Commons.
But he campaigned to save it…small print *to save its threatened services*.
Could Leech have similarly over-extended himself with the pre-meetings allegation?
Could the planning committee simply have convened by accident and fallen into chatting about the biscuit allocation?
Or did the Lib Dem leader walk in on Mancunian corruption in the moment of its making?
How much in this affair is a matter of perception?
How much of it is a sky hooks thing between Leech and Flanagan?
The faint-hearted may choose at this point to take stock of the militia we can raise against the one-party state…the Lib Dem cancer chancer; Momentum’s middle class scruff-bag squadron; the Hulme Women’s Popular Front, the student-trafficking division from MI5.
With enemies such as these, you might wonder, Sir Richard could be building ice hockey stadia well into the second half of the century.
The stars say otherwise, though.
I’m at a Dave Haslam book launch where people are speaking wistfully about the 1960s when Lucy texts me the news from the Confidential office.
Sir Richard Leese Stands Down: 25 Years At The Top Comes To An End
And why now?
He goes December 1.
So now we have to get the piece up.