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 guerrilla snapshots from the municipal front line
April, 2019. I’m going to be writing something about the Labour group at Manchester city council, but I don’t know what yet. Following an introduction from my editor, David Blake, there’s an invitation from Labour veteran Pat Karney for an interview at the town hall.
When I get there, he’s asked two of his colleagues to sit in with us: Joan Davies (of Deansgate ward) and Sam Wheeler (Piccadilly).
“So!” he beams, as we take our seats. “Three Confidential writers!”
I spy Wheeler, who wears shabby denial with a certain aplomb, and Davies, who resembles the woman who helped herself to the wrong mustard. It takes me a moment to unravel what Karney means…Davies is an old friend of Confidential proprietor Mark Garner and writes occasional theatre reviews for the site, while Wheeler has recently contributed an opinion column.
The subtext is clear enough, though. We’re all family here. It would be a shame to upset the applecart wouldn’t it sunshine?
And down that road, the ageless reminder…I know your boss.
In conversation I warm to Pat. In my ear on my phone…the flat vowels, the Irish lilt, the camp drawl he swills his words with…for an acquired Mancunian accent it’s a fine one.
Oh yes, he knows just how he’s perceived, he says. “They call me the celebrity councillor. They think I’m not a serious man. But I’m a radical.”
Having been generous enough to invite me, he now tells me he never discusses Labour group matters, and so the four of us make small talk ahead of the elections about the homeless tax, affordable housing and so on, and leave it there.
The next time I see him he has a tid-bit of gossip to share.
“Hey! Have you seen Twitter? What’s going on with your boss? He’s having a meltdown!”
Something about the chef Gary Usher and Garner flying back from his holidays. Usher, I infer, has implied he leans on restaurants to shell out for his online promotion deals.
Food & Drink isn’t my major, so it’s passed me by.
It’s clearly very funny, though, because Pat’s all over it.
“You’re working for a gangster! A gangster! Ha ha!!”
“Nothing to Jonathan about this,” I tell Lucy in the Confidential office.
The site’s ebullient editor-at-large, tour-guide-cum-local-celebrity-pundit Jonathan Schofield, has the territorial instinct of a cuckolded lion twitching his nose in the Saturday night breeze. Instinct enough to consider what’s yours might really be his, should it trespass within the compass of his interests.