Inside The One Party State [Postscript]
October, 2022. Above the murmur of a city centre coffee shop Alan Good’s excuses are refreshingly bold. “Sorry I’m late,” the Lib Dem man says. “I was up ‘til six last night in The Eagle.” That’s the Bloom St leather bar where the he tops up his municipal allowance pulling pints at the weekend. It’s Monday morning, so back to council business, and with the total of non-Labour members having reached the magic number of five (following Ekua Bayunu’s July defection to the Greens) Alan is steeling himself to present the first opposition motion to be heard in the chamber in eight years.
“I’ve worded it very carefully in order to try to entice as many Labour members as I can,” he says of his call to Manchester City Council to publicly endorse proportional representation. He knows voting reform is popular with left-leaning members and Labour’s rank and file. “It all depends if Labour whip it or if they table a spoiler amendment.” “How many votes do you expect to get?” I ask. “That’s difficult to say.”
Two days later, and full council is in session. With his white shirt, skinny tie, biker’s beard trimmed neatly back, the cub councillor’s southern vowels are as an appeal to decency as Alan lists the reasons democratic reform will help tackle the nation’s ills. “…backed at Labour conference…wasted votes in the first-past-the post system…leads to complaceny, incompetence and corruption…” It is Pat Karney who cracks his knuckles and gets to his feet to deliver the Labour response. As sandcastle-kickings go it is alpha and brutal.
He begins by suggesting Alan’s boss, the former Withington MP John Leech, may have composed his own Wikipedia entry. Then he pulls out a copy of Nick Clegg’s autobiography – no slender pamphlet – and rifles the index for mention of Leech’s name. “Nothing.” There are sniggers from among the ninety-one-strong Labour group as the Harpurhey veteran monsters the memory of coalition and Leech’s much-vaunted stand against the pact…so electorally secure he has no need to stray into today’s world. Two Labour councillors who came out in support have deleted their tweets. Labour’s amendment says the Lib Dems are rubbish and it is passed. “I think we caused some discussion among the Labour group,” Alan suggests to me afterwards. “It’s a start.”