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Letter to Councillor Swannick

On Friday 26th January, the council held an open conference at the Town Hall, giving locals the chance to have their say against the parking proposals. Manchester Confidential were there to deliver your 4,447 votes...

Published on January 28th 2007.

Letter to Councillor Swannick

Letter to Cllr Neil Swannick

Dear Councillor Swannick,

Phil Burke and Raymond Chan hold up their votes from the Chinese community and the bars, clubs and restaurants Many thanks for giving Manchester Confidential your time on Friday. Your proposals have met with huge resistance from people in their many thousands across the two main mediums in Manchester - The Manchester Evening News and ManchesterConfidential.com. The Manchester Evening News delivered over 3,000 votes to you on Thursday, with ManchesterConfidential.com delivering its 4,447 votes by way of individual emails over the four day voting period which ended on Friday 26th Jan. 97% of the Manchester Evening News voters were against you.

As you know, we were given the opportunity to pose a question to you. This publisher, having studied the comments across the various ‘rants’ (blogs on steroids) on the site for many hours, asked the following:

“Councillor Swannick, there were 4,447 emails delivered to you this week from ManchesterConfidential.com’s readership, both for and against your proposals. Three (yes THREE, that’s not a typo, but we are going to double check) for you and 4,444 (yes, Four Thousand Four Hundred and Forty Four, that’s not a typo either) are against you.

Given that you are a democratically elected member of the council, elected by the people to ensure that their wishes are carried out in Government, are you prepared not only to make a statement here and now that you are scrapping these reforms, but that you are also going to commit to a complete review of the car parking policy of the city?”

You, Councillor Swannick, made no reply. That’s not quite fair, as you had made it clear that you could not do so for procedural reasons, as there is a meeting on Monday to decide what to do.

It’s pretty clear to me, however, Councillor. I have lived in London, Paris, Madrid, Pittsburgh and Nice. Believe me, you have no idea what congestion is. Manchester simply does not have a traffic problem. You are the only person I have seen recently to rely on statements from the bus companies saying that cars are a problem.

Councillor Marc Ramsbottom and Paul HenleyThey have, apparently, complained to you about too many cars on the road. Blimey, that’s a surprise. Only a person not used to travelling on our rotting bus system could pay these villains lip service. Get on the number 43 a few times councillor. When you get to see a spectacle that I have witnessed twice, that of two bus drivers coming to blows having blocked the road outside the University, you will never dare use them for a quote again.

I happen to agree with my readership’s general opinion, against your proposals. You did say something to me after the meeting, which is a valid point. This should not be just a debate about paying more money. We all know the result we would get from that in all fairness. So it is hugely important that you read in detail the blogs across the ManchesterConfidential.com site. They consist of many lucid arguments, not simply talking about pockets being hit.

I personally am against these proposals. Before I go any further, I should make it clear that I am not a car owner. I do have a full licence. I live 150 yards from the front door of the Town Hall and work 120 yards away as well. I am a regular user of the tram service (love it, but we need guards on at the obvious times) and I am intimately familiar with the number 43 bus route (hate it. We have the worst bus service of any city I have lived in).

My reasons against are many and varied. They are expressed far better by my readers across the site. You said to me on Friday evening that “it is a pity that many of the emails were simply the general statement against and not the individuals' own written effort”. Councillor, I simply gathered together those arguments and condensed them. A huge proportion of the emails included additional statements by these readers.

And it is here that I must offer a friendly warning to you about that readership. Many years ago, well before the Berlin Wall came down, I came across an obscure political scholar in Nice. He told me that the Wall would come down shortly after the percentage of private homes owning a telephone reached 25%. His argument was complex, but revolved around communication and knowledge. The guys in the Eastern Block knew Russia were taking the mickey out of them and using them as a buffer from the West. They simply could not communicate that knowledge to each other before they had that tool to communicate with like minded people. When they all realised that they felt the same, via those telephones, they would rise up in a way that would prove to be far more effective than students ripping up cobblestones and throwing them at tanks. Five years after that 25% figure was reached, the wall did indeed come down.

Councillor SwannickI have spent eleven years deeply involved in the Internet, both personally and in business, because I always knew that the Net was the ultimate tool for communication. You, along with rest of your colleagues in the Town Hall should examine what has been happening over these past three weeks or so. I will take a bet that you have never had such a huge, and negative response, to proposals put forward by yourselves. I have been contacted by a number of councillors asking me privately for advice on how ManchesterConfidential.com works and how they can get involved in having their say. They are waking up to the fact that the MEN, through its online publication and ManchesterConfidential.com with its formidable readership of 112,000, have become enablers for the great silent majority to make their voice heard.

And what a voice. Over seven thousand people shouting at once Councillor. They shouted one word. NO!

The Internet is the future. I am sat in my home office. It’s Sunday morning. After making myself a breakfast of two poached eggs on toast, I have written this missive. It will be published online first thing Monday, 29th January. It’s now just gone midday. I will have emailed every councillor a copy before the next hour is out. And whilst all this has been going on, I have used the Internet to find out that your ward is Bradford. That your electorate is around 8,500. Somewhere around 30% of that electorate turn out in a vote. You polled 1537 votes. I considered this a safe seat for a Labour councillor, until I looked at the map of the Bradford ward. Hmm. Sport City. Your demographics are going to change pretty quickly Councillor. My guess is that if you are to be seen not to be listening to your electorate you will lose around 500 voters over the next few years. Natural wastage will see another few hundred knee jerk voters disappear. With all those young professionals moving in, ‘net literate’, ‘considered voting’ may well see you have 900 voting against you. Not looking like such a safe seat now is it Councillor? And the internet allowed me to figure this lot out before my morning coffee.

The reason why I have taken the trouble to copy all the other serving councillors into this is that I have for the first time cast an eye on all your voting statistics. Blimey. If I were you lot, I would wake up and smell my coffee.


Mark R GarnerPublisherManchesterConfidential.comLiverpoolConfidential.comPlanetConfidential.com

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