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Tories seize (a bit of) the Town Hall

Manchester starts to fly the Blue Flag – well, one of them at least

Published on January 2nd 2008.


Tories seize (a bit of) the Town Hall

Faraz Bhatti, voted in as Lib Dem councillor for Whalley Range last year, has gone Blue.

His defection makes him the first Conservative councillor in Manchester since 1996. So the scores on the revolving doors of the Town Hall in terms of seats are Labour 61, Lib Dems 33, Conservatives 1 and the Hulme Party for Everybody Being Nice to Each Other (aka the Greens) 1.

The problem is that he was exactly right. Most Conservatives have been left out of the city. The city boundaries at least.

The Lib Dems are understandably annoyed. Their leader, Councillor Simon Ashley, is reported as having said it was all down to Bhatti’s ego and that he’d “shafted” the party.

At the ritualistic unveiling of the new Conservative in town, David Cameron turned up. He spoke about “broadening the party”, of including “all colours and creeds”. He said: “The next couple of years are about one straightforward question. Do we want to replace the Labour Party?” Credit where credit’s due though, he was pretty impressive. And blessedly for a politician he was brief and to the point.

Councillor Bhatti, then spoke about “the changing political landscape of the North West.” He said, “All those Conservatives who feel left out in the city have a political home to come to.”

The problem is that he was exactly right. Most Conservatives have been left out of the city. The city boundaries, at least. If there is a political home to go to in Manchester for Tories, then it's about the size of 'Britain's Smallest House' in Conwy.

Despite all the brave words this isn’t a major breakthrough for the Conservatives in the Labour heartlands. Gordon Brown might have recently been trying his best to turn the country against Labour but as yet it's hard to detect a mood-swing in favour of the Tories in Manchester. Councillor Bhatti will not be re-elected in Whalley Range in 2011. Of course if they can engineer another 48 defections before then there might still be a Tory Town Hall in Manchester. That would be for the first time since the 1970s.

No, the bigger crisis here seems to lie with the Lib Dems. After their highwater mark of 38 seats in 2004, they've stagnated. They’ve also had their fair share of internal rows - for instance another Lib Dem councillor, Angela Gallagher, defected to Labour in 2006 - and from the Commonwealth Games onwards they've often backed the wrong horse when it comes to policy.

Whilst other post-industrial cities such as Newcastle have fallen to the Lib Dems, Manchester seems as far away as ever from going the same way. If anyone should be worried about Faraz Bhatti's change of heart it should be Councillor Simon Ashley not Manchester's Labour group. What does this say about his leadership?

Nor is it only the Lib Dem party network that should feel hard done by. Political shenanigans aside, Bhatti's defected to a party which was fourth out of four in 2007 in Whalley Range. As a Lib Dem he got 2030 votes, his Tory rival got 206. Even the Green Party got 393 votes. As a Lib Dem voter that might really piss you off.

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

mark mJanuary 2nd 2008.

get back to your garage pete. up the tories i say

Councillor Mike AmesburyJanuary 2nd 2008.

I think losing their grip is losing some marbles. Take a breath, smile and enjoy life. We have a great city and a wonderful country. Happy New Year!

Mike GradwellJanuary 2nd 2008.

I came across this website as I was trying to contact my MEP Saj Karim. I am sorry to hear of the defection of a Liberal Democrat Councillor especially as he used the feeble excuse of joining a credible opposition. Are the electorate really supposed to believe this when it is patently obvious that on his own he is not a credible opposition in Manchester? It is a sad day for politics and I look forward to a future when I can communicate with one of my elected MEPs.

Councillor Mike AmesburyJanuary 2nd 2008.

It is a sorry state of affairs when the only inroad Cameron’s Tories can make in Manchester is through a failed Lib Dem jumping ship.

CharlieJanuary 2nd 2008.

Banga Mitchell I vote that comment the funniest so far this year on this site.

Bhatti should have the b*lls for a bye-electionJanuary 2nd 2008.

Shouldn't it be "Lost their Grip"?! What a nasty diatribe - great advert for the Tories - not changed a bit - still the nasty party!

Losing their GripJanuary 2nd 2008.

Well typical of a Labour councillor to indulge in name calling! My marbles are well intact, its a shame you see the city through rose tinted glasses as all labourites do, theres no time for complacency when youre a councillor, the cityscape is changing all the time, and socially its for the worse. Dont paint the city as a rosy panacea of wealth and opportunity Cllr Amesbury cos that it aint as you well know, its overcrowded, overpriced and riddled with chav scum and illegal immigrants who because of the immigration appeals centre here is riddled with thousands of displaced people in transit thats apart from the thousands upon thousands of (largely) useless students and southerners here. I think now is the first time in a while ive not has to queue as much! Im dreading the end of the month already. Is this Councillor Leese's idea of a welcoming city? He obviously doesn't live in the centre. He's trying so desperately to make this the second city by cramming as many people into it as possible, hence all the flats, but does anyone actually realise its ninth in terms of population? that what makes it laughable! every true mancunian knows the reality and limitations of the place. Then again Mr Leese hails from Nottingham.....Lets concentrate on getting Rob Adlard elected anyway.......get the blue back in Manchester!

fed up south manchester residentJanuary 2nd 2008.

i think this says more about the state of Manchester Labour and Lib Dems than anything else. In south manchester especially i'm so sick of hearing the usual punch and judy rants from the reds and the yellows that it will be nice to hear a different voice for a change. Hopefully this will be the first of many.

VanceJanuary 2nd 2008.

"Tory. It's an old word for a thief and it's right - they've been robbing for hundreds of years." - Pat Crerand.

Rob AdlardJanuary 2nd 2008.

Its simply not right to say that Faraz will not hold onto his seat. For a start its a few years away, and the Lib Dems lost Whalley Range the year before Faraz won with a record majority, so he clearly has a large personal vote who do not consider themselves 'Lib Dems' - if indeed anyone does. The Lib Dems market themselves as being the 'anything but Labour' party in council wards where there is actually interest in the Conservatives, and when the Conservatives dissapear, their votes go to the Lib Dems, but of course it can go back too. Youe must have seen their misleading slogan on their campaign leaflets of 'only the Lib Dems can beat Labour', so just how solid is their support for their actual party, rather than just an opposition to Labour. Faraz has been clear, as it is to anyone at all who follows politics, that the Lib Dems haven't been doing a good job of that here, have peaked and are falling.Jonathan, its also quite wrong to say the Conservatives not making progress in Manchester, but these things take time, after 3o years in power Labour are deeply dug in. Other cities such as Leeds are run by the Conservatives, a city which features in the top 50 in Europe for economic competativeness - which Manchester does not. If you'd like actually find out what we're doing, and how we're only 150 votes away from winning the city centre from the Lib Dems then please get in touch.Rob AdlardChairman, Manchester Conservatives

Banga MitchellJanuary 2nd 2008.

Have you noticed that cute little Rob Adlard sat in Mr. Bhatti's backpack already?

Losing their gripJanuary 2nd 2008.

Its a real shame theres so many thickos and losers in Manchester who labour still pander to with benefit sweetners and handouts its an easy vote catcher isnt it really? Ignorance is bliss. Keep handing the free money out and they'll keep voting! Not much strategy there though is there? Why should anyone want to be an entrepreneur these days when labour want to hold your hand all the way through life? They stifle individualism and creativity they make your kids eat crap and make them believe that to just scrape through life is enough and then infect you with MRSA whilst spying on you with their Big Brother policies? Its a sure sign they have lost their grip of the country and got too caught up in their own perverse spin, the only way they can control the country is to introduce yet another piece of legislation eroding our civil liberties even further! C'mon tories its down to you sort the country out! Youve got my vote. Bring back Grammar schools, lets produce great people once again that this country used to be proud of, greater entrepreneurship, encourage tax breaks for small businesses etc etc. Labour has stopped supporting the good honest white working majority and sadly focused more on the black one-eyed lesbian single mother minority and encouraged their proliferation and its become VERY tiresome. They DO NOT represent the majority unlike they'd all have us believe!! SPIN SPIN SPIN! = LIES LIES LIES!!!

peter ridleyJanuary 2nd 2008.

One thing for sure, if he had stood as a Tory in my constituancy, Whalley range, he would never have been elected and will be thrown out at the earliest oppertunity.Pissed off of Whalley range, as opposed to Tunbridge Wells

BenJanuary 2nd 2008.

"Mike Gradwell says: I came across this website as I was trying to contact my MEP Saj Karim". Point taken that there's another chap who jumped ship. One would hope that people join and vote for parties because they believe in their policies rather, say, than for reasons of personal advancement. However, just as Labour had problems with entry-ism in the past it does appear that the Lib Dems are suffering the similar difficulties today. It is also worrying when this extends to electoral irregularities at various locations across the country. I know that voting systems are not perfect but I am appalled when we have proven cases of people indulging in what some may regard as Third World practices. yes, before the 20th Century we used to have Rotten Boroughs and vote rigging in Britain but I thought we'd done away with all that. Anyone indulging in or supporting such practices should be removed from any respectable party and anyone changing sides should immediately be subject to a bye-election. If in afair election one is forced to conclude that they have a constituency of sheep then that is a shame but one cannot legislate against it.

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