Friday, 22 May 2009

Drama in (Greater) Manchester's Second City

The second city in question is of course Salford. Salford is often neglected and probably deserves a blog post of its own, but it's a place that’s been in the news recently as the stamping ground of Hazel Blears MP, arguably one of the 2 most famous women in Britain over the last few days.

The drama I refer to (such as it was) was the count following a council bye-election in Ms Blears constituency, and therefore something of a litmus test on the effect of the expenses scandal on voters. There is no doubting the woman’s public profile; the counting room was full of TV cameras. In a crowded room the diminutive frame was difficult to find, until one realised that you could always tell where Hazel Blears was by seeing which way the cameras were pointing. At the risk of name-dropping, I once shared a platform with Hazel Blears, in the 1992 general election when she was a rising Labour star working her way up through the seats. How times change. But enough of celebrity politics for now.

I am a long-standing attender at Manchester counts so it was interesting to see how Salford did it - and they did it very efficiently I have to say. I also have to say that the turnout was so low (17.5%), it would have been hard to do it inefficiently! In the end, the drama was muted as Labour held the seat, albeit with a reduced majority, and the BNP threat amounted to nothing more than a slight increase in votes and third place. The atmosphere was surprisingly good-natured, marred only by BNP yobs thrusting kitkats and expense forms in Ms Blears face. For full result and Green Party comment see here.

If this result can be said to be any indication for the European elections, there is everything to play for. The BNP vote here rose by 18% from the last election, in the last Euros the BNP got 6.4% - an 18% rise on 6.4 - that gives about 7.6%.
The Green Party in this bye-election got 7.8%; hmmmmm...

Back to the 2 most famous women, (and back to celebrity politics?). The other is the redoubtable Joanna Lumley, with her succesful campaign on behalf of the Ghurkas. Now there's a formidable woman - I wonder which Party she's backing?
Who else but the Green Party, or more specifically Caroline Lucas MEP as seen here.

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