Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Mancunian Candidate

Three years ago, if you'd told me that I'd soon be joining a political party, I wouldn't have believed you. None of the political parties that were in existence at that time came close enough to my beliefs to be worth supporting, certainly not the Big Three. Then in late 2007, the Libertarian Party was formed, and it didn't take me long to decide to join it.

At the time when I joined the Libertarian Party, if you'd told me that I'd ever be doing anything more active for it than doing a bit of leafleting, I wouldn't have believed you then, either. But when the leadership said they wanted regional coordinators, I volunteered to run the North West branch. No-one else seemed to want the job, so I thought I'd have a go. But I always saw myself as a back room type - admin and blogging, that kind of thing.

I certainly never saw myself as a potential candidate for election. But here I am, the Libertarian Party's official candidate for the Miles Platting and Newton Heath ward in the elections for Manchester City Council on 6th May. Not only the first Libertarian Party candidate in Manchester, but also in the North West. So how did that happen?

I was first persuaded to consider the idea when I was talking to a new member early last year. He's an experienced politician, and he said he'd help me through the process of getting onto the ballot, which seemed pretty daunting at the time. But I realised that the best way to grow a young party was to fight elections, so I agreed to consider it. I started looking into the logistics of running a local campaign, and it seemed feasible, at least on paper. Then Andrew Hunt fought our very first election campaign in Wisbech South last spring. I helped out with leafleting for that campaign, and I saw that it could be done, if it was properly organised. As it happens, Andrew got a pretty good result by campaigning on local issues, and yet he didn't spend big money on his campaign as far as I know. His leaflets were just knocked up on a word processor and printed off, but he got a pretty decent result. I decided to give it a go, if I could.

But it's not just about promoting the party I'm in. I genuinely do believe that we need a major change in Manchester. After decades of Labour domination, this council has brought us to the point where Manchester - once an economic powerhouse - is one of the poorest areas in the country, with the second worst-performing police force. My ward is officially listed as an unemployment blackspot (I was told this by the staff at Newton Heath JobCentre Plus last year, people in particularly bad areas get extra help job hunting). Council tax is sky high, and if you can't pay, they'll send the bailiffs after you - some people have even been driven to bankruptcy. So the self-styled party of the workers has failed us. I don't believe the "Liberal" Democrats have got what it takes to turn this city around either. They're too timid, they won't carry out the necessary reforms, and they've long since abandoned their liberal roots. As a matter of fact, the "Lib" Dems in this ward all seem to be recycled ex-Labour councillors, including Gerry Diamond who is hoping to win this seat from the incumbent Labourite John Flanagan. So don't expect any massive changes even if the "Lib" Dems do well in this election.

So it's time to look for a real change. As the sole Libertarian candidate in this election, I realise that even if elected I won't have a major voice in the council (although I'll at least be able to argue for common sense). But this isn't going to be the last election that the Libertarian Party fights in this city - not by a long shot. We're going to become a permanent feature of the local political scene in Manchester. As the party grows, with each election I hope to field more candidates in different wards, until somewhere down the line - hopefully in the reasonably near future - we're able to put up a full slate of candidates with a real chance of winning.

I'm not the ideal candidate. I'm not comfortable with public speaking, I never have any money and I've got the personal charm of a dead rat. But I'll give it my best shot, and if I can mount a decent campaign on limited resources, I'm sure other Libertarians - some of them much better qualified to be councillors than me - will follow suit.

I don't know how long the journey will take, a few years at least, but this campaign is the first step towards a Libertarian City Council for Manchester.

Stuart Heal
Libertarian Party candidate for Miles Platting and Newton Heath


sound money man said...

Good for you Stuart.

What logistical support could you use most?

Leafleting? Canvassing? Knocking on doors?

Thanks to the wonderful post-modern "service economy" we have in this country right now, I might have some more free time to help you out in the near future.

The sky-high council tax bills in your area would be an obvious campaign focus.

I'll send you an email mate.

Citizen Stuart said...

Cheers Sound Money Man, your blood's worth bottling. I've emailed you back.