Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Sloppily-produced propaganda from the Labour Party

One thing that's surprised me about this campaign so far is that the incumbent Labour councillor (John Flanagan) doesn't seem to be putting much effort into keeping his job. The Lib Dems have been campaigning hard in my area since about the middle of last year – I've had a monthly Focus leaflet off them, along with a Christmas card, calendar and a personalised letter inviting me to join up with them (no thanks). All I've had from Labour this year is a letter from Tony Lloyd, the local MP who's currently after being re-elected. The only time I've seen or heard anything from Flanagan in the last few months was when I attended a local political meeting last year, which was hosted by all three councillors. On that occasion, Flanagan stormed out of the room after one of the local taxpayers gave him a bit too much grief – I really didn't get the impression that Flanagan enjoys his job.

So little or no Labour activity in Newton Heath. Is this because they arrogantly assume that the locals will automatically turn out and vote Flanagan back into power? Or have they given up on Newton Heath on the assumption that this part of the ward now “belongs” to the Lib Dems? It's a false assumption in either case, since the voters all have free will, and anything can happen on election day – but then again, establishment politicians do tend to take the voters for granted, don't they?

It turns out that the Labour Party are doing some campaigning though, just not round my way. By way of this very useful and interesting website, I've found a copy of a “Rose” leaflet that the Labourites have been circulating around Miles Platting and Collyhurst South. It's well worth having a look, even if only to keep yourself amused by counting the typos. Edited by Flanagan himself, frankly it's a bit of a mess.

The leaflet has three pictures of Flanagan on the front, which isn't a good start – he takes an even worse picture than me. Naturally he takes credit for three new schools that are going up in the area, as well as keeping Miles Platting Pools open (for now). He also takes credit for “home improvements” in Miles Platting and Collyhurst, forgetting to mention that some of these “improvements” involve the extensive use of a demolition ball. The plan to demolish nearly 200 homes in Collyhurst South is particularly controversial, but you wouldn't believe it from reading this leaflet. Possibly because it's a relatively small area, not big enough to swing an election, the two big parties seem to be paying scant attention to the feelings of the people who actually live there.

The bottom of the front page is promoting the upcoming St George's Day Parade, which isn't really something that the council should be involved with – if local residents want to organise a parade, that's perfectly OK with me, it's just not something that the council should be financing or taking credit for.

The back page is even worse. According to the leaflet, the council has set aside £600,000 to repair all the extra potholes that have appeared due to the recent cold snap. For a town the size of Manchester, that doesn't sound anything like enough to me. Although I'm in favour of reducing the size of Manchester City Council's overall expenditure, keeping the roads in a decent state of repair is a necessary core function in my book, so it's one area where I think spending a bit of extra money is justified to get it right. And I don't think it's being done right at the moment, because a lot of the potholes near me have just been roughly filled with tarmac – I don't think they'll get through even a moderate winter without needing re-doing.

A bit further down, there's a nice prominent headline: “Manchester Council Tax – no increase”. This is a lie. The reality is that there's been an increase in the council tax bill of up to £22.70, depending on the property you live in. Maybe not as bad as it could have been, but nothing like as good as it could have been either, and definitely not a freeze. If they really cared about the working poor of this town, they could have reduced council tax significantly. Certainly if I'm elected I'll be pushing for at least a 10% reduction (the Lib Dem candidate's only promising a reduction of less than 1%, which isn't surprising as he's an ex-Labourite himself).

The rest of the leaflet is taken up with the usual form to fill in and send back to the Labour Party to get your name added to their mailing list, and some fairly random-looking photos down the side – the top one shows Flanagan standing in front of a playground pointing at the camera as if he's doing a “stick up”. The next one down shows Flanagan apparently being given directions by a Collyhurst resident – not surprisingly, as Flanagan's from Gorton and probably has trouble finding his way around this ward. One pic of Flanagan and Lloyd attending last year's parade. One pic of Flanagan standing outside a youth club, saying it had had a “£100,00 improvement boost” - does he mean £100.00 or £100,000? This leaflet hasn't been proofread at all. Weird how they can afford thousands of leaflets on glossy paper, but don't take the time to get them right.

Note to the Labour Party: I have experience of proofreading. If you want someone to go through your propaganda and check for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors next year, my hourly rate for that kind of work is £7 per hour. For the Labour Party (and Lib Dems and Tories) I offer a special rate of £14 an hour, or we'll call it £10 if cash in hand. You know where to contact me.

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