The Case for Manchester
The last few days have been dominated by the presence of the Conservative Party Conference taking place at Manchester Central.
It was preceded of course by one of the largest demonstrations we've seen in the city. The main march wound around the site of the Peterloo Massacre but thankfully not with the same outcome. There was a large police presence but the effective organisation and stewarding from the TUC meant they had a quiet afternoon, and meant the marchers could get over their powerful anti-cuts message. There were the inevitable nutters who try to cause disturbance but they were easily contained, something that was vital from the protest point of view. If we had had serious disorder that would have become the news, not that anti-cuts message. Manchester as always fully supports the right to peaceful, democratic protest, and whether you agree with the message or not, Manchester should be proud that it could host just such a protest on this scale.
We should also be pleased we are hosting the Tories' conference. Four thousand plus delegates, seven thousand plus journalists, exhibitors, lobbyists and general hangers-on translates into a business bonanza for our visitor and tourism industry, and for the thousands of Mancunians who work in that industry. The conference was preceded by masses of positive publicity for the city in the national press, and for the few days of the conference images from the city are being beamed all over the world, all of this estimated to be worth more than £27m to the Manchester economy.
Like it or not, and election results in Manchester clearly indicate that it is the latter here, the Conservatives are the government of the day. The decisions they make matter to us - that's why the demonstration took place. It's also why I and many other members of the " Manchester family " took every opportunity to get a Manchester message to the conference in general and Ministers in particular. I spoke at a Centro fringe in support of High Speed Rail. At a Shelter fringe about what I thought we needed to address housing issues in the city. At a Policy Exchange fringe on what we needed for successful economic development, and a Total Politics fringe generally on local government including the need for greater devolution from a wide-range of government departments not only to help support economic growth but also so that we can better tackle deep social issues like complex families. As a Labour politician it would be quite easy just to bury my head in the sand and pretend they're not here. In my view that would be an abdication of responsibility, a responsibility to take every opportunity to make the case for Manchester where it matters.