Three problems with the Labour Party
Despite a brilliant past which has promoted and overseen groundbreaking social change, the Labour Party is now a rudderless, hubristic political organisation at perpetual civil war with itself. This has reached the point where Labour is now struggling to find unique selling points that win people's hearts and minds.
The statistics from the 2017 mayoral election confirm that Labour only has 18% of the vote here in Manchester (360,000 out of a potential 2 million votes), which means Andy Burnham is far from able to claim the title 'King of the North'. I have nothing personal against Andy Burnham, but I wouldn't be doing my job as a local political challenger if I didn't expose his local weaknesses, and those of his national party, to the electorate before people choose who to vote for.
In Greater Manchester, the Labour Party has three main problems.
1. Andy Burnham is not a natural leader
Leadership should never be confused with leadership ambition, as it's a skill in its own right. All great leaders surround themselves with quality people with different skill sets. However, Andy Burnham seems to surround himself only with likeminded people - something which leads inevitably to mediocre leadership.
It's unclear who actually runs this city, but Richard Leese, a councillor from Crumpsall with just 2,705 votes (24.5%) in his area, appears to have a bigger say in proceedings than his meagre vote count would suggest. That said, Mr Leese's clear understanding of the importance of the local economy suggests he is someone that should be worked with rather than against.
There's currently no clear direction, message or strategic plan as to where the city of Manchester is heading. This means we're now lagging behind more sophisticated cities in the UK and around the world, and we're not yet a city where international companies feel they need to have a slice of the action. We could easily be left out in the cold if we don't make ourselves more attractive to investment. What's more, many of our outer towns are 'in need of attention' under Labour Party ideology; it's unbelievable that places such as Ashton Under Lyne, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale and Wigan still have blind faith in an organisation that's delivered them nothing in the last 50 years.
An effective city mayor should be independent and not affiliated to any political party with hidden national agendas that don't fit in with what's best for Manchester. Andy Burnham has been especially poor at controlling hard left groups, such as Momentum that are affiliated to the Labour Party, but this is the inevitable result of having national organisations operating at a local level. For reasons best known to themselves, the Manchester Labour Party tolerates the hard left to the point of admiration.
2. The Labour Party starts from a position of negativity
When the MP for Ashton Under Lyne and Labour Party Deputy Leader, Ms Angela Reyner, refers to another MP from our region (Mr Christopher Clarkson, Heywood & Middleton) in a civilised House of Commons debate as 'scum,' it doesn't exactly ignite the concepts of compassion, love and understanding - particularly when there's no form of discipline whatsoever.
Andy Burnham himself has a deep and well-publicised hatred of the Tories. Of course, it's his right to think what he likes, but the problems start when he's negotiating with the Tories on Manchester's behalf at this crucial point in our evolution over the next four years. At that point, he becomes our biggest weakness, just like the person who openly hates their boss but forever asks for a pay rise.
We need a mayor to collaborate, negotiate and empathise with the London Tories, not agitate, alienate and complain. We need to be working closely with London to bring much-needed investment and jobs to the UK, a process which requires civilised discourse. Andy Burnham, however, seems to be locked in a battle with the Tory Government that he just can't win, to the detriment of us all.
3. The Labour Party is in perpetual decline
Labour is still peddling an ideology that belongs in the 1900s and no longer represents the working man. It appears to dislike the aspirational and is obsessed with the notion that anyone white, male and heterosexual is somehow an oppressor. It promotes a form of self-loathing which includes hatred of the English flag, the royal family, our institutions and even our history. It has a snobbery towards the working class which came out as very apparent during the Brexit vote and it still can't work out why many people are now moving away.
For those of us comfortable in our own skin, whatever its colour, and who just want to be free and peaceful, there's nothing to be found in the Labour Party. The hard left - which actually controls politics in Manchester via an absurd election system - is now guilty of sucking in the far right as many people, who now feel let down, are starting to look in other directions.
The Islamic community in Manchester are brilliant at not only recognising this decline, but also understanding democracy and how elections work. They simply elect their own people via the Labour Party and 'block vote' them in to get representation for their communities and get things done, which is entirely the correct way to operate and promote community spirit.
Rightly or wrongly, I believe the Islamic community will take over the Labour Party here in Manchester in the next 20 years, and it's their democratic right to do so.
From Hale to Harpurhey
Before you vote in this election, please go to Hale in the borough of Trafford, pull into one of the glass-fronted coffee shops and get yourself a skinny latte. Take a walk around, as this is a place in our electoral region where the average house price is around £750,000. The £1 million+ houses are protected by private security companies, which do an excellent job of keeping crime statistics low, and there are no empty properties. People drive expensive cars and, if they don't send their children to elite private schools, the local state schools are branded 'Excellent' by OFSTED. Optimism, expectations and aspirations for the future are extremely high.
Then take a drive to Harpurhey, less than 10 miles away as the crow flies. Here, the average house price - propped up by landlords who seek a 10% return funded by welfare benefits - is around £75,000. Kids live in poverty, people depend on food banks run by the local church and the local constabulary seems to have given up on law and order. Optimism, expectations and aspirations for the future are extremely low.
One of Andy Burnham's biggest bugbears is the north-south divide between Manchester and London, and the need to 'level up'. But surely the Mayor of Manchester needs to take a good, hard look at what's happening in his own backyard, and what's been created by the Labour councils that have controlled our region over the last 50 years?
Equality of opportunity doesn't exist here in Manchester and its time we started looking at a new idea called 'postcode matters'!
So, what's the message from Labour?
Given the above, a vote for a relatively moderate Andy Burnham looks like a rubber stamp for identity politics, self-loathing, 'wokeness' and Islam. This is an absurd bundle of totally mixed messages, which I can only conclude is an identity crisis. And given the collapse of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework as a plan, the demoralisation of Greater Manchester Police to the point of hiding the true nature of crime, and the national Labour Party's championing of minorities turning against each other to the point of implosion, it's entirely inappropriate that Labour should control Greater Manchester for the next four years if we're serious about making any progress.