The Mancs are revolting

As some regular citizens may know, I relocated the Republic to Manchester a couple of months ago. As one of nature’s drifters peripatetics, I am having tremendous fun working out how I fit in here, what I like (the civilised scale of things, rent prices, access to countryside, food markets, trains) and what I don’t (surburban pubs, rain, buses, the lack of decent civic architecture in the centre).

And it seems particularly irksome that, just as I am settling in and getting to like the place, the government has decided to start throwing buckets of shit all over it. Is there anything, any corner of my modest little life that the Labour Party isn’t determined to cover in crap? They’ve overseen the housing bubble that forces me to continue as a feckless renter at an age when I am really starting to see the point of gardening, they’ve presided over the recession that has taken three quarters of my freelance work away, they took my precious 10p band off me, they’re freely murdering the pubs I like drinking in,  and as a continuation of that they’ve made absolutely everyone under thirty who likes a drink or two feel just a little bit like a stain on society. Well, fuck you very much. And that’s just how I feel. I haven’t even had to pay tuition fees, lose a job or be on the wrong end of a stop and search procedure.

But I digress. Manchester always seems to be first in line when real policy turds are being handed out at Whitehall. Congestion charge? We’ll try it in Manchester. Bizarre terror propaganda to be trialled in hairdressers? Hm, tricky, the south-east would never wear that, we’d have London up in arms – give it to Manchester. ID cards? Haha, let those Mancs have it, they swallow any old crap.

But there is at least some potential for this to backfire on the beleaguered government, horribly horribly. This Manchester ID cards trial, which begins in the autumn, is a “voluntary scheme”, for all love, which involves paying £30 to the government! Oh yeah, well, you’ve convinced me. Yes, it’s completely reasonable for a Minister who claimed her bath plug on expenses to sit in an office in London and decide that an entire city in the great big Not London area will be only too pleased to cough up thirty quid per head in the middle of a recession in order to make their identities slightly more vulnerable to theft. Of course!

Seriously, who in Whitehall decided that the best people to make that sort of imposition on were – saving your presences – a bunch of chippy northerners?

This is so not going to work. You know the old saying, “Tha can allus tell a Yorkshireman, but tha can’t tell ‘en much”? Well, the Greater Manchester version seems, on my acquaintance so far, to be subtly different, and more along the lines of “Yer want me to do wha’? Ah, jus’ sod off, yer fookin ponce.”

This is a population with a fierce civic pride and a radical political tradition as well as all the usual northern jumpiness about being ruled from London. That mix and the destruction to manufacturing meted out by Thatcher have traditionally made it a  Labour stronghold, which is presumably why it’s now first in line for the buckets-of-shit approach to policy piloting.

(Another probable rationale for using Manchester as a guinea pig that occurs to me – and I hope the  person who “strategised” this one rots in whatever hells may be – is that Manchester is almost unique outside London for having been on the receiving end of a terrorism incident within living memory. Do they think Mancunians will be more receptive to the “it stops terrorists” line?)

Anyway, that very same mix that made Manchester a Labour stronghold could just be the mix that spits the ID card scheme back in the government’s face. To date there are 77 comments on the Manchester Evening News item on the subject, two of which are in favour of ID cards. Elsewhere, the MEN repoorts that pilots at Manchester airport, who have been chosen as a special treat to be the compulsory guinea pigs, will boycott ID cards “with all legal means possible”.

It’s a great early sign, and there are others. The congestion charge was slung out without ceremony, Manchester No2ID has a particularly active branch  here with regular information stalls in the city centre and MEN often comes across as a very liberal newspaper.

Yet I am, to be honest, writing this in more a state of hope than of certainty. I don’t know this place well enough yet to take its cultural temperature accurately. We won’t get a referendum on this one – we’ll need to do more than just turn up and put the cross in the “No fookin way” box. A lot of people will have to be sufficiently committed to actively object, and spread the word about the problems ID cards represent.

I know damn well what Londoners would make of having this forced on them. But will the Mancs be up for it, really be  up for giving this the reception it deserves? Don’t tell me you’re going to let some bloody southerner be angrier than you…


  1. I suspect most Mancs will dismiss it swiftly as a bit daft, then think no more about it. I think a lot less fondly of my home city since I moved away and discovered that, despite the prevailing local wisdom, it’s actually not “better than London”. But I doubt ID cards will collide with that sad chippiness especially (North West Tonight might paint a different picture. But then again, it is the most pathetic excuse for a local news programme I’ve ever seen). There will be those who get worked up, of course – but a minority, as ever. That’s the best guess from this Armchair Manc anyway.

  2. I’m from Stockport (a short hop on the bus from Manchester) and I don’t think the ID card will stick; as far as most of us are concerned its just another means of taxation and prying into our lives. The sooner ID cards are six feet under, the better.

  3. I’m sure I’m just being naive here, but…

    This scheme is voluntary… and it costs a whole load of money… and no one seems to wants to buy one… and there’s no tangible benefit to having one, at the current time…

    So, surely when nobody buys one, that will send message enough? Is anger necessary when simply ignoring the whole thing will work just as well?

    I’m sure 15 people will tell me that this is a thin end of a wedge or a slice of chorizo or some other such thing that just brings a nice cheese board to mind, but, in the words of primary school teachers everywhere, don’t you think they’re just after the attention and that if we ignore them they’ll probably just go away?

  4. Yea and nay. On the one hand, hopefully, if John K and Cozzers are right, it’ll be exactly as you say – next to no uptake. But the government has ignored messages like that before. Remember when Jacqui Smith was confronted with that stat about how now most of the country was against ID cards and 42 days, and she just said, well, I get lots of people writing to me asking when they can have one?

    This govt is no longer operating to rational standards of behaviour and response, otherwise the Gurkhas defeat would never have happened. It’s fairly bonkers that they’re even trying a trial, for goodness’ sake. The only thing that’ll make them go away is a general election. And a big, public humiliation in their heartlands would constitute yet another reason why they shouldn’t get back in.

  5. I guess if you have the optimism to be a LibDem, the idea of a “big, public humiliation in their heartlands” is an easy one to swallow. Having grown up in said heartlands, I imagine they will be just as mystified when Brown loses as when Thatcher was elected. “How can she have won?” said the guy next to me in the pub that night, “I’ve never even met a Tory.” It’s nowt to do with reason, love. It’s tribal. They will be Labour even as they are driven into (or drive others into) the eponymous camps. Not Labour enough to spend £30 of their own money though (or perhaps I mean too Labour to spend £30 of their OWN money).

  6. playing Devil’s Advocate here, but aren’t there some good reasons to trial things in Manchester (if you’re Labour)?

    – London is big. ‘Trialling’ something in London is therefore a tough one unless you have a lot of time and money to throw around. London is also – thanks to the Mayoral system and the GLA – closer to being a city state than anywhere else in the country. And therefore not ‘representative’, you can do things in London that you just couldn’t do in Birmingham, and vice versa.

    – Manchester is a ‘working’ (viz, ‘operating’) city, unlike commuter satellite cities (cf Reading), workhubs (Slough / Guildford), or commercial centres (Leeds). This makes it a useful microcosm for ‘everycity’. It has also been in economic recovery long enough to be representative, unlike, say, Liverpool. Port cities (Bristol / L’pool again, Portsmouth also have their own specifics).

    – As you rightly point out, it is not a Labour marginal. They’re not going to trial something in a marginal. Neither would the tories, nor the Lib Dems. That would just be silly.

    I know there’s no such things as a ‘typical’ city, but it does strike me that if you were to try and find one, you could do a lot worse than Manchester. Doesn’t mean I agree that they should be the guinea pigs for everything, but I can see why a government strategist might like the idea.

  7. I’m absolutely mystified by why the Government continue to push this, I can only imagine it’s to do with a terror of being seen to back down on anything. I find it slightly odd when Jacqui Smith or the press have timetables for roll out that stretch to 2012 and beyond. I guess they’re not allowed to admit as much, but any timetable going beyond 2010 are essentially superfluous.

    I imagine we can trust Manchester to not apply in droves. If you feel that something more is required, how about a boycott of shops that agree to participate?

  8. “commuter satellite cities (cf Reading)”

    rrr, I’ll have you know we are a centre of communication (in bygone days that would translate as a railway junction).

  9. These Labour councillors had better not get too comfortable- recall that Sjoke used to be a fiefdom of theirs in like manner & they lost through their arrogance & cuntishness before the party had even started going down the tubes nationwide.

    Manchester has a heavy LD presence- which we’ve never had- & possibly can also get various “independents” & even BNP types & that emerging.

    Not totally sure about countryside at your end- I know you’re not far from the Peaks & areas such as the Ribble Valley in Lancashire I spose are not a huge distance- but not able to offer detailed advice re: that as it’s not particularly near me.

    Yes- you, & the likes of the SNP/Plaid are taking the fight to them in areas they once owned.

    Looking forward to the nothingtohidenothingtofear brigade being won over as, despite not caring for civil liberties in the abstract, they realise what an utterly toss scheme this is in practice.

  10. Just because they *say* it’s voluntary, doesn’t mean it *will* be voluntary. I expect that the local government agencies will have been briefed to exert pressure at every level to everyone they touch to strongly recommend that they acquire an ID card. Considering what utter bastards they are, I wouldn’t put it past, for instance, benefits offices to almost require an ID card in order to get your benefits. If you lose your passport or driving license, then you will be strongly recommended to get an ID card as a replacement.

    Don’t underestimate the malignancy and reach of this horrible bunch of wankers!

  11. What was on the sign that the Liverpool fans displayed several years ago? “Don’t bomb Iraq, Nuke Manchester” Well, Burnham is an Everton fan….. But then great grand uncle, born 1865, always used to say, “What Manchester does today, London will do tomorrow”.

  12. Is this really worth getting annoyed about? Surely, no one is going to sign up to get these cards, given that they involve paying 30 quid in exchange for something which doesn’t even give you reward points at Tesco’s.

    But the bit I really didn’t get is “they’ve made absolutely everyone under thirty who likes a drink or two feel just a little bit like a stain on society.” Normally I at least understand even the most hyperbolic criticisms of the government (whether or not I agree with them), but this one has stumped me. Is it a clever reference to the smoking ban or something?

  13. But the bit I really didn’t get is “they’ve made absolutely everyone under thirty who likes a drink or two feel just a little bit like a stain on society.”

    no, I assume it’s a reference to the drinking ‘recommendations’ and ‘campaign against “binge drinking”‘ which are based on misattributed science, scare tactics, selective accounting, dressing up puritannical disregard for personal autonomy in the name of ‘health’ and the usual gamut of government misinformation.

    1. …not to mention minimum prices on alcohol and bans on drinking in public places.

      Pubs are closing across the country, yet while Labour members bemoan the loss of these ‘community hubs’ almost everything they do punishes the trade.

      One of my local Labour PPCs (Anneliese Dodds) is about as close to the line of a new prohibitionist as you’ll find. She makes me very angry (until I have a tot of rum to calm me down).

      1. what interests me most is that in the absence of God to back up their point (drinking is naughty and leads to sin) they are casting around for any justification they can find; health was the main one until conflicting studies came out (there was one at UCL which showed that drinking 30 british units a week – viz, over the recommended maximum – was actually good for you, and I seem to recall the chap who came up with the whole 28 units thing going on record as saying that he made it up anyway), then they tried the economy (binge drinking costs the economy £20 bn a year apparently, only it doesn’t.) Now it’s the NHS – Bad Drinkers! A burden on the NHS and therefore us all!

        I wonder what they’ll try next…

        1. whoa there sockpuppet, there is a big difference between use and abuse, so whatever the science predicts we can all judge the consequences for ourselves whether or not it is couched in religious terms.

  14. I would have thought that the first trial should have been in a more discrete area – perhaps a medium sized town with a good cross section of folk there. Redditch springs to mind as somewhere very suitable; the MP s a pretty sharp cookie – she knows all the wrinkles on petty rules like those on – say what expenses – and can argue a convincing case.

  15. Did you do this “Which part of Manchester are you” quiz?

    I got some pile of shite called B of the Bang, apparently some sculpture that was taken down because for all its grandiose claims it proved to be shite in reality. Don’t know if that’s a reflection on me or what.

    I would have described myself as Hulme. But the experts say I am wrong, like.

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