More Business As Usual in Manchester By-Election?

As I did before – with Who’s Best For Chester MP? – I’m doing an ad hoc SWOT analysis of the first 5 candidates to post their profiles on Who Can I Vote For? (5 this time as the website was a bit tardy and gave candidates only 2 days to get organised!) It’s light-hearted and (hands up) I am a member of one of these parties – can you guess which one? I do try to be fair.

CANDIDATESTRENGTHS – from WCIVF? Public Twitter/ Facebook/ LinkedIn/ Party profile
Andrew Western: Labour PartyHas twice fought a Westminster election before; experience as councillor and Leader of Trafford City Council; responsibility for Transport; Director of a Housing trust; school Governor; supported firefighters’ pay; campaigned to save local amenities; established party infrastructure available.  
Christina Glancy: Freedom Alliance – The Real AlternativeLocal businesswoman with 15 years experience running a catering company; informed on local issues; volunteer for Manchester homeless charity.
Dan Jerrome: Green PartyExperience as Trafford City Councillor; informed on local issues; established party infrastructure available.  
Emily Carter-Kandola: Conservative and Unionist PartyPhotogenic; cute wee doggie; established party infrastructure available. 
Paul Swansborough: ReformLocal. Has fought a Westminster election before.
CANDIDATEWEAKNESSES
Andrew Western: Labour PartyMay be taking credit for party for achievements of Council. No mention of charity work.
Christina Glancy: Freedom Alliance – The Real AlternativeNew, small party with controversial policies.
Dan Jerrome: Green PartyOnly gained 681 votes for last parliamentary election. May be taking credit for party for achievements of Council. No mention of charity work.
Emily Carter-Kandola: Conservative and Unionist PartyNot yet 30, no political experience, Twitter account all about the Tories, nothing local. No mention of charity work.
Paul Swansborough: ReformRode the UKIP Brexit wave well previously but then only polled 75 votes in 2021 local election. No mention of charity work. Reforms all theoretical. No evidence of what party would do in power and even those in favour of Brexit complain about its impact.
CANDIDATEOPPORTUNITIES
Andrew Western: Labour PartyLabour recently undergoing a resurgence due to chaos at Westminster. Bold biscuit choice with McVitie’s (toffee) Trio!
Christina Glancy: Freedom Alliance – The Real AlternativeMay attract independent voters tired of older parties as well as women – as her party supports female safe space and robust child safeguarding – as well as older voters and their carers. May attract voters who want to vote for a woman, whatever her policies. Dark Chocolate Digestive is a popular guilty pleasure; not sure it tops Trio but definitely trumps Custard Creams in the biscuit stakes!
Dan Jerrome: Green PartyRoad safety is a cross party vote-winner.
Emily Carter-Kandola: Conservative and Unionist PartyMay attract voters who want to vote for a woman, whatever her policies. Fresh face.
Paul Swansborough: ReformReform want to reform everything and that may be attractive to some.
CANDIDATETHREATS
Andrew Western: Labour PartyPopular resentment of by-election triggered by resignation of Labour councillor. May attract blame for unpopular Council policies and Transport problems. Women & male allies may not vote for a party that does not support female safe space and robust child safeguarding – especially as a school Governor would know about that. May be tricky respecting Purdah, given Council role. Climate change agenda is a real vote divider.
Christina Glancy: Freedom Alliance – The Real AlternativeVoters may be put off by what Freedom Alliance is against and not know what it’s for. 
Dan Jerrome: Green PartyWomen & male allies may not vote for a party that does not support female safe space and robust child safeguarding. Green self-ID trans agenda not popular with older voters – who vote more than the youngsters. Climate change agenda also a real vote divider.
Emily Carter-Kandola: Conservative and Unionist PartyConservatives may be facing early General Election, despite new PM appearing to be a steadier pair of hands that the last one. Voter statement ticks some boxes but difficult for voters to back the party responsible for the problems she aims to solve. Despite featuring powerful women on Twitter, women & male allies may not vote for a party that does not support female safe space and robust child safeguarding.
Paul Swansborough: ReformLeader of the Reform now courting the Freedom Movement (the voter base of Freedom Alliance) but did not voice any resistance during lockdown so that appeal is likely to fail. Biscuit choice: if you can’t top Trio it may be best not to try. What’s more boring than a Custard Cream?

ANALYSIS

Andrew Western definitely has most political experience but in this election that may be a two-edged sword. Not only is there popular resentment against the Labour councillor stepping down to take up another post but, as Leader of the Council, any gripes voters have may land at his feet. A hail-fellow-well-met personality (see Facebook video) in a politician feel like more of the same and the mood in the country is for change. That said, he’s certainly capable and informed about local issues – and supporting the firefighters will be popular.

Christina Glancy is a fresh face in politics but combines novelty and maturity as well as sound business sense. What she has to say about running a small catering business under Covid restrictions may go down very well with middle-class voters. What’s less likely to please are some of the policies of Freedom Alliance however, with vaccine injuries being reported more openly (and not censored on Twitter now) and even hardline lockdowners calling for an amnesty for Covid collaborators, what may impress voters most is her passion for charity work with the homeless. As we face a winter of fuel poverty and food banks, anyone in favour of feeding the hungry may get the popular vote!

Dan Jerrome does frown at the camera, librarians are not known for the extraversion associated with political leadership and the Greens have some very dodgy policies at the moment (though the English & Welsh have been recently excommunicated by the Scottish branch office for not being radical enough) which only tend to appeal to the age group that doesn’t tend to vote! However road safety is a neutral topic that anyone responsible will support. Not sure being speed checked by the Green neighbourhood watch will be popular though. Shades of Desperate Politicians.

Emily Carter-Kandola will win or lose (let’s be honest) on her party’s policies and her looks. There doesn’t really appear to be anything else to go on. The problem with the former is that they’ve caused the mess we’re in so Vote Tory for Change just won’t work. The problem with the latter is that lithe and lovely aren’t characteristics normally associated with politicians. Leaders tend to be either hard-faced or stolid and she’s neither.

Paul Swansborough has a pleasant enough face for the camera – one can’t imagine babies screaming in horror on walkabouts and this isn’t his first Westminster rodeo. The problem here is that that was then and this is now. UKIP may (arguably) have changed the constitutional status of the UK massively by being the catalyst for Brexit but that party now feels like the SNP post-independence: what would be the point? (Let’s not get sidelined with that issue!) Jumping ship to Reform doesn’t leave him trailing glory either – especially now that their party leader is trying to woo the Freedom Movement without having expressed any solidarity with any of their aims or core values during lockdown.

PREDICTION

Labour may win the next GE as the alternative but that’s hard to sell here with this very well-established candidate. Voting Conservative here is simultaneously choosing inexperience and the status quo. I can’t see that combination going down well anywhere in Greater Manchester. The Greens may be impressing 16-18 year olds with their identity politics but, unlike further north and west, in England they can’t vote and the recent antics of Extinction Rebellion (especially when the food-spoiling perpetrators are outed as Chelsea public school jet setters) haven’t endeared anyone to their cause – I’m vegan and I can’t stand them! Yes road safety is good, and very necessary, but none of these parties are safeguarding kids at school and that’s another rebellion that’s gaining momentum. Let’s just burst Reform‘s bubble before it blows itself up any more. There are so many self-congratulatory parties that are a phenomenal success – on social media. It’s quite another thing to have boots on the ground – and not just the party leader flying in for a photoshot.

So that leaves Freedom Alliance. Do I think they’ll win? Honestly, it’s extremely unlikely. Twitter (surviving so far, despite predictions) may have opened up a bit but the impact of all the smear campaigns isn’t going to lessen all at once. Gradually, however, voters may come to see that there’s a consistent message of personal liberty, of protection of the vulnerable and a willingness to challenge the status quo and do something different. That’s all very well but the real problem is that the people who support all that quite often won’t vote. They’re not too lazy, they just oppose representative democracy. I think their day will come but only when one demographic group stops considering them too much part of the establishment and the rest stop considering them too radical.

Meanwhile, I regret to say, it’ll most probably be party politics and business as usual in the Stretford and Urmston parliamentary by-election on Thursday 15th December 2022.

Unless you, the voters, decide differently.

Thanks to Petr Kratochvil for releasing his photo Crowd of People into the Public Domain.

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