Village People: How Manchester teased Cameron with short-lived hopes of a breakthrough


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Indy Politics

It was almost four years ago when the Conservatives had a breakthrough in Manchester, where they are assembling for their annual conference.

They gained a seat on Manchester city council, though not by winning an election. In January 2008 a Liberal Democrat, Faraz Bhatti defected – which so delighted David Cameron that he rushed to Manchester to spread the news. But it was too good to last. Mr Bhatti's party membership was suspended and his time as a councillor came to end in 2010 after he was accused of beating his wife, a charge of which he was acquitted by a jury three months ago. That interlude aside, there has not been an elected Tory councillor in Manchester since 1997, and they lost their last Manchester MP in 1987.

Enough elegance and beauty? Well, there's always Eric Pickles

There will be a few minutes of elegance and beauty at the conference on Monday, when Elena Glurdjidze, senior principal dancer with the English National Ballet, right, performs "The Swan", to music from Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals. What that has to do with politics, I have no idea.

Veering away from elegance and beauty, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, set the wheelie bins in motion yesterday with his promise of £250m in sweeteners for councils who collect rubbish weekly, not fortnightly. Despite appearances, he is a man of hidden depths. He acknowledges, for example, that he bombed terribly when trying to defend MPs' expenses on Question Time two years ago. According to Mr Pickles he asked his wife, Irene, how he went. She replied: "The good news is that you're looking a bit thinner. The bad news is that you were crap."

Hemming adopts an ill-thought-out stance

John Hemming, the eccentric Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, has refrained from commenting on the unusual trial in which his wife was accused of stealing a kitten from his mistress's flat, which ended in a guilty verdict yesterday. But he has shared his thoughts with readers of his blog on the report featured on the front of Thursday's Independent, that the number of babies being adopted has fallen to 60. Mr Hemming opined: "I am not sure that the Government are right to regret that fewer babies are abandoned at birth."

I suspect that the Government would agree that it would be better all round if babies were not abandoned, but there are 3,500 children under the age of one in the care system. There will always be some, and whatever the total, the Government would doubtless hope that babies in care have a better than 1-in-58 chance of adoption.

Blair's tormentor was only obeying orders

"I was told by the editor that I had to do whatever it took (to put Tony Blair on the spot)," said Jonathan Oliver, formerly of the The Mail on Sunday, explaining to the magazine PR Week why he shouted, "Have you got blood on your hands, Prime Minister?" at Mr Blair, during press conference on the day after the 2003 suicide of Dr David Kelly, the weapons inspector. Mr Oliver is a director of TLG, which markets itself as "the UK's first Thought Leadership consultancy". But we now know it was not "thought leadership" that Mr Oliver was exercising. It was "thought obedience".

Will a solution to Miliband's woes be scotched by Murphy's Law?

Labour is in danger of selecting an invisible man as its leader in Scotland – so invisible that Ed Miliband suffered the embarrassment of being unable to remember who he was. There is only one solution, I am told: Mr Miliband should instruct shadow Defence Secretary, Jim Murphy, to go back to Scotland. The flaw is that, since the death of Donald Dewar 11 years ago, no major player in the party has wanted a career in the Scottish parliament. Mr Murphy is in no mood to buck that trend.