Sunday, September 28, 2008

National Executive Committee – 16th September

Tuesday’s NEC was preceded by some major publicity about calls for a leadership election and distribution of nomination papers. In the end it was a bit of a damp squib. The general secretary repeated that he’d received some requests for nomination papers, consulted with party officers and the records to see what the procedure was and recommended that we stick with correct practice, that we do not invite nominations when in government.

The NEC unanimously accepted this. The clear thing though is that as a party, and a country, we are in a very worrying position. We have 18 months approximately to claw back a 20% Tory lead and we know that wont be easy. From my point of view, times like this are when we really need solidarity. We voted Gordon in as leader last June and its important we have him when the going gets rough.

Anyway, the September NEC meeting is the one where we discuss conference arrangements. We had a briefing from Greater Manchester Police who seem really on top of things. Some changes have been made since last time. The late accreditation is in the hotel next to the Bridgewater Hall and the taxi rank has been moved to Mount Street near the Quaker building. This will be of particular benefit to mobility impaired delegates & visitors and I’m please because this is an issue I brought up 2 years ago after the last Manchester Conference (sometimes the system works) Apparently the credentials system is working well – touch wood.

There was a proposal to not have lunch on Wednesday and finish early. A number of us spoke against this as it disrupts the fringe meeting arranged for that lunchtime. It's not fair to chop and change things like this at the last minute. It went to the vote and we lost 14-9.

We had a report from Harriet Harman concentrating on the economic issues. She felt peoples main economic concerns centre around savings, jobs and homes, and the government was taking action to safeguard all three. Gordon Brown arrived hot foot from meeting the new president of Pakistan, and prior to flying out to Northern Ireland. He made reference to economic prospects, particularly in the fall in the price of oil from 150$ to 90$ per barrel, and the need for long term answers for energy usage, ie more official use of oil and alternative sources of energy. The basic message is that Labour is here to help people through difficult times, when times were hard in the 80’s and 90’s the Tories abandoned them!

Dennis Skinner offered to write Gordon’s conference speech (an offer I think should be accepted) Ellie Reeves raised the problems of Zimbabwean asylum seekers and I highlighted the importance of the Manchester velodrome in Britain success at the Olympics and its importance in the economic re-generation of East Manchester. This elicited the response from Gordon “Glasgow, London and every other country is trying to follow Manchester”

The meeting finished at 2pm and I headed back to the North West to report back to the South Riddle General Committee, a key marginal seat we need to hold at the next election. The first question I got was “why are they all falling out just before conference” – precisely!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Manchester Pub’s

"Beer – proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy", Dr Johnson

Manchester is blessed with more than its fair share of good pubs & good beer. As your NEC member I felt it was my duty to visit (most of) them to check they were up to scratch for you. It’s a tough job but…..

Anyway, as they say…enjoy yourself sensibly. The best beers in town are the local ones – Holts, Hyde’s, Robinsons & John Willie Lees, all reasonably priced. I’ve grouped the pubs in reasonable little groups around the conference centre, feel free to go off piste and let me have your comments – 07880790182 or email if you need any help.

Oxford Road / Piccadilly
From the conference centre walk past the Bridgewater Hall and in front of you, you will see “The Britons Protection” – Great Bridgewater Street. Good range of beer including excellent Jennings and apparently 200 different Whiskies. Deceptive in size, if you walk around the bar there are some very comfortable rooms and there is a big outside seating area.

Just up the street on the right is the “Rain Bar” younger pub/bar with good outside seating over looking the canal. Further up on the left is “The Peveril Of The Peak” Lots of good beers and a genuine Manchester Pub. Best table football machine in Town.

Slightly further up is “The Temple Of Convenience” a converted gents urinal. Its actually a lot better than it sounds, reminds me of some 60’s bohemian bar I saw on the telly once – give it a try.

Cross Oxford Road and walk up Portland Street you come to “The Old Monkey” a lively Holts's house. Ten yards further on are “The Circus” and “The Grey Horse” Manchester’s smallest pubs. Excellent beer, good atmosphere and ‘must visits’ when your in town.

To the left down is China Town the only pub is “The Seven Oaks” but the Chinese karaoke bars are very good.

To the right up Chorlten Street is The Gay Village- a big strip of bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants along Canal Street. A key part of Manchester’s cultural vitality its also an excellent place for late drinking “Paddy’s Goose” is. in many ways, the village pub.

Albert Square / Deansgate

The area in front of the conference entrance, between Albert Square and Deansgate is a rabbit warren of offices, pubs and restaurants. This area is the site of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 and is well worth roaming round! “Live Bait,” the best fish, restaurant is in this area.

Peter Street is one long series of bars and clubs, take your pick. More interesting is the area behind Peter Street, walk through the little passage by the RAF recruiting office and the "Sir Ralph Abernathy" is on your left on Bootle Street. Probably the nearest pub to conference it's next door to the police station so there’s unlikely to be any trouble in there. It also has a big beer garden for enjoy the sun shine. Turn right outside the pub and across the car park and in front of you is the “Nags Head” Manchester pub of the year 2007. The karaoke is good on a Friday, and it’s a lively city centre pub.

Carry on through the Nag’s head, i.e out the back door, and in front of you is the "Sun Inn" – another good pub with interesting snacks. If you go out the back door again and turn right you’re in Albert Square. This is a good route to know on a rainy night! Plenty of pubs just off Albert Square. Walk across it and on the left down John Dalton Street is “The Ape and Apple” a big, down to earth Holt House.

Down Cross Street is “Mr.Thomas’s Chop House”, good Victorian pub, good beer. The chops are also very good. Just opposite over Cross Street, 20 yards up, Chapel Walks is “Sam’s Chop House.” Beer, excellent, British food, not for the calorie conscious! Not sure if Tom & Sam were related!

If you wonder back to Albert Square via Mosley Street, you will come across the “City Arms” excellent range of beers including Black Sheep and the watering place of the Manchester City Labour Party.


This is the site of the original Roman Settlement of Mamucium, it was actually a castle in a field (we’re very literal people in Manchester) Nearly 200 years ago this was the most important industrial area in the world. Site of the worlds first railway station (now the museum of industry on Liverpool Road) and the Manchester end of Bridgewater Canal what brought cheap coal to fuel the worlds first industrial city, and became a canal spaghetti junction. The area fell into neglect but has been massively regenerated over the last decade. Its one of the liveliest parts of town and well worth a visit.

Walk down past Peter Street from the conference centre, turn left into Deansgate and you come to the Hilton Hotel, in the Beetham Tower, if you can get in, The Sky bar is well worth a visit. It’s pricey but the view over Manchester here is worth it and there is a glass floor in the bar which you can stand on and look down to Deansgate 150 foot below. Its like floating!

Just a bit further down is the "Deansgate", good traditional pub with excellent Sunday Roasts. Just a bit further down to the left is Deansgate locks, an area of bars and comedy clubs. Near the station itself are two excellent bars, The Atlas bar and the Knott bar. The Atlas bar is a good place to hang out with a big open area at the back.

The Knott Mill is my favourite round here with good real ales from the Marble Arch brewery and a large open balcony on the 1st floor. If you carry on by the canal, you come to "Dukes 92" and "Barca", big modern bars in a canal side setting. The other pub of note is the" Ox" on Liverpool Road, excellent food and beer and handy for the conference centre. It used to be called the Oxnoble, the only pub in Britain to be named after a potato. Unfortunately corporate management decided it needed a trendy name, one day they’ll come to their senses!


If you fancy getting away from the conference hustle and bustle, just a short walk (or taxi) away is Manchester’s twin city Salford. Separated from Manchester by the mighty river Irwell, Salford has a style of its own. Originally built on the docks and engineering, the city experienced the devastation brought by Thatcher and her accompanies. We’re getting over that now thanks to a Labour council and a Labour Government - but fearful of what this lot have in store.

On Bridge Street, just on the border with Manchester is “The Mark Addy” named after a famous local life saver. Here you can sit by the river and watch the swans.

Just a bit further down past the newly re- furnished Salford Central station, is the" Egerton Arms", a Holt’s house and as typical as a Salford pub as your likely to get. Carry on down, cross over Chapel Street and 50 yards down on the left is the "Kings Arms", this pub has its own theatre and regularly holds gigs with local bands. A wide range of real beers.

Toodle back up Bloom Street, turn right on Chapel Street and about 150 yards on your right hand side is and your in the home of “The New Oxford” An excellent free house ran by Tim from Ireland. On a sunny evening this is one of the best places to sit outside and take it all in. they do an excellent Sunday Roast. Bexley square saw a political battle in the 1930’s between the police and unemployed demonstrators outside the local town hall, described graphically in “Love on the Dole”

Walk a little bit further down Chapel Street and just over the lights on the on the left is "The Crescent", make sure you’re in by 11 and its open until 1am. It’s a well Known fact in Salford that Marx and Engles who had a factory near by, used to come in here at the weekend and get hammered.

Conference eating

In Manchester you can eat pretty much any type of food but at Conference you’ll probably want instant gratification, so most of the ones listed below are within stumbling distance of conference. Don’t forget the chip shop, one of Manchester’s unique contributions to world cuisine, gravy a speciality.
A tip well worth knowing is that lots of these restaurants have websites with lots of two for one offers etc-So, google before you go!
Castlefield – Dimitri’s – Campfield Arcade – Junction of Deansgate and Campfield. Tel: 0161 839 3319. Great Greek restaurant & bar, smashing for sitting out when the weathers nice.

El Rincon, 244 Deansgate. 0161 8398819 – Excellent Spanish restaurant downstairs and very relaxed.Can be a little hard to find as its on a backstreet just off Deansgate but well worth the effort.
Evuna, 277 Deansgate-0161 230 5337. Another excellent Spanish restaurant.

Café Istanbul 79 Bridge street – Tel: 0161 833 9942. just off Deansgate, an excellent Turkish Restaurant,

Topkapi, 205 Deansgate -0161 832 9803. Another excellent Turkish retaurant and very near the Conference centre. Afiyet Olsun-enjoy your meal!

Luso – Bridge Street, Tel: 0161 839 5550. If your missing the Algarve, this is the place for you. Just past the café Istanbul, food and service is excellent.

Gaucho bar and grill 2A St.Mary’s street (behind kendall’s) -0161833 4333 if you fancy a 2lb steak try the gaucho – not one for the faint hearted.

Live Bait – Fish Restaurant, 22 Lloyds Street – Tel: 0161 817 4110. This is it. Proper fish, chips and peas with a white wine, how good does it get? About 1 minute walk from the conference centre, make sure you get bread and butter with your meal.

Armenian Tavern – Albert Square, Tel: 0161 834 9025. A Manchester institution, you step off Albert Square and its like stepping in to Armenia (imagine). Excellent service, but I don’t think its open Mondays.

Piccolino – 8 Clarence Street, Tel: 0161 835 9861. A very good Italian restaurant just off Albert Square.

Sams chop house – 8 Back Pool Fold, off Cross street – Tel: 0161 834 3210. Proper British cookery at its best. Corned Beef hash or Steak and Kidney pudding recommended. It’s a pub and a restaurant and personally recommended.

China Town
It would be impossible to list all the restaurants and cafes in Manchester’s China town. Its good day or night, with plenty of restaurants’ and bakeries. But the one not to miss is the Yang Sing on Princess Street, Tel: 0161 236 2200, try the banquet, it’s the best!

Others worth visiting in town
Pizza – Matt & Phreds, 64 Tib St. 0161 831 7002 – long established jazz club with the best pizza’s in town.

Genghis Khan – 16 Chorlton Street - 0161228 1631, bring your appetite because it’s as much as you can eat. All the ingredients are fresh, you make up your own dish, meat, veg, fish sauces and they griddle it for you. Bet you cant do more than 5 dishes!

El Macho – 103 Portland Street, Tel:0845 205 1195 Just off Oxford road on the way to Picadilly, nice downstairs Mexican.

Café Rouge - 82-84 Deansgate – Tel: 0161 839 0414. Felicity says “its nice in there”. Cosy little place, candle lit, and extra seating outside. Always friendly service, and would recommend the fish cakes.

Don’t miss the curry mile, jump a cab from town and take your pick. The Lal Qila is recommended. The cab shouldn’t cost too much more than a fiver and there’s no where in Britain like it.

For a curry near the Conference Centre try the following:
Akbar-73-83 Liverpool Rd. Off Deansgate 0161 834 8444
eastzeast- Blackfriars. -0161 834 3500-Valet parking available!
Both are recommended by Afsal Khan -There is no higher recommendation.

The St. Petersburg Restaurant. 68 Sackville St. 0161 236 6333. This is a new one to me but seems very lively with plenty of Caviar, Not open on Mondays but Russian singing and Karaoke on Fridays and Saturdays

Please let me have any comments for future reference on these or any other restaurants, thank you.

Unite fair tips campaign
Don’t forget the campaign for justice for catering workers, sign up at and look out for the fair tips logo.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Win Back Wednesdays

It’s good to see the Party in Crewe & Nantwich getting stuck back in to the Tories. They are out canvassing and talking to voters on ‘win back Wednesdays’ – they are also doing ‘fight back Fridays’ Anyone available to help, please contact David Williams on 07798 696 603 or visit the Winning back Crewe and Nantwich blog.

NCC Elections

The National Constitution Committee exists to uphold the rules of the party. Its work is unglamorous but is crucial for the integrity of the party. Elections are held at conference this year and two good party member I know are standing:

Rose Burley
A party member since the age of 15 and vice-chair of Wolsall south CLP, Rose is currently a member of the NCC and understands the important nature of the work.

Kevin Hepworth
Officer of Unite, committed to fairness for all members left right and centre. He’s a member of Derby south CLP.

Both are reliable honest party members and well worth a vote.

Sat 20th Sept: Manchester Withington Conference Dinner

For those of you in Manchester for the conference, the place to be is the Yang Sing on Princess Road. Withington CLP are organising their conference dinner with David Miliband as the speaker and a guest appearance from Eddie Izzard. It starts at 7.3pm tickets cost £55 and can be bought from Lucy Powell at

March at conference – Sunday 21st Sept

Unite will be organising a march and lobby of conference in support of local government workers. Its on Sunday morning at 11:30am at Castlefield, moving off at 12noon and marching to Barbirolli Square – See you there!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The fight back is on!

After a quiet summer, it’s great to see the government coming out fighting with plans to help first time buyers, those looking for housing and those threatened by re-possession. The action on re possession is crucial, during their peak under the Tories they reached over 90,000 a year. This year they have risen from record lows to 17,000. The difference is that we know that is too many and are taking action to deal with it. The Tories would just leave things to the market at difficult times like this, that’s what people want, action to protect the most vulnerable from unrestrained free market economies, and that’s clear a clear dividing line between us and the Tories – We are prepared to act!

Friday, September 05, 2008

North West Campaign Briefing

The announcements on economic measures to help people in the housing market were the beginning of the over due fight back. The Labour movement was created by people to protect them from unfettered free enterprise and its times like these we should be coming in to our own. The campaigning is meant to be underpinned by campaign briefings in every region. I went to the Manchester briefing on Saturday 5th with Kitty Ussher Chief secretary to the Treasury and MP for Burnley giving the political briefing. There was a good turn out with delegates from all parts of the North West, who were keen for the fight.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Supper with the minister

Our branch had another successful “Supper with the minister” with Phil Woolas MP. On a night where the rain was bouncing down it was probably cruel of me to remind members he was the minister for climate change! Phil was in great form and members really enjoyed the evening. Thanks to Phil and everyone for coming and supporting the event.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Warrington South CLP

Summers over, although it didn’t seem to arrive this year! Monday September 1st saw me going to Warrington South for their CLP meeting. Warrington South is a key marginal and the Tories are putting a lot of effort in to the majority, 3,515. It was a good meeting with a detailed report from Helen Southworth on her work as an MP and a good political discussion. The message from the members was that we need to be pushing our message of social justice and fairness much more clearly. I promised to pass it on!