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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Nick Jackson

Anger, apathy, anxiety and Salford's north-south divide

Anger, apathy and anxiety are the three ‘As’ which appear to define the mood of voters in Salford ahead of the local elections on May 4. The city is a microcosm of the age-old issue of the north-south divide which characterises much of the national political landscape and debate.

To the north of the borough, there is a ward like Little Hulton, where just 18.1 per cent of people eligible to vote bothered to rock up at their local polling station to put an X next to their favoured candidate's name. Move further south and you encounter the affluent area of Worsley and then Eccles and Monton where voter turnout was much higher - more than 33pc in one case.

That still sounds low, but in local elections, it tends to be the norm, unlike the much larger turnouts for general elections. This time, however, there is also the thorny question of voter photo identification. Voters must attend with photographic evidence of who they are [driving licence, passport, bus pass] and there are fears this will have a negative impact on turnout.

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So what’s going on? A walk round the Little Hulton District Centre and a chat to the people there gave a few clues. “I don’t vote,” said one angry man who wouldn’t give his name.

“I voted twice for the British National Party, and it did no good. They just keep letting people in. When I’ve had enough I’ll just sell my house and go and live in Spain.”

Moving swiftly on, I encounter Janet Hoey, 61, in a delightful little cafe on the main square. Janet runs the Cuppa For Carers charity, an organisation she founded several years ago after losing her husband to Parkinson’s disease.

“I don’t know if I will vote. I don’t feel Salford city council is doing enough for people who need wheelchair access. I also think that looking after people who care for their disabled relatives - care for the carers - is important and being neglected.

“That’s why I founded my charity.”

But she’s also lost faith in the local administration because of the rundown state of Little Hulton.

“We need more help in Little Hulton,” she said. “I was born and bred here. This used to be a thriving area and just look at it now. It’s a disgrace and I’m just a bit despondent.”

Her friend Christine Dean, 75, is a retired NHS radiographer. She said she would definitely be voting and would not be deterred by the photo ID issue.

“I can’t get my partner onto this precinct because there is no disabled access,” she said. “This is a terribly deprived area and this precinct has gone right down. But there is a lot of voluntary work going on around here.

“Central government doesn’t bother about the north, but here in Salford there seems to be a similar north-south divide. It’s like we’ve been cut off. I think we’d be a lot better off in Bolton.

“But I’m going to vote. If you don’t vote Labour you will allow this government to stay in power. The Conservatives for many many years have been dismantling the NHS. The Tories have never been happy with the NHS. When it was introduced [in 1948] they voted against it 45 times.”

However, another woman told me: “I’m not voting, because I’m not turning up with my passport or driving licence. They are only doing it to stop people like us voting Labour. This [national] government is evil. The corruption is horrible.

"There is definitely a north-south divide in Salford. The people in Little Hulton are the have-nots, that's for certain.

Meanwhile, a woman running a charity shop exclaims: “I’m not voting because I’m not turning up with photo ID. I’ve got six adult children and none of them are voting either.”

But 52-year-old Joanna Beck doesn’t agree. “I will vote because women fought and died for the right to vote,” she said. “We need investment and improvements in this area and that will not happen if people don’t vote.”

Georgia Kader, 33, however, doesn’t trust the photo ID system. “There are lots of people who think the photo ID thing is a scam, and will I think it will stop a lot of people from voting.”

But it hasn’t put off 75-year-old Londoner Alan Norwood who moved to Little Hulton in 1978 for work reasons. He said: “I’ve got my photo ID and I’m definitely going to vote.

“I am undecided so far who I’m going to vote for, but I won’t waste the opportunity.”

Elsewhere, in the Monton area of Eccles, it’s a different story. Monton Road, the high street, is alive with cafes and bars and little independent shops.

I chat to one woman who is a 51-year-old headteacher of a school in Manchester. She doesn’t give her name, but lives in Swinton, and will vote regardless of the photo ID issue.

“I’m generally happy with what Salford council is doing but I think there needs to be more investment in Swinton - it’s dire,” she said. “They need to do something with that shopping centre.”

Kevin Grannell is a businessman who runs the Edison restaurant and bar and will not be voting for the controlling Labour councillors.

“I’ve put hundreds of thousands of pounds into my business and I’ve had no support whatsoever from the local council,” he said. “They won’t be getting my vote.”

Rich Henshaw, 34, is undecided and said ‘nothing specific gets my gears’ issue-wise.

“I haven’t had time to look at it. I typically vote for one party, but I will look at the manifestos and make my decision around that. I’m in favour of a lot of things Salford council does, like social and affordable housing. Photo ID doesn’t worry me at all.”

Laura Wood, 62, was out walking her dog when she said: “I won’t vote because I don’t really take a lot of interest in politics. I don’t know what I’m talking about. I know it’s bad. I’m all for animals, really.”

Young Monton mum Jen Peacock is not happy with the introduction of photo and thinks it’s ‘the Tory government trying to eliminate Labour voters.

“I will vote Labour,” she said. “I support what Salford city council is doing.”

Michael Wilkinson, 28, lives in the Conservative area of Worsley, but doesn’t vote in local council elections.

He said: “I vote in general elections, but not local elections, never have.”


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