1987: A Terrible Year

Labour lost 9 council seats in the May 1987 local elections. Budget decisions were made for 1987/88 in the optimistic hope that a Labour government would win a general election, but when this was called in June 1987, Thatcher disappointingly won a third term. Further resignations of Left councillors and then subsequent loss of 2 more seats in by-elections in August 1987 eroded the Left’s balance of power. A strategy change was championed by Graham Stringer trying to balance making the required cuts with protecting jobs and services. This chapter gives an insight into the machinery of local politics, how critical the numbers can be and how difficult it was trying to implement a left-wing agenda when the country was controlled by a right-wing government. It also goes into a lot of detail about divisions within the local Labour Party and the relationship between the City Party and the Council Labour Group.
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Leading up to 1987
1987/88 Budget Preparation
May 1987 Election and Allocation of Committee Places
Effect of Third Term of a Thatcher Tory Government
Persuading the Party to Adopt a New Strategy
City Party and Council Labour Group Tensions
How to Impose Cuts Yet Protect Jobs?
Calling for a Democratic Forum
Appendix 11A: Democratic Forum’s Terms of Reference
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Editor’s Comments

This was a difficult chapter to read and edit, because of what I feel is a fog of detail. The sub-headings were not in Kath’s original, I have added them where it felt a break would work. The editing has mostly been layout and typographical, although a few minor asides have been removed. Because the chapter is about a year and not one themed issue, it ends in what I feel is quite an abrupt way at the end of December 1987. This means it doesn’t work so well in this format as a standalone account and the reader will need to continue into the next chapter. I was hampered in formatting of the section that quotes the document from Graham Stringer as I do not have the source document. Kath had a tendency to add parentheses, which confuses what is quote and what is her addition. Also in this chapter there is mention of caucus meetings twice without explanation of that. I am adding a page specifically for this definition.


[1] 1984/85 – benefit of £7.6 million by rescheduling the debts from the General Rate Fund and the Housing fund. 1985/86 – benefit of £3 million from a leasing agreement for books; benefit of £16.4 million from the sale of council’s interest in mortgages; benefit of £100 million over 3 years from deferred purchases agreement. 1986/87 – benefit of £68.1 million by using £27.8 million from special funds to balance the budget. Without this, the Block Grant would have fallen from £86.8 million to £18.7 million and the rate increase would have been 55% rather than 5.5%.

[2] As John Smith was one of the Labour Right, this was a very strange vote. John Nicholson says that he, Sam Darby and John Clegg had got an agreement through the Labour Group that there would be no rent rise for council tenants, but this wasn’t agreed at Council. On the Tory budget, the Liberals and two of Labour’s right abstained (Findlow and Tomlinson). On the Liberal budget, the Tories voted for and two of Labour’s Right abstained (Findlow and Ford). On the Labour Right’s budget, 29 voted for (including Liberals), 59 voted against, 6 abstained (Tories). There was also a long statement from Town Clerk on the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal to transfer properties to the Manchester Mortgage Corporation (lease and lease back scheme).

[3] The nine Labour councillors lost were: Paul Clarke, Basil Curley, Mark Hackett, Yomi Mambu, Phil Openshaw, Marilyn Taylor, Chris Tucker and Bill Risby from the Left and Derek Shaw from the Right. Frank Booth was replaced by May Bullows, which had a nil effect on the overall number of left-wingers.

[4] Also at that Council meeting, congratulations were extended to Keith and Rhona Barnes on their marriage. Eileen Kelly was elected as Chair of Council (Lord Mayor) and Jack Flanagan as Deputy.

[5] See chapters 1 and 2 and definition page for more detail about caucus meetings.

[6] Arnold Spencer was later selected for this by-election as he had been de-selected by Moss Side ward. Old Moat ward party’s tactic was successful and Arnold won the by-election, which gave him continuity as a councillor.

[7] Letter from AUEW (Beswick 155E branch) 3 July 1987. “This branch is alarmed at the recent reports that a number of Manchester councillors, who have in the past voted with the Tories and Liberals in council, are now contemplating a breakaway from the Labour Group, with the aim of forming a new administration with the Tories and Liberals.”

[8] Editor’s note: hampered in formatting this as do not have the source document.

[9] Kath’s note: Using the term ‘desertion’ was hardly a fair reflection of the situation.

[10] ‘Detonation: Rebirth of a City’ by Ray King. Published by Clear Publications Limited, 2006

[11] See chapter 2, in particular Appendix 2E of that chapter.

[12] The GMB trade union leader (Dick Pickering – who was also the national president of the GMB) was a solid supporter (and personal friend) of Graham Stringer’s and could always be relied on to get all of the GMB delegates to the City Party to support Graham’s position on any policy matter.

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Further Reading

King, Ray; ‘Detonation: Rebirth of a City’, Clear Publications Limited; United Kingdom, 1 May 2006 (Link to Amazon)

Peck, Jamie; Ward, Kevin; edited by; ‘City of Revolution: Restructuring Manchester’, Manchester University Press, United Kingdom, 2002 (Link to Manchester University Press website)

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