What all these reports and action plans will REALLY be useful for…

Marc Roberts‘ latest cartoon (vastly improved, as usual, from a mediocre script by me – see below).

Frank is looking out the window of his house, yelling “Hurry up Zorro, that wave is coming right at us – we’ll all drown.”
Zorro says “We’ve already used up all the soil from the permaculture allotment for sandbags. Now what?”
Frank says “Well, what about all those inch-thick reports about mitigation and adaptation that I was collecting for a few years. They can at least be useful for keeping my house dry.
Zorro is holding a report and bullshit is flooding out of it.  “I think I’ve found the source of the flooding, Frank.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Labour Councillor gets away with it

Labour Councillor Mary Murphy has escaped any punishment for substantially altering and then circulating a MCFly story about the Hulme by-election (see details here and here).  On October 21st, following a formal complaint by MCFly, a ‘Code of Conduct for Members Standards (Assessment) sub-committee’ met to consider the case.  On a majority (two to one) decision the committee decided to… do nothing. Why? Well, it’s easiest to quote the relevant bit.

The majority of the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee reached this conclusion on the grounds that:

  1. the e-mail that forms the subject of this complaint appears to have been sent by the Member from her personal hotmail account, rather than from the Member’s Council e-mail address, and
  2. the e-mail that forms the subject of this complaint does not appear to have been signed by the Member as coming from “Councillor Mary Murphy”, and does not make any reference to the fact that the author of the e-mail is a member of the Council

So, let’s be clear here. There is a process that members of the public are supposed to go through if they feel Councillors have behaved badly. MCFly found out that Mary Murphy had clumsily and semi-literately altered a MCFly story so to imply that MCFly endorsed the Labour candidate in a by-election. She circulated this to voters during the by-election from an email account with her name, that she has used for some time and everyone on the list knows is her. MCFly complained to the relevant authorities with supporting evidence.  And because she didn’t use her official account, and ‘sign’ it, she can…  do what she likes.

And this is how the Council regulates itself.

And they wonder why people regard local politicians with contempt and disdain.

Mary Murphy’s ‘defence’ is that she thought the alterations would appear in a different colour. When challenged on the alterations immediately after posting them to the Online Discussion group she did not say “oops, have the alterations not come through? It’s a spoof gone wrong.” Nor at any point since has she made any public retraction. She never used the other resources available to her (Hulme Labour website for example) to publicly retract her actions or apologise for them. The standards sub-committee has not, it seems, bothered to consider this omission on the part of the Right Honorable Member.

The decision by the Standards Sub-Committee (which MCFly had to chase the relevant authorities to get, by the way – we’d probably still be waiting if we hadn’t asked), also contains the gem that “even if they thought that conduct complained of might have been carried out by the Member in her official capacity, if there were to be a local investigation of the complaint and the Member were to be found to have breached the Code of Conduct, the most likely sanction resulting from a local investigation would be a requirement for the Member to make an apology to the Complainant. Since the Member has already apologised to the Complainant, the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee did not consider that, even if the conduct complained of had been carried out by the Member in her official capacity, it would be appropriate to refer the matter for local investigation.”

This covering email states that decision text “for your own personal use. The “information in the decision notice should be treated as confidential for the purposes of any further proceedings and should not be disclosed, it also contains personal information regarding third parties and again this information should not be disclosed.”

Well, a) you never said when I started this process – if you’d said that I wasn’t going to be able to circulate it, I’d have never bothered to start proceedings. You can’t retroactively impose a gagging order, it doesn’t work like that
b) I ain’t gonna bother to appeal – why waste more time?
c) There is nothing third-party in here at all, other than the name of the Chair of the Sub-committee. I’ll cheerfully xxxx that out and post the whole decision here.
d) I also sent you an example of Mary Murphy falsely accusing MCFly of sending abusive emails to Nigel Murphy in the run up to the May Local Elections. You’ve ignored that.

A few questions then…

For the clowns who came to this decision

  • What would it take for you to consider actions to be in your remit? Councillor Murphy was writing from an email account she uses all the time to a residents group where a bye-election was being held, issuing distorted information about local media support for Labour. What more do you want? How does this fall outside the “Members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour” rule? Eh? It’s there in Section A of the Code of Conduct for Members. Would you like me to send you a copy, since two of you had patently not got yours to hand when you made this ‘decision’?
  • Do you understand why local politicians are regarded with such contempt and disdain? Do you understand that actions like yours add to the picture of group of self-serving and mutually-protecting unaccountable sleazoids?
  • Do you care?
  • More concretely, (and we will be submitting this as a Freedom of Information Act request) in the last five calendar years, how many complaints have been made, how many have been rejected as not within the remit of your little fig-leaf panel, and how many have been upheld?

For Mary Murphy

  • If it were, as you claim, a spoof gone wrong, how come you didn’t say that when you were challenged online?
  • If it were, as you claim, a spoof, why did you sign it off with “don’t all shoot the messenger”?
  • Why have you not posted anything on the Hulme Residents Online Group saying it was a spoof?
    Why have you not publicly apologised for creating (whether accidentally or on purpose) such a misleading impression?
  • Do you accept that your accusation, made at the Town Hall during the May Local Elections count, that MCFly had sent abusive emails to Nigel Murphy was wrong? Do you (publicly) apologise for that accusation?

For Nigel Murphy and Amina Lone (Labour councillors in Hulme)

  • How can you condone your fellow councillor’s actions?
  • Does not your silence imply support for her?
  • What action will you take?

For the Labour Party leadership

  • Will you publicly apologise for the actions of one of your elected members?
  • Will you publicly censure her for her actions?

MCFly is not holding its breath for any answers at all…

Posted in Cllr Mary Murphy, Complaint by MCFly, hulme by-election, Manchester City Council, Uncategorized | 5 Comments


This has today been put on the website for the November 30th conference.

If your organisation could make a positive contribution at this year’s conference and you’ve not yet had an invite, then please email to register for a place.  The email address in question is green.city@manchester.gov.uk

Have fun.


Posted in A Certain Future, stakeholder conference, Things you thought would never happen | Leave a comment

Airport and Media- (straw)MEN behaving defensively

Dear David,

thank you for your comment on the MCFly story “Men behaving inanely“, which followed on from our “Green Christmas, White Elephants and Unintentional larfs.”

You write:

We’ve put the airport’s ‘green’ credentials under scrutiny many times in the past, and will do so again in the future. See e.g.


That doesn’t mean EVERY story about the airport has to be about its carbon emissions – and this latest one wasn’t. It’s hardly a sign of a conspiracy of silence – just that we aren’t a single-issue newspaper.

The Manchester Evening News published hundreds of articles a year about the Airport, many of which seem to come straight from press releases. A search for “Manchester Airport” on your newspaper’s website reveals 4195 hits.

A search for “Manchester Airport” “climate change” reveals 28. It’s kind of like running thousands of stories on the tobacco industry and a hundredth of that number on lung cancer and emphysema.

You point to a story published in July – the most recent – which seems to have been put together by getting an Airport press release, phoning Friends of the Earth for a react quote, and then splicing the two together. Previous stories were based on a couple of protests by a campaigning group. Before that is a piece on plans to demolish a couple of houses. A favourite, from June 2009, is a hard-hitting investigation entitled “Concorde Centre to open an eaterie”

So, please point me to the “many” articles which explain who owns the airport, what the plans for expansion of the airport are, whether these plans are compatible with the stated objectives of its owners, Manchester City Council etc,  around climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.

We don’t expect Manchester Evening News to be a “single-issue newspaper”. You have constructed a classic strawman argument there, which is a bit of a surprise to me – I expected better of you. What we do expect – but never get – is for local media to hold the powerful to account, and ask searching questions of their plans and the implications of those plans for all of us, but especially for the young who will suffer the brunt of their parents’ selfishness and stupidity and cowardice. This, it appears, is too much to ask.

If all this seems too high falutin’ , then let’s take it back to the two stories I blogged about. Both were obviously puff pieces put out by the Council and the Airport. What place do they have in a newspaper? How do they meet the definition that “news is something that someone somewhere doesn’t want you to know”? Or do you have a different definition of news?

Posted in A Certain Future, Airport, aviation, Manchester Airport, Manchester City Council, Manchester Climate Change Action Plan, Manchester Evening News | 4 Comments

Godot has arrived!

After months and months of assurances from senior council figures that  it was “weeks from going live”, the www.manchesterclimate.com website has been relaunched.

It now has a list of organisations that endorse the Climate Change Action Plan (about 120 out of 1335+ asked), a map of where things are(n’t) happening and more details of the impending November 30 City Council climate conference.

There does not appear to be any way of requesting a place at this November 30 conference.  So, if you’re not on their list, tough titty.


Posted in Manchester A Certain Future, Manchester City Council, Manchester Climate Change Action Plan | 1 Comment

MEN behaving inanely

We at MCFly recently took a pop at our media chums the Manchester Evening News.  A reader writes –

I saw your MEN blog and tweeted it at Dave Ottewell- Politics reporter at MEN and he tweeted this back to me.. “Read link. Criticism misplaced – why mention climate change in a story about an airport winning a customer service award?”

Er, because it’s useful context in the, you know, Bigger Picture and all that?  Twenty years from now, do you think we will care about the Airport’s customer service award? Or might we be a tad more worried that the planet is irredeemably and irrevocably warming rapidly? Might journalists have a responsibility to do more than reprint press releases and trade in lobby tittle-tattle? Just askin’…

And it’s not as if the Airport is shy about climate change (well, sometimes it is).  It is constantly proclaiming how green it is.  Might these claims not be worth, you know, a bit of scrutiny?

Only a conspiracy theorist would, of course, wonder if the MEN’s reticence to hold Manchester Airport to account might have anything to do with the advertising revenue it gets from all the airlines.  We really should get the Royal Exchange to put on a production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People

Posted in Airport, Manchester Airport, Manchester City Council | 4 Comments

Waiting for Godot and the Website

A different correspondent (who knew MCFly had so many readers) has written:

Hi Marc,
On the mcfly blog you say that open registration for the 30th Nov stakeholder conf will be up at the end of the week – did they mean end of this week (5th Nov) or next week (12th)?
Was gonna email them, but not sure whether to hold my horses.
Don’t think much of that website of theirs, terribly vague and confusing to navigate.

Well, a) they meant 5th November b) Email them and c) On their website?  Well, I couldn’t possibly comment;  This is the same website that they have been promising for a year would soon be updated and all-singing and all-dancing and interactive.  At the latest Environmental Advisory Panel in mid-October we were proudly told by the Green City Team that “phase 2” was going up by the beginning of November and that we panellists would get an early look-see and be asked our opinions…..  ooh look… there’s a tumble-weed….

Sense of Urgency, much?

On the broader question – over the lack of any sense of hope or enthusiasm for this blighted November 30 horror-show – well, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Posted in Manchester A Certain Future, Manchester City Council, stakeholder conference | Leave a comment