'It's going to rack and ruin...' the Greater Manchester streets where people have had enough

-Credit: (Image: Sean Hansford | Manchester Evening News)
-Credit: (Image: Sean Hansford | Manchester Evening News)

The smile drops almost instantly from Richard McPartland’s face when he hears the word ‘election’.

“I don’t trust any of them,” he said. “I don’t even know if I’ll vote. Tories, Labour, they’re all the same. They all tell lies.”

The director of a powder-coating business in Derker, Oldham was working outside his shop in a rare spot of sunshine hitting the borough when the M.E.N soured his mood by asking about the upcoming vote. He doesn’t think it will make a difference who gets into power - and he’s not the only Oldhamer feeling disillusioned with this year’s election choices.

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But one thing is clear in Oldham East and Saddleworth, Greater Manchester’s biggest constituency. Whether in the industrial sprawls of Mumps and Derker or the Pennine-screened villages of Uppermill - people want a change.

Yet for many of the voters the M.E.N. spoke to, that change is often about more than kicking the Tories out of Downing Street.

Two men outside court yard,
Richard and his son Ryan both work at a powder-coating business in Oldham. Neither of them are sure they'll be voting in this election. -Credit:M.E.N.

“I’ll be voting for an independent candidate,” Cadidja told the M.E.N., while her partner Mario gently pushed their pram up the sloped road home from Oldham Mumps bus stop.

“It won’t be Labour or Conservative because of the support to the Gaza genocide. And because I think their politics is the same,” Cadidja says.

It didn’t matter to her that an independent candidate might not win, she added, she wanted to be ‘a part of the process’ to send major parties a message: things need to change.

For the Oldham mum, who studies in Manchester, it was the fall in living standards that are the most pressing issue for her locally. She said she’d noticed a rise in the number of homeless people in the area, with charities struggling to cope with rising demand.

“The people are getting poorer and poorer. Cost of living is getting higher and higher. Nothing is getting better,” she said.

Just over the road, disembarking from a Metrolink tram, retired police officer Neil Matthews also lets out a sigh at the thought of the upcoming general election

Man by tram tracks
Ex police officer Neil feels that politicians aren't held to their manifestos anymore. -Credit:M.E.N.

“It used to be that what was said in a manifesto was sacrosanct - now it seems like they’ll just say anything for votes and not follow through,” says the 72-year-old.

“I’m leaning towards Reform. Only because they’re the only ones that seem to make any common sense. I was thrilled to hear Nigel Farage was returning as leader of the party.”

Meanwhile, Danielle Newton, who describes herself as ‘from the rougher end of Saddleworth’, says the only party she’ll ever vote for is Greens.

“They’re the only ones that give a f*ck about the planet,” the 33-year-old says. She’s glammed up for a celebratory afternoon out with her friend in Uppermill.

“[The other political parties] are all the same and they’re all fighting against each other and look at the thing we should be fighting for - it’s what we’re stood on.”

While some residents we spoke to were content to ‘send a message’ to mainstream politicians by voting for independents or smaller parties, one voter thought ‘the whole system’ needed an overhaul.


“We need some kind of revolution,” a 62-year-old Waterhead resident who asked not to be named, said. “Whether it’s new politicians or other people changing things. It’s up to people to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’.”

The mum-of-two who works at a GP office felt that ‘the country’s going to rack and ruin’.

“It’s fine if you’re on benefits and don’t work and it’s fine if you’ve already got the money. It’s the middle range, the working people who don’t benefit in any shape or form at the moment.”

But it was the NHS that was an issue particularly close to her heart. “I work in a GP surgery and it takes at least eight weeks to get an appointment. It’s just crazy. The whole system needs to change.”

Oldham has already seen political change at a local level as a result of disillusionment with mainstream options. The local authority now has 16 independent councillors sitting in the chambers - more than ever before in the borough’s history.

Bus driver in day-glow jacket sitting at a bus stop in Oldham Mumps.
Adekunle, an Oldham bus driver, will vote Labour like he does at every election, he says. -Credit:M.E.N.

But there’s still plenty of support for Labour and Conservative candidates. Debbie Abrahams, who has been Labour MP for the area since 2011, was neck-to-neck with Conservative MP Tom Lord - with just 1,499 votes between them.

For example, bus driver Adekunle Ajimojo, 59, has voted Labour for 18 years and has no intention of changing up his choice in 2024.

Waiting at a bus stop for his shift to start, Adekunle said he felt they were the only party who ‘fought for workers’.

“Living wages are the most important thing,” he said. “The cost of living is very high, people are having a hard time because everything is skyrocketing.”

Steve, 69, a graphic designer from Uppermill, was less enthusiastic about his support for Labour.

“I’m voting for the best of a bad bunch,” he said. “But I think the Tories have done such a shocking job. Just get the liars and thieves out. Everything they’ve done has been a shambles.”

Large white man in front of shops in yellow t-shirt and jacket looking vaguely disgruntled.
Steve, a graphic designer in Uppermill, said he's 'vote for the best of a bad bunch'. -Credit:M.E.N.

And one Uppermill resident, who asked not to be named, said she’d be sticking by the Tories.

“I’ve voted Conservative forever,” the 76 year-old said. “I don’t like what [Starmer] wants to do to private schools. It will mean only the wealthy can send their kids there, while people like us - where it was kind of hard but we did it for our youngest - won’t be able to.”

It’s a mixed bag in Oldham. Many voters simply do not know what to think or how to vote. An Uppermill business owner said she was ‘torn’. The Corbynite 35-year-old didn’t wish to be named for fear of upsetting her predominantly Conservative customers.

But she told us: “I want to vote for a Labour that I believe in but I don’t know if it exists anymore. So I’m torn between whether I should vote for the best ‘worst scenario’ of Labour or to vote based on my values. Do I vote with my heart or do I vote knowing how the rest of the country will probably vote?

“I just need a change.”