'I'm not giving them 30 seconds of my time': This could be most politically disillusioned area of Greater Manchester

(L-R) Alison Molyneaux and Denise Dawks
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)

Harpurhey's market culture could soon disappear, traders say. They're seeing less cash in their pockets every week.

Harpurhey Market has a proud history, with locals regularly flocking to the area. This week was no different, with the usual hustle and bustle. But stall holders fear the worst.

There are bargains to be had, but people are scrimping and saving every single week. Jacqueline Davies has been working the market stalls for over 40 years.

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She says business has slowed in the last few years, but the drop has been catastrophic in the last 12 months. She blamed rising energy, rent and food costs.

She told the Manchester Evening News: “There is lots of poverty in the area, more jobs need to be created. The market has become deader over the years with the last 12 months being a real problem.

“There are far fewer stalls (being opened). I’m not sure why there is no work but lots of people are on the social (benefits).

Jacqueline Davies, who has worked the market stalls for 40 years
Jacqueline Davies, who has worked the market stalls for 40 years -Credit:LDRS

“What happens, at the beginning of the month people get their benefits and business is going well and then it all goes down as people get less money towards the end of the month.”

When asked whether the upcoming general election could change the fortunes of the area, a sarcastic smirk appeared on Jacqueline’s face.

“I don’t vote, they don’t come up with anything for the people that need their help the most. You see the people here begging for things to be cheaper when it’s already pretty cheap.

"They have such expensive rents that they have nothing left for anything else. Housing needs to be sorted as these rents are ridiculous.”

Harpurhey Precinct
Harpurhey Precinct -Credit:LDRS

Walking around what is the central hub of the north Manchester suburb, it is rife with contempt for politicians and the country's higher ups. There is little wonder Harpurhey resides in the constituency with the 5th lowest voter turnout at the last general election.

The area was in the Blackley and Broughton constituency, which has now become Blackley and Middleton South following the boundary changes last year. They had a voter turnout of just 52.2 per cent - making it the most politically disillusioned area in Greater Manchester.

Local lad and stall holder, Paul, summed up the feeling that most had around the precinct.

Harpurhey Market in north Manchester
Harpurhey Market in north Manchester -Credit:LDRS

“It makes no difference who wins, those at the bottom will always be at the bottom. I’ve worked my arse off five days a week and earn peanuts.

“I wouldn’t give politicians 30 seconds of my time to queue up and vote. They don’t want us at the bottom getting anywhere near them at the top.

“Housing is ridiculous, the amount of homeless on the street is ridiculous. The kind hearted people in this area - who don’t have much themselves - are giving these people money, no way the government is helping them.

Market stalls in Harpurhey
Market stalls in Harpurhey -Credit:LDRS

“When I come to set up the stall there are people sleeping under here because it’s dry. You’re lucky if you’re feeding your kids, the county is on its arse.

“Us traders are keeping prices low for locals. We have to look after each other because the government and politicians won’t.”

Asad Bashir believes people should not rely on the government and local politicians to help them, but work to look after your own. He thought that was the only way you can help yourself as there is no guarantee of help from the state.

Asad Bashir, stall worker in Harpurhey
Asad Bashir, stall worker in Harpurhey -Credit:LDRS

He said: “I’ve been here one year and have not had time to watch the news and keep up with what’s going on (in politics). I’m busy working, then I go home, get food and go to sleep.

“The common person has no time for this stuff as they’re busy working. People should not depend on politicians for help.”

The classic political view that Labour is the party for the working class is still buying them votes as the few that did say they would be voting all indicated that the reds was the choice for them. There was no whiff of other parties mentioned in a positive light, with lots of criticism thrown the way of the current Conservative government.

Christopher Hooson, Labour voter
Christopher Hooson, Labour voter -Credit:LDRS

Christopher Hooson, taking a break from eating some chips, admitted: “I’m a Labour voter. I have trust for them.

“I don’t like the current government. They’re for the higher classes and Labour are for the working man.

“I think people should just get out and vote. They should do their research on candidates and make a choice.”

It is easy to see why voters may feel nothing will change, because change in politics is something they’ve not seen here since 1964, when Labour were voted in. Graham Stringer held his seat in 2019 with 23,887 votes, over 14,000 more than his closest rival from the Conservatives, Alexander Elias.

Harpurhey has been in every inception of the Blackley constituency since 1918, and their MP has been Labour stalwart Graham Stringer since 1997. Before that they had two Labour MPs in Ken Eastham and Paul Rose dating back to 1964 when it was the Manchester Blackley constituency.

Offers on the market stalls in Harpurhey
Offers on the market stalls in Harpurhey -Credit:LDRS

With the boundary changes last year swapping out the Broughton area for the southern tip of Middleton in Rochdale, there is no clear indication of what impact that could have on the voter share.

Alkrington is one of the areas in the new Middleton South section of the constituency. Judging by the word on the street, the feeling is mutual with Harpurhey.

Alkrington Shopping Parade
Alkrington Shopping Parade -Credit:LDRS

The leafy village lies south of the central hub of Middleton, built around the the Grade II* listed Alkrington Hall - but life is far from something you would see in a Bridgerton episode. People around the parade of shops in the centre have bemoaned antisocial behaviour, car meets where youngsters are huffing balloons and a lack of social housing.

A few people that stopped to chat to the M.E.N showed more political interest than their new constituent neighbours in Harpurhey, but they were not confident the boundary changes would boost voter numbers.

Eric Farrington, out for a dog walk in Alkrington
Eric Farrington, out for a dog walk in Alkrington -Credit:LDRS

Eric Farrington took a pause from his dog walk, he said: “I was surprised when I heard about the boundary change. I do believe we have Graham Stringer now.

“I personally think the turnout will be the same as last time (even with Middleton South coming in for Broughton). Lots of people here are turned off by politics.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was higher because of the Conservative rule and how bad it’s been. But lots of people I speak to are not very politically minded.”

Friends Denise Dawks and Alison Molyneaux had met up outside Kirkway Meats in the hub of the village to catch up after Denise’s shift. When asked about politics they both offered a look of frustration.

Harpurhey Market in north Manchester
Harpurhey Market in north Manchester -Credit:LDRS

Denise said: “They’re all rubbish. I always go with Labour because I always have done. Dylan Williams the councillor has done really well. He gets jobs done. That’s what has kept me on Labour really.

“We’re forgotten about here though. They need to do more to get our vote.”

Alison said that she has lived in Alkrington for over 30 years and has never had a knock on the door from local politicians, neither council or parliamentary candidates. The 57-year-old thinks their potential MP needs to canvass more in their area if they want people to turn up and vote for them.

“I always go and vote,” Alison stated. “If you don’t use your vote you’ve not got a say.

“There are a lot of pensioners around here who aren’t that bothered and then there are lots of younger people who couldn’t care less. My children, I can’t get them to vote, I think kids only take an interest when it starts to impact their lives.

“No MP we’ve had fights for Middleton. It’s a forgotten place, a ghost town. I don’t think the turnout will be better with us there.”

Alison went on to highlight social housing, crime and a lack of jobs as a problem in the area she believes has been left behind purely because it is caught between Rochale and Manchester.

If the early signs in Harpurhey and Middleton South are anything to go by, it looks as though it will remain red, as it has done for the last 60 years. When it comes to voter turnout, there are no promises that this constituency will break the trend from 2019 when voters head to the polls on July 4.