A month ago, this Manchester suburb turned its back on Labour... but now people are ready to back Starmer

-Credit: (Image: Manchester Evening News)
-Credit: (Image: Manchester Evening News)


It’s the day after the first TV leadership debate. It’s a Wednesday, so it’s market day in Longsight.

As usual, traffic is snarled up. Two lines of traffic are competing for space in one lane. Shoppers are anxious to cross the roads.

The market itself is busy. Families are checking over fabrics and clothes. Some have stopped for something to eat. Mothers, burdened by overtired skriking toddlers, are doing their best to keep their cool.

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This is normal for Longsight. But politically, things haven’t been normal in the suburb lately.

In the local elections on May 2, George Galloway’s Workers Party candidate won here, ousting the deputy leader of the council Luthfur Rahman. Mr Rahman had represented the area since 2008 for Labour.

At the time, some voters said they’d made the switch to the Workers Party over Keir Starmer’s stance on the war in Gaza. Others said local issues, like street cleaning, were behind the move.

George Galloway (left) celebrates Shabhaz Sarwar's election victory -Credit:Sean Hansford | Manchester Evening News
George Galloway (left) celebrates Shabhaz Sarwar's election victory -Credit:Sean Hansford | Manchester Evening News

The final result was close, with Shahbaz Sarwar winning out by 185 votes. After the result was announced, the new Coun Sarwar said half of his support came from anger about Labour’s handling of Gaza. The other half, he claimed, were angry at their handling of the local area.

In the month since then, the war in Gaza has raged on. Longsight looks, feels, and operates, in the same way it did on the day of the local elections.

But it looks like the area is ready to support Labour again, this time in the general election.

The market is popular -Credit:Manchester Evening News
The market is popular -Credit:Manchester Evening News

‘They’ve been strong for our community’

“Labour have been strong for our community,” Hamza Waseem, 24, working on a market stall organising fabric, says. He’s been asked why he will support the party in July. “I feel like whatever they promise they get done,” he adds.

A big factor here, he suggests, is that people know their local MP. After the latest boundary review, Longsight has been split into two constituencies - some of it is in the new Manchester Rusholme constituency, while the southern half is in the new Gorton and Denton seat. The boundary more-or-less runs through the market.

For years, Afzal Khan was the Manchester Gorton MP — the old seat covering this part of the city — and ‘he is well known in Longsight’, Hamza adds, which he thinks will translate into support either side of the boundary.

There’s evidence he is correct at other stalls. One is owned by a middle-aged man who only gave his name as Javed.

Curry Mile is now in the Manchester Rusholme seat -Credit:Manchester Evening News
Curry Mile is now in the Manchester Rusholme seat -Credit:Manchester Evening News

He is voting Labour. Asked why, he replies: “The Conservatives have not done much. Everything has got expensive. It’s very very hard as a trader now, for three days I paid £300 rent. That’s ridiculous.”

He also thinks Mr Khan is a well-known figure. Another woman, who asked not to be named, said Labour ‘are good people’ who ‘support the people’, further suggesting the suburb will support Starmer in the general election.

Labour also enjoyed affection in Hulme, which was previously in the Manchester Central seat but is now in the Manchester Rusholme constituency. Sandra Mahoney, grabbing some shopping on her way home says simply: “I just think the Tories have not done enough for a lot of people, including myself.”

‘I feel like they are both alike’

There are signs it might not be a done deal in Manchester Rusholme. Also in Hulme, usual Labour voter Coralee says she is undecided: “I am going to vote but I do not know who for. I usually vote Labour but I don’t know now. I have to work it out.”

Further south, one woman called Nazia speaking near Curry Mile said she has switched between the two largest parties: “I feel like they are both alike.

“I used to vote Labour, but I think more recently I have been Conservative. I could possibly vote Conservative, but I’m not 100 percent.”

Hulme, in the shadow of the city's towers, used to be in the Manchester Central constituency but is now in Rusholme -Credit:Manchester Evening News
Hulme, in the shadow of the city's towers, used to be in the Manchester Central constituency but is now in Rusholme -Credit:Manchester Evening News

On Curry Mile itself was one student who asked to stay anonymous, waiting for her bus. She studies at Xaverian College, and will be backing the Liberal Democrats — and believes they’re the most popular party among her teenage peers. “It just seems like the best choice,” she adds as an explanation. Her bus then arrived before she could elaborate.

Also waiting for the bus on the other side of Wilmslow Road was 53-year-old kitchen porter Dawn Jehan, who was making her way home to Fallowfield. She won’t be voting for any of the big parties.

“I’m Green,” she says. “No one else seems to give a hoot about the environment. I’ve been voting Green for few years, it’s not been always.

“The planet is getting worse and worse but they are the only party that seems to be serious about doing anything about it.”

Ultimately, the early signs are very encouraging for Labour in this part of south Manchester. But as Alicia, in Hulme, summarised, there could be plenty more voters they need to convince.

“It’s more than likely I will vote,” she sighed. “I have not really thought about it.”