The Liberal Democrats in Manchester have a history of controversial and shocking campaigns, and last night’s manifesto launch was no different.
But the build up started a couple of weeks ago when the party’s press office posted wrapped and embargoed manifestos to local media in a refreshingly back-to-basics marketing stunt that somewhat stumped our newsdesk.
Inside was an advance copy of what Lib Dem leader John Leech would later reveal at a bohemian launch – complete with exposed brick walls and grafitti posters – in central Manchester.
In the Northern Quarter’s Pen and Pencil last night, walls were plastered with huge posters declaring that the Lib Dems would scrap the ‘Homeless Tax’ on day one of a Lib Dem run Manchester Council, among other slightly less original pledges such as backing a People’s Vote – just in case you were under any illusion that they were anything other than mind-numbingly pro-EU.
Two films also premiered, one of which features the party’s old trick of worried looking children.
But the big moment came as Leech revealed the new manifesto to what seemed like some genuine amazement in the room – even those familiar with their previous headline-grabbing tactics seemed a little taken aback.
Splattered across the cover in giant white and orange lettering is the headline, ‘Not Putting Up With This Sh*t Anymore’.
The room went from confused silence to ferocious applause and cheering.
These kinds of stunts are not a rarity in Manchester politics. Just last month, an incredible row erupted in the town hall over some posters. No, really.
The Lib Dems are more than capable of hitting back, and on occasions, have been challenged for taking it too far.
This was proven no more so than their campaign last year which provoked accusations of exploitation after using children in an advert not dissimilar to that of an NSPCC appeal.
Their campaign tactics go back much further than that though. In 2016, the party poured unprecedented amounts of blood, sweat and tears into getting the former Withington MP John Leech back on to the council.
That year, the party refused to withdraw a series of controversial billboards which accused the ‘Labour one-party state’ of ‘suffocating Manchester.’
And, if last night’s manifesto lunch is anything to go by, not much is going to change.
Speaking to members, however, it seems the bold approach is a welcome one.
‘It was a little bit of a surprise,’ one member says, ‘especially compared to last year’s campaign but fining the homeless is sh*t. A spade is a spade at the end of the day’.
Another member, who is up for election in one of the party’s target wards, said that she and other members had designed many of the policies in the manifesto.
“It’s a really radical, fresh approach for Manchester. I think people will love what’s in here”, she said clutching her brand new expletive-filled manifesto.
Credit must be given where it’s due though; the Lib Dems have, not inevitably, pulled themselves back from complete extinction in Manchester, and their ability to land shock and surprise moves at every turn leaves our newsdesk desperate to see what they’ll come up with next.
Whether the voters they seek to win over will find this year’s sweary approach quite so appealing, however, remains to be seen.