It may be that if Lib Dem MP John Leech had been a trainee manager with Tesco, Christie Fields would now be home to a great many jobs for local people. Instead the former waste land adjacent to Manchester’s Merseybank estate provides offices for companies like AstraZeneca.
When deciding if an area is worth bothering with, marketers often look at where it is on the ACORN map. You’ll find Merseybank in the ‘hard pressed’ category, grouped with ‘struggling families’ at type 48: ‘Low incomes, high unemployment, single parents’. It’s a generalisation of course, but people so categorised tend to work at ‘routine jobs in nearby factories or shops’. The proportion of people educated to degree level is low. AstraZeneca tends to recruit graduates.
Tesco was refused permission to build at Christie Fields thanks to a protest campaign endorsed by local Liberal Democrats and John Leech has turned his nose up at more work since, saying of the proposed SuperCasino: ‘…3,000 jobs is also not as good as it sounds because it would only be low-paid low-skilled jobs that would be created.’
In all this we see an MP who might be described as leading a principled fight against the blight of the McJob, currently defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as an ‘unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector’. It’s a platform that may go down well in a constituency whose middle class is known for shopping at independent co-operative grocers, supports an unusually wide range of other independent ethically minded traders and which voted Lib Dem because it sees John as a left-winger who opposes the Iraq War and will protect public services from alleged creeping privatisation.
But hold up! John’s only signed up to a McDonald’s campaign I’ve described elsewhere as wrong-headed and that even some Tories feel marks him out as too close to McDonald’s. Leech claims this criticism is ‘pathetic’ and told the Manchester Evening News he’d continue to champion the burger chain.
And yet the critics are far from pathetic. Those who are troubled by the ethics of Tesco – and have been kicking up a fuss – are unlikely to think McDonald’s saintly… in fact they are likely to be most upset that their MP is happy to volunteer for the role of McDonald’s parliamentary spokesperson.
For Labour to score on this point, it is going to have to forget the two jobs stuff, avoid name calling (it just puts voters off), get serious and ask the people if their values, interests and aspirations coincide with those of Ronald McDonald.