Businessman Paul Massey, who was jailed for 14 years in 1999 for a stabbing, is one of 10 people standing for the post
Paul Massey may be more famous in his home city of Salford for alleged underworld dealings in his past than for his political views. But now the ex-con turned businessman has thrown his hat into the ring of local politics and submitted his nomination for the post of Salford mayor.
Massey was jailed for 14 years in 1999 after he stabbed a man. He fled to Amsterdam after the attack but was later extradited to Britain. Massey, 52, one of 10 candidates, is now reportedly a security consultant. Some would say he has the credentials to lead the city, having been dubbed Salford’s “Mr Big” at a 1992 council meeting.
The vote, which takes place on 3 May, was triggered by a referendum on 26 February.
Community activist Sarah Whitehead, 27, of Weaste, said Massey’s involvement could ignite further interest in the race: “He is a real person. A lot of people from Salford are probably like Paul. They would probably relate to him a lot better than any of the councillors.”
“It could be a good thing that somebody like Paul, who is not well-educated and has a criminal past, is given another chance to prove himself. Because that is the problem – once you have committed a crime it is very difficult to get an opportunity to prove yourself,” she said.
Election rules state only that someone cannot stand if they have been imprisoned for three months or more in the past five years. The elected mayor will serve the city for four years.
Massey was the latest candidate to submit his nomination, handing it in just before Thursday’s noon deadline. He will run as an independent.
Stephen Kingston, editor of local magazine the Salford Star, said although Massey may get support in deprived areas such as Ordsall and Pendleton, it was unlikely he would be popular in more well-off districts.
Massey’s nomination is the second upset of the mayoral contest, after former favourite and long-running council leader John Merry was beaten to the Labour nomination by a former MP for Eccles, Ian Stewart.
“John Merry not getting a nomination is incredibly Shakespearean – and if other people become mayor it would be even more Shakespearean,” Kingston added.
On Friday, shoppers at Salford Precinct had mixed feelings about Massey’s nomination.
Retired lorry driver Alan Choularton, 69, of Pendleton, said: “He is born and bred in Salford and he is more in touch with the local people. He has done his time, hasn’t he? At least he is trying to better himself.”
But one female shopper, who declined to be named, said: “He’s a dead leg; he’s a rogue. He’s not a good example for Salford. He’s a got a real cheek.”
One unemployed woman, aged 45, from Ordsall, said she might vote for Massey. “Why not? He’s no better or worse than the others. Everyone deserves a chance and he is from Salford. He’s done bad things in the past. But who hasn’t?”
Salford remains in the top 20 most deprived areas of the country.
In February, there were almost 10 jobseekers per vacancy across the city, while in some areas last year youth unemployment rose by over 50%.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News on Thursday, Massey said his priorities are to improve rehabilitation programmes and opportunities for the young, and to rid the streets of drugs.
He also admitted he had never voted in an election.
He said: “I want to be the mayor of Salford and I want to deal with its problems. I want to be a good voice for Salford.
“I live, sleep and eat Salford and it is in my blood. I love the place.
“These kids need energy, education and guidance to stop them from being lost souls. When I was a kid there were hardly any drugs around. Now it is different story. Drugs are blighting lives.”
Labour party members vote for Ian Stewart instead, the former MP for Eccles.
While Joe Anderson has sailed unopposed into the Labour candidacy for Liverpool’s elected mayor – you can read his initial views on the Guardian Northerner here – things have gone differently in Salford.
Stewart’s tally of votes from local party members, announced today, was 259 against Merry’s 131, with also-ran Peter Wheeler collecting 89. Stewart tells today’s Manchester Evening News, whose article has an interesting and opinionated thread:
I’m humbled by the response and the support from within the Labour Party. I really hope that I can represent the aspirations for Salford in the proper way. The people of Salford have demanded change and if I am lucky enough to be elected as the first elected mayor, I will be measured by the new approach that I take – and effectively the buck will stop with the elected mayor.
I won’t be able to please everybody all of the time but at least people will have a better understanding as to why decisions are made and of the processes that go into making them.
Salford hasn’t got over-excited about the coming contest, with under 20 percent of the electorate taking part in a referendum which, as in Liverpool, voted to skip all preliminaries and go for a mayoral vote in May rather than the autumn. But things may well hot up, especially in Salford. The effect on northern media coverage of the BBC’s move to Salford is already becoming apparent throughout our three regions. Their impressive array of staff is bound to take a keen interest in an election on the doorstep.
Liverpool is always good at news-making too; so the fact that the north has yet to come up with a glitzy challenger – there was talk of Ryan Giggs in Salford at one time, complete with ‘left wing’ jokes – may not send everyone into torpor. Salford’s Conservatives have already chosen their council group leader, Karen Garrido, and the Liberal Democrats are still deciding.
The Lib Dem candidate for Liverpool’s mayoralty, council group leader Richard Kemp, will write in the Guardian Northerner tomorrow.