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.”