Student life is often so overwhelming that it’s hard to take a step back and take the time to educate yourself about the politics of your new home. This series will provide a brief profile of Manchester’s political landscape and MPs.
Manchester follows suit with most cities and is quite heavily left leaning; considered a Labour stronghold for many years. There are five parliamentary constituencies, all of which are held by Labour: Wythenshawe and Sale East, Gorton, Manchester Central, Withington, Blackley and Brougton.
Perhaps the most relevant constituency to the student population is Gorton, which covers Fallowfield, Gorton North, Gorton South, Levenshulme, Longsight and Rusholme. To paint a picture of just how strongly left-leaning the constituency is, the last person not from Labour to hold the role was conservative Eric Bailey, who lost his seat in 1935. The current MP is Afzal Khan.
Securing his victory as Manchester’s first Muslim MP with a whopping 73% of votes, Khan replaced fellow Labour MP and the then Father of the House Gerald Kaufman in the 2017 general election, following the latter’s death.
Beginning his career as MP as shadow Immigration Minister, he has assumed many different roles in his relatively short tenure, holding positions such as Shadow Foreign Office Minister, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and Shadow Minister for Legal Aid. Currently, he is serving as a Shadow Minister for Justice. He is also a Vice Chair of several All-Party Parliamentary Groups concerning British Muslims, Adult Social Care, Pakistan, Hajj and Umrah, Greater Manchester, and Poverty.
“Born in Pakistan, but made in Manchester”, Khan was elected to Manchester City Council in 2000, going on to become Manchester’s first Asian Lord Mayor in 2005.
It is virtually universally accepted that representation is invaluable to minorities, allowing them to feel heard and respected, so Khan’s appointment as Mayor was not just a victory for labour, but also for the Asian community.
His commitment to equality and diversity is not only domestically, but internationally recognised. His efforts in promoting community and inter-faith cohesion and his work on the local government earned him a CBE in 2008. In 2018 he received Pakistan’s highest civilian honour: Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam, “for his contribution to the well-being of the people of Pakistan, particularly in the diaspora, and to Pakistani-British relations.”
Adopted from Pakistan by a Manchester family at the age of 11, Khan had a decidedly turbulent start to life. From a young age he was separated from his home, family, language and culture.
Poverty in early life led him to feel particularly passionate about equality and social justice. Causes particularly close to his heart are education and housing.
“Education is something I’m passionate about. I was adopted, and I left school with no qualifications. I joke that I left school with nine no-levels! I went back as a mature student, doing night classes” he told the Mancunion in the run-up to the 2017 Election.
A Member of the European Parliament for North West England, serving as Vice President of the Committee on Security and Defence (2014-2017), he has consistently been pro-EU and a self-proclaimed “very strong Remainer”, seeing the strength in unity and recognising the benefit of European collaboration. Khan even stood up in parliament to advocate for the necessity to remain subscribed to the European Court of Human Rights.
Taking a dive into his parliamentary voting history, His record clearly reflects his commitment to the core Labour principle: “for the many, not the few.”
He has consistently voted against a reduction in benefits and welfare spending, voted for paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability, against a stricter asylum system, in favour of gay rights and overall voted in line with a very progressive agenda.