Bev Craig has been announced as the new leader of Manchester City Council, succeeding Sir Richard Leese who revealed he was stepping down from the role last month. She will be the first woman and openly LGBT+ person in the role.
Elected by councillors at a Labour group meeting on Tuesday evening, Craig said in a short video message shared on social media that she “can’t wait to get stuck in”. Leese said she would do a “fantastic job”.
Commenting on her victory today, Craig tweeted: “I’m humbled to have the privilege to lead our fantastic city.” She offered commiserations to the other candidates, Luthfur Rahman, Garry Bridges and Ekua Bayunu.
Craig received 48 votes of an available 94, beating runner-up Rahman in the second round of voting. Bridges and Bayunu were eliminated in the first round. Rahman secured 41 votes in the final count, with five councillors abstaining.
The new leader, a founding co-chair of soft left group Open Labour, was first elected as a councillor in 2011 representing Burnage ward. She has played a prominent role in the council’s response to Covid and was made deputy leader last year.
Her rival Luthfur Rahman was also appointed deputy leader following the local elections in May. Garry Bridges is the executive member for children’s services, while Ekua Bayunu was seen as the candidate from the party’s left.
The race was Bayunu’s second attempt to become council leader this year. The Hulme councillor was the first person to challenge Leese in more than 20 years when she unsuccessfully ran against him in May.
Originally from Belfast, Craig graduated from Manchester University in 2007 with a degree in politics and modern history. She gained a master’s in political science before doing a PhD on class representation and diversity in the UK.
Craig was instrumental in launching Manchester as a real living wage city earlier this year. A former co-chair of LGBT+ Labour, the councillor has also led on LGBT+ issues for Manchester City Council.
In a recent interview with the Manchester Evening News, Craig told readers: “Growing up gay, on a council estate just outside Belfast, I didn’t ever think politics could be for someone like me.”
The new council leader will take over from Leese on December 1st. Leese revealed in September that he would be stepping down from the role he has held for 25 years due to the intensity of the job and to spend more time with family.
Leese is one of the longest-serving council leaders in the country. The former teacher and youth worker was first elected in 1984 and became leader in May 1996, a month before the IRA detonated an explosive outside the Manchester Arndale shopping centre.
During his tenure, the city transformed, and he oversaw the hosting of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He was knighted in 2006, a year before Manchester International Festival was set up to showcase new works by artists from across the world.
The outgoing Manchester City Council mayor was appointed deputy mayor of Greater Manchester by Andy Burnham in May 2017, a few weeks before the city was targeted by a suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester Arena.