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Eyewitness in Manchester masthead
Issue number 14 Saturday the 19th of April 1997

As the pre-election slanging match continues, party leaflets start to arrive in local letter boxes
As the pre-election slanging match continues, party leaflets start to arrive in local letter boxes

With only 12 days to go before the election, John Major and other politicians made several visits to the region during the week. And in the Tatton constituency, the stand off continues between anti-sleaze candidate Martin Bell and right-wing Conservative MP Neil Hamilton, who has been accused of bribery, but strongly asserts his innocence.

Mick Hucknall, of Manchester pop group Simply Red, appeared on "Newsnight" this evening in a film he made specially for the programme. He interviewed people in Rusholme and Salford Quays on the subject of politics and politicians, and presented his own pro-Labour opinions.

Eco-protesters scored a hit last night at a dinner held to celebrate the go-ahead of the Second Runway. Disguised as waitresses, two women slipped through security checks, jumped onto a table and chanted slogans. They were ejected, but later, two more protesters gained access to the hall and did a repeat performance. The stunt was a publicity success, making the national headlines and featuring on the front page of the Manchester Evening News.

The North was hit yet again this week by IRA terrorists. On Friday a small bomb exploded in a signal relay box in Leeds, and at railway stations in Doncaster and Crewe, coded bomb warnings were received, and the public were evacuated. Motorways were also targeted. A section of the M6 in Cheshire was closed for several hours, but no bombs were found.

Terrorists can for the price of a 10p phone call, cause misery and delay for millions of people. They plant one or two small bombs, but telephone numerous warnings, mostly hoaxes, using a secret IRA code word. The incidents demonstrate our powerlessness in the face of a very small but single-minded group of terrorists. But the news isn't all bad. After a series of arrests in Northern Ireland, a man is to go on trial in London accused of causing last year's Docklands bomb. And I hear that the police know exactly who carried out the Manchester bomb, but haven't got the evidence to convict them. Let's hope they find it.

The police were kept busy on Thursday patrolling Wilmslow Road, Rusholme during the Eid celebrations. Spirits were high, as cars full of youths cruised up and down the street, flying the green and white flag of Pakistan, playing Asian music at high volume, waving at passers by and shouting Eid greetings. The pavements were crowded with people, of both Eastern and European origin, watched carefully by police officers in their white and orange jackets, who were giving out numerous fixed penalties for parking and driving offences. I saw no evidence of serious trouble, and the mood, though not quite relaxed, was festive and reasonably good-humoured.

There was much controversy about the 10 x 8 foot painting of Eric Cantona, unveiled in the City Art Gallery, showing the French football star emerging from a tomb, looking similar to Jesus Christ. Some religious people took offence, though other observers preferred to view the work as a comment on the status of football and football players in modern society. Having once seen Eric Cantona myself in "The Nose" wine bar in Wilmslow, I couldn't think of an unlikelier looking messiah.

Cantona was playing today in the match against Liverpool at Anfield, which ended in a 3-1 victory for United, though it was Gary Pallister who scored two of the goals. United are at the top of the FA Carling premiership with 69 points.

The Siamese twins born at St Mary's hospital are reported to be doing well, and doctors say they are optimistic that the two babies can lead separate lives.

As ever, the weather has been changeable, with temperatures definitely on the cold side, despite clear blue skies early in the week. Overcast weather moved in mid-week, but today, the sun was peeping through again, but only just. Rain continues to be scarce, and will remain so in the coming days, which are forecast to be sunny, but chilly.

Extra: (Sunday) Five men were killed in Crumpsall shortly after midnight this morning when the stolen car they were driving crashed into a tree and split in two. They were being pursued by a police car when the accident happened. The police had first signalled to them to stop. At this point the car was travelling slowly. Then the car sped away and the accident happened shortly afterwards.

Text and photos by Aidan O'Rourke


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