Ian Stewart is probably the only mayoral candidate who understands what the Information Society is about – and I include those for London. I was intrigued by the comment that accompanied the news of his selection by Salford Labour Party as their candidate. It totally misses why he is so suited for the job. He is the man who did more than anyone else to help get the Media City to Salford. Without his footwork in the early days they would have ended up with little more than that mix of high-tech warehousing and unsold yuppy flats that is the legacy of so many of the other projects in the so-called “Renaissance of the North”.
It is not just the BBC. Salford was on the way to becoming the electronic gateway for China to Europe, despite the efforts of Westminster, Whitehall and Brussels, before the BBC got in on the act. The reasons are much the same as those which led Felixstowe to become the Chinese maritime gateway – local vision and quiet hard graft. Salford had the added bonus of the former IT Institute – one of the first UK Universities to welcome Chinese students with open arms, recognising the opportunities as well as challenges that they brought.
I have worked with many politicians from the main parties over the past forty years. Ian Stewart is one of the few who had an innate grasp of where the broadband multi-media and visual technologies were leading us, without being carried away by the hype. It also helps that he is such a nice man.
He will, of course face challenges that would baffIe Superman and I hope that my support, given that I have no vote in Salford, will not detract from his support in other quarters.