John Clegg, who was one of the key people involved in the origins and foundation of the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, died on Saturday 7th November 2020.
John was elected as an anti-cuts Labour councillor to Manchester City Council in 1984. He became involved in the new Equal Opportunities Committee and especially the Anti-Deportations Working Party (which sought to support all anti-deportation campaigns in the city) and as a result in the tremendous activity of the Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign (1985-1989). He also for good measure was key to the implementation of the Manchester Gay Centre and led the AIDS Working Party – which had to fight off the Council’s own shameless use of the law to confine an early HIV patient against their wishes in Monsall Hospital.
Following Labour Manifesto commitments in the mid-1980s, another Council working party was devoted to establishing an Immigration Welfare Centre (later to be called by the name that has stuck ever since – Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit). John was closely involved in this – working with community campaigners, anti-deportation activists and trade unionists – and he was particularly responsible for charting its development through political and administrative channels. This was not easy. The Labour Party in Manchester repeatedly, month after month, voted (all-but) unanimously for the proposal. The Labour Council Leadership repeatedly, month after month, took the proposal out of the budget the next day. The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) meanwhile held a budget for voluntary groups – if two thirds (7 out of the 10 councils) voted for a proposal, then it would receive full funding from the whole AGMA organisation. The Immigration Aid Unit was supported, variously, by representatives at the AGMA meetings, of 8 of the 10 councils. But not at the same time….
John, never deterred by small setbacks, continued to struggle on behind the scenes with politicians and senior administrators. He would never have wanted to say that the Unit would not have been there without him – it was the campaigns outside and on the ground which made the difference – but the truth is that it wouldn’t have.