Category Archives: Manchester Confidential

In defence of Mark Garner (sorta).

This morning, I read this blog post from food writer, Lizzie Mabbot.

Go on, go read that and come back here, I’ll wait.

Finished? Good.

As both readers of this blog will know (hi mom), I, like Lizzie, have written for Mark Garner in the past and as some of you who know me personally, i.e. the poor souls who exist within my tortured little whinge-sphere, Manchester Confidential were late in paying me as well. Very late.

I’d written an article on Labour’s failed ID card scheme and after numerous, polite, attempts at extracting payment from ManCon, I sent this email to their accounts department, cc’ing the big guy himself:

Hi X,

Have I done something to piss you Manchester Confidential folks off? Was it the dissing of one of Mark’s food photos on Twitter? Maybe you don’t like my tie.

Your refusal to pay me has to be a personal thing. It can’t be standard practice for ManCon to take over 6 months to pay a contributor. I’ve written for many publications in the UK, most (who are we kidding, ALL) are much smaller than ManCon, and I have never had to wait this long.

I know what you owe me is a pittance and a low priority, but I’m a stubborn bastard and I won’t go away. If you think I won’t pursue this because it’s such a small amount, think again. I will sue on principle, it’s what we colonials do. Although, I will probably write a couple more nasty emails (and maybe even a letter on PAPER) before I go that far. I am also half British, you see.

If I’ve hurt someone’s feelings over there, kicked someone’s dog, pissed in someone’s Shreddies then please accept my apology. Accept a hundred of them.

Just pay me.


Rob Cutforth


Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy crap, Rob, you sound like a whiny little asshole like Lizzie”. And you’d be half-right, especially if you read that letter without irony. Mark Garner didn’t read it without irony, He gets irony. He likes a bit of spiky humour; anyone who has ever read anything he’s ever published will know this.

You’re probably also thinking “Six months without getting paid?! Jesus, I thought this post was supposed to be in support of Mark Garner” and you’d be half-right again. Six months is an unacceptable amount of time to go without getting paid for an article, especially when you factor in the fact that I had to acquire one of those fucking Labour Big Brother ID cards in the process.

What you don’t know about the above response is that this bit, while true, is a tad misleading: “I’ve written for many publications in the UK … and I have never had to wait this long.” I have indeed written for quite a few publications in this country, some of which have enormous readerships and yes, while it is true I have never had to wait six months for payment, the reason is not as obvious as it might appear.

The fact is, the sum total I’ve been offered for the dozens of articles I’ve had published in magazines, newspapers and websites in this country is a big, fat, zero. Bupkiss. Nada, nothing, zip, zilch.

I’m not excusing these publications for not paying their writers, but I know for a fact that paying writers is something many independent publishers who aren’t lucky enough to receive lottery money can afford to do. Every single issue that goes to print is a struggle and many publications operate at a loss. I have since made a conscious decision to stop wasting my time writing for free (except for my LeftLion column), which is why you no longer see published articles on this, or my other blogs anymore.

It is entirely possible that my writing is worthless and Lizzie should be paid in gold bullion, lord knows a quick comparison of the number of comments Lizzie gets on her blog and at the comments I get will tell you that there is little to compare between the two of us. Lizzie probably isn’t a massive celebrity in Nottingham like I am (irony), but still, it has to be said, she is obviously much better at this business than I am. I hope she gets more paid work, I really do, but I can tell you right now that if I were a small publisher reading her post whinging about a payment that was a mere 10 days late, I would be asking her to shove things where the sun doesn’t shine as well. Ok, well, perhaps I wouldn’t go that far.

Oh yeah, and if you want proof that Mark Garner responds better to irony than moaning and browbeating, here is his response to my email (the spelling mistakes have been corrected):


Please confirm that we owe Mr Cutforth this money.

Mr Cutforth, to short circuit the whole thing, send me a copy invoice with your bank details and I will make a payment tomorrow.

I am unsure as to whether I should apologise, we may well be able to get another of your emails which made me smile, in the nicest possible way…

Mark Garner

The first cheque I ever received for writing in the UK followed shortly thereafter.

Me and my ID card

My ID card

In case you’ve been living on Mars for the past few months, Manchester has been
selected as the guinea pig for the national ID card scheme. ID cards are there to make
travelling through the EU easier and cheaper, to protect you from identity theft and to
disrupt terrorist activity if you believe what the Home Office has to say about it.

I must admit, I was a bit sceptical going in. Why would anyone pay £30 to put even
more sensitive information into the hands of the government? I’m not a tinfoil hat
wearing nut locked in my basement with my 800 copies of Catcher in the Rye by any
means, but I think it’s safe to say that they don’t have the best track record when it
comes to keeping personal information safe.

Step One: Go to the ID card webpage ( and
request an application pack.

The first thing I read on the website is the fact that I need a passport before I can
apply for an ID card. Erm, I thought this could be used instead of a passport? Scratch
making travel through the EU cheaper and easier.

Step Zero: Get a passport. Fill out forms, get my photos taken, hand over £77 and
go for an interview. The interviewer gets all Nineteen Eighty-Four on me when, to
confirm my identity, he asks me who I bank with. “Erm… Lloyds”. “That’s fine”, he
confirms, “Don’t worry, if you didn’t get that one right, we could ask you who your
mortgage is with”. Yikes.

Step Two: Fill out a second set of forms that ask for virtually the same information
my passport application provided and go for a second interview.

The second interview was an interesting process. I was called up to talk to a cheery
fella who checks my form, takes my money and inputs my info. Just to make
conversation while he typed all my info in manually, I asked “Have you had many
people apply for these things?” Sensing my surprise when he answers yes, he goes
on the defensive. “I don’t know what the fuss is all about,” he starts, “Organisations
hold personal information about you for all kinds of things, it’s just how it works. It’s
about time they came in if you ask me, the Home Secretary has said that they can’t
keep track of illegal immigrants who are claiming benefits”. Hmm, that’s odd, they
didn’t mention that bit in their marketing material, I thought this was about protecting
me from identity theft.

“Besides,” he continues, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry
about”. He says that last bit three times during the interview. I’ve never liked that
phrase “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about” especially
since the US government used it to convince Americans to accept the Patriot Act. You
know, that one that allows the feds to wiretap anybody without their consent.

At the end of my interview, I’m asked to sit back down, write down the answers
to five security questions and wait to get called up again for the second part of the
interview. There are a number of security questions on the list to choose from. I choose the sports
position I played as a kid, the name of my first pet and the first book I’d ever read. I
chose the last one because saying “Jacob Two Two meets The Hooded Fang” to an
over-efficient ID card flunkie tickled me.

Step Three: Give over my “biometric data”. I get called up to the biometric room
where I am greeted by a silver box, a camera and plastic container full of used
tissues. “Close the curtains behind you for privacy,” the woman says. Yikes again.
Biometric data just sounds disgusting. Disgusting AND technical. Like getting a Dirty
Sanchez from a robot. I think to myself, If she hands me a girlie mag and a cup, I’m
outta there, sod the 30 quid.

Thankfully, no bodily fluids were spilled; the tissues were for wiping the fingerprint
glass down (thank the maker). Biometric data is simply college talk for fingerprints, a
signature and a photograph that apparently scans my retinas. Yes, this biometric lark
isn’t like Nineteen Eighty-Four at all, scanning my retinas is entirely rational. As she
takes my fingerprints, I ask her, “Who will have access to these? Can the police use
this fingerprint database to solve crimes?” to which she replies, “Yes, I suppose they
can. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about”. Yikes a third

I’m sure this is not an utterly pointless exercise concerned more with treating me as
a potential criminal than fighting terrorism by fingerprinting me at my own expense.
No, that would be far too cynical. I’m sure that these cards will help hunt down those
pesky illegal immigrants, stop Osama from stealing my identity and make travelling
through Europe quick and easy like it was in the good old days. Why, I feel safer
already. Now then, where did I put my Daily Express?

The original article can be found at Manchester Confidential