I see David Cameron has been blessing our city with a visit again, and in addition to the totally unsurpring (but still outrageously hypocritical) attack on the City Council's cuts (see here), he brought up the idea of a Mayor again.
Now I'm not a great fan of elected mayors - smacks too much of politics by personality - but I'd be happy to go along with an elected Mayor of Manchester providing the following conditions were attached.
- It was for a Mayor of Greater Manchester, just as the Mayor of London is the Mayor of Greater London)
- It was combined with a democratically elected Assembly to provide conurbation-wide checks and balances
(I could add a third, namely that the Mayor was elected by Alternative Vote rather than First Past the Post - but that would almost certainly be the case anyway in line with other elected Mayors - surprised the 'No2AV campaign hasn't put a stop to it...)
Regarding the first condition - there is a lot of confusion and ambiguity around the word Manchester - how often do you hear in the national media of some dastardly crime committed in 'Manchester', only to find its actually somewhere like Salford or Rochdale?. Do Manchester United play their home games in Manchester?
On a range of policy areas from transport to policing to waste management (typical areas under responsibility of the Mayor in London), the appropriate level is Greater Manchester, not Manchester. The ten boroughs which make up the conurbation already co-operate in these areas; there was of course a Greater Manchester Council until the Tories abolished it.
And yet somehow when Cameron states how much Manchester needs a Mayor it's just this troublesome Labour City he's on about, not Tory Trafford or Lib Dem Stockport.
The second condition (the Assembly) again reflects the London situation; as far as I'm aware Londoners are reasonably happy with the set-up (I'm not aware of any plans to abolish the Assembly). Maybe one reason for that is that it's the only legislative body within England which uses a genuinely fair electoral system.
A similar body in Greater Manchester would be a breath of fresh air amongst the one-Party states which make up most of Greater Manchester's council chambers.
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