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Old April 1st, 2012, 09:33 PM   #1
roverman
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Elected mayors - the right answer?

Looking for some informed opinion to guide my vote in the forthcoming referendum on elected mayors.

The idea of an elected mayor for Manchester seems on one level at least to be a good idea. When we look at many of the world's great cities like New York and now London, we see charismatic mayors providing leadership and vision. In a country dominated by the capital and South East region it is all the more enticing to think of such a character driving Manchester to greater things.

But when I stop and think about it, I can't escape the feeling that such a development at this time may be largely symbolic and may even divert attention from the real issue, which is that of fragmentation. The proposals for elected mayors in major cities ignore, rather than address, the anomalies of administrative boundaries which exist particularly in the Manchester City Region. It is proposed that both Manchester and Salford have a mayor. Isn't that just the issue? Other than for the administrative boundary, these two cities, as well as chunks of other boroughs like Trafford, are all one urban centre which since the abolition of the old GMC has lacked the unity and collective governance to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

In recent years, via the AGMA, the boroughs of Greater Manchester have started to work together in realisation of this, and the positive results are starting to shine through. Is there a risk therefore, that electing mayors to individual parts of the same city region just risks opening up those divisions again? London's mayor covers all of Greater London as far as I am aware, certainly he covers Westminster, the City, Southwark and whatever other 'cities' make up the capital as we know it. This is surely the only way major urban regions can harness their collective strengths.

So I am sceptical, and minded to vote No, not because I think the idea of a Mayor is bad, but because I worry that it will ignore and divert attention from the need to bring the strengths of the city region formally together. Reading the local press it would seem that many of the leading lights amongst Manchesters' political and business community feel the same way. A mayor for Greater Manchester - now that is a different story. That would get my Yes vote.
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Old April 1st, 2012, 10:24 PM   #2
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I agree. I will probably vote no. Manchester City Council hasn't done bad under Bernstein and Leese as a whole over the past 20 years.

Mayors can be quite fragmented and dictatorial. Its good to have various local leaders who can lobby government. I always wonder what happens when a mayor has a fall-out with someone at the top who could give the city what the mayor wants. Obviously, if that happens then Manchester could be at a loss.

Also, like you say, it could disrupt the Greater Manchester region, which on the whole has been a success. The unified system certainly works better than other cities such as Birmingham etc. Having a Manchester with a mayor could disrupt that balance. I know Salford is getting a mayor, but everyone knows Salford is just a suburb of Manchester really in location and economy - a flea on an elephant so to speak. Manchester however would be a different kettle of fish and one I am not totally comfortable with.
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Old April 1st, 2012, 11:01 PM   #3
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The elected mayors for the Manchester CC and Salford CC areas should be scrapped, and replaced with an elected mayor who has authority over all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, like what Greater London currently has. Seeing as all ten boroughs work harmoniously together in the GMCA, why fragment the county with two separate mayors who will only have power over just two constituent parts of Greater Manchester? It just seems stupid.

If I was a resident inside the Manchester CC area, I'd be voting No if it only had authority over just that one specific local authority area.
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Old April 1st, 2012, 11:48 PM   #4
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Other cities might benefit from a Mayor, but it wouldn't be right for Manchester.

We've long gone past the point when we need a Mayor for the City of Manchester, we're now aspiring to have more government at a Greater Manchester level. Seemingly, the government seems quite happy with this too.

Let the likes of Birmingham and Leeds have a 'borough Mayor'. We can hold out for something better.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 12:09 AM   #5
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I am also minded to vote "No" for the same reasons.

1. As js1000 says, MCC has generally done an excellent job at regenerating Manchester. I get the impression that Bernstein is generally known and respected in business circles, and Leese also has a presence and presumably a level of corporate competence. I don't want this team - which has a proven track record - being disturbed by a figurehead populist-agenda Mayor when we're already accelerating ahead of Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds in terms of business confidence and inwards investment.

2. It's been discussed to death on this forum, and some disagree, but Manchester, Salford and Trafford really are one city in all but officialdom. It is totally unacceptable, in the 21st century and an age of globalisation, to stunt the gradual acceptance of this reality by imposing populist hyper-localist figureheads on each administrative division. There is strength in unity, but sadly, people are divided easier than they are unified. It is tricky enough getting Salford to cede to Manchester without cries of "we're not in Manchester!" - giving Salford and Manchester separate mayors will only deepen the psychological division between the two - disastrous in this day and age.

ON THE OTHER HAND...

I do look at the attention that the Birmingham Mayor is getting and wonder whether we might be in a bit of a sticky wicket. Two national politicians - Sion Simon and Liam Byrne - have announced their candidacy and scored national news coverage for it, as well as several local politicians, one of whom is already promising to campaign for a "Birmingham Underground". A totally unrealistic policy - but such political electioneering is what forces our Westminster overlords to start paying attention.

I know the title attracts a lot of controversy as well as derision, but Manchester has nevertheless done well to build itself up as the new 'second city'. Birmingham has struggled to get the kind of positive media image and news coverage which has helped our city's reputation in recent decades, and I don't doubt that were London and Birmingham to be the only major cities with elected mayors it would make Manchester seem just a tad more provincial and third-rate again.

Yes, that's a lot of insecurity, but it's founded in realism - it *would* be a big win for Brum to finally have a major voice that speaks directly to Westminster, someone who would inevitably bang the drum for Britain's "forgotten second city" and snag national media coverage. Attention would slowly start to drift and bring the focus back onto Brum, who, I freely admit, have been hard done by the London-Manchester axis of political/media attention. We need to be ruthless in this economy - we are battling for every penny - and I fear that an reenergised Birmingham would secure investment that our proven team are currently more effective at winning.

Last edited by retroscient; April 14th, 2012 at 12:36 AM.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 12:51 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retroscient View Post
I am also minded to vote "No" for the same reasons.

1. As js1000 says, MCC has generally done an excellent job at regenerating Manchester. I get the impression that Bernstein is generally known and respected in business circles, and Leese also has a presence and presumably a level of corporate competence. I don't want this team - which has a proven track record - being disturbed by a figurehead populist-agenda Mayor when we're already accelerating ahead of Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds in terms of business confidence and inwards investment.

2. It's been discussed to death on this forum, and some disagree, but Manchester, Salford and Trafford really are one city in all but officialdom. It is totally unacceptable, in the 21st century and an age of globalisation, to stunt the gradual acceptance of this reality by imposing populist hyper-localist figureheads on each administrative division. There is strength in unity, but sadly, people are divided easier than they are unified. It is tricky enough getting Salford to cede to Manchester without cries of "we're not in Manchester!" - giving Salford and Manchester separate mayors will only deepen the psychological division between the two - disastrous in this day and age.

ON THE OTHER HAND...

I do look at the attention that the Birmingham Mayor is getting and wonder whether we might be in a bit of a sticky wicket. Two national politicians - Sion Simon and Liam Byrne - have announced their candidacy and scored national news coverage for it, as well as several local politicians, one of whom is already promising to campaign for a "Birmingham Underground".

I know the title attracts a lot of controversy as well as derision, but Manchester has nevertheless done well to build itself up the new "second city". Birmingham has struggled to get the kind of positive media image and news coverage which has helped our city's reputation in recent decades, and I don't doubt that were London and Birmingham to be the only major cities with elected mayors it would make Manchester seem just a tad more provincial and third-rate.

Yes, that's insecurity, but it's founded in realism - it *would* be a big win for Brum to finally have a major voice that speaks directly to Westminster, someone who would inevitably bang the drum for "Britain's second city" and snags national media coverage. Attention would slowly start to bring the focus back onto Brum. We need to be ruthless in this economy - we are battling for every penny - and I fear that an energised Birmingham would secure investment that our lot are currently more effective at securing.

I'm still probably going to vote "No", but I am a tad concerned at the Brummie threat! :P
Birmingham would be a better city if they more proactive leaders such as Bernstein etc. Manchester has pulled so far ahead and created a national presence in music, football, education, media etc. that Birmingham has a long way to catch up. They still satisfy themselves on this warped view that we are the "second city" tag which holds Birmingham back.

People say the London mayor works well. That is true, but only because London is the capital with a population of millions and ultimately a lot of money will be spent on infrastructure. Same can't be said of any other British city where the population is a third the size of Greater London's.

Also, would you be comfortable with a Labour mayor in a Conservative government or a Conservative mayor during a Labour government? A counter productive system for any city unless the government truly believes the city has potential to boost the economy nationally.

I prefer the system we have at the moment where although we have a Labour council, they are apolitical (mostly) and want the best for Manchester.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 02:07 AM   #7
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Birmingham is a huge Metropolitan Borough though, twice the size of Manchester, three times the size of Wigan and five times the size of Salford.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 02:58 AM   #8
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Birmingham is a huge Metropolitan Borough though, twice the size of Manchester, three times the size of Wigan and five times the size of Salford.
Not in London's league though. London has 7 million people! Birmingham has 1 million and Manchester 500,000. London is a country in itself in the same way California state is in the US.

People forget Manchester is the 7th largest city by population, yet somehow many see it as the most important city outside London. We've carved a niche out as a moderately successful and exciting city over the past 20 years. That is something to be proud of and look to continue over the coming years.

I believe mayors will get the opportunity to regularly meet the prime minister to push for improvements. I honestly don't see what Manchester would gain if we had a mayor there. Yes, we could lose out on some infrastructure projects - but I'd much prefer attracting private investment which is the meat in the bone for improving Manchester's economy. The Labour govt put a fair bit of money into Manchester, likewise it says a lot when a Tory such as Osborne has backed schemes such as the Northern hub, HS2 for Manchester and investment at Manchester University. It shows that there is a cross party feeling that Manchester is a vital city in the north which is worthy of investment.

I think it speaks volumes that cities such as Liverpool, Salford and Birmingham are going to have a mayor or are seriously contemplating it (in Birmingham's case). Although Salford and Liverpool have had pockets of investment, none of these cities are going anywhere fast at the moment. Likewise, same can be said about Bristol, Newcastle, Leeds (possibly not for Leeds), Sheffield, Nottingham, Coventry, Wakefield and Bradford which could all get mayors too.

I just don't see this as Manchester's domain to be honest to be with cities such as Wakefield or Coventry. They can scrap it out for the last pound (literally) from the prime minister for a new road if they so wish, but I have my doubts. The Greater Manchester region is generally unified and the Council have done well to put Manchester on the map over the last 20 years. Like they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Last edited by js1000; April 2nd, 2012 at 03:39 AM.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 09:43 AM   #9
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I'm a bit torn in some ways. I don't like the idea of a mayor for Manchester as it does have the ability to disrupt AGMA and all the hard work they've done if the wrong person is elected. On the other hand I do thing the monolithic and inbuilt Labour majority in Manchester is harmful to the city. Perhaps not in the field of economic development, where over the last 20 years the council have appeared to play a rather mixed hand very well, but in terms of tackling the deep seated social problems that inner city Manchester faces I don't think the trickle-down model they've adopted has really worked, and that new approaches would be a positive thing.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 09:49 AM   #10
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Labour would walk Manchester though.

Even with them not being very popular Leese would be mayor come November should there be a yes vote in May (which I seriously doubt).
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 12:06 PM   #11
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I don't doubt that. Whoever Labour put up would almost certainly walk the election this year. But by making the office a personal one rather than a party one tribal loyalty will over time come to seem less important to who wins; Boris is a lot more popular in London than the Tories are for example. So it's more a hope/worry for the future.

I suppose the question from my point of view is "are the benefits of an original vision and more accountable executive worth the risks of a less capable or socially divisive figure running the city"? I'm not sure, but I'm tending towards yes.

As you say though, I expect that we'll see a no vote.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 12:13 PM   #12
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If you want a GM mayor, it would be the best option to vote for a city mayor as soon as the opportunity arises.

You have to show enthusiasm for the concept of mayor if you wish to obtain the goal of a mayor of the whole conurbation.

A Manchester mayor working with a Salford mayor would be less cumbersome than the two councils working together.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 12:28 PM   #13
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Spurious logic there Isaac.

If we vote for this form of Mayor, the government will then say that we voted for it, therefore there's no need to push ahead with more powers to Greater Manchester.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 12:51 PM   #14
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and as someone who does not want a GM mayor I'm quite happy it's off the agenda right now.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 12:56 PM   #15
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Labour would walk Manchester though.

Even with them not being very popular Leese would be mayor come November should there be a yes vote in May (which I seriously doubt).
It'd be less of a walk than you'd think. If the Manchester voting system was the same as other places in the UK with an elected mayor (e.g. London) then it'd be the "Supplementary Voting" system, i.e. you choose a 1st Choice and a 2nd Choice candidate.

If your 1st choice gets knocked out early on your 2nd choice gets your vote.

In reality this would mean that elections would become Labour vs Not Labour. Depending on the popularity of various individuals running this may be the Liberal Democrats, Greens or even something like the Community Action Party. I doubt that more than 20% of Mancunians could ever put themselves in a position to vote Tory so I don't think they'd be up there.

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Spurious logic there Isaac.

If we vote for this form of Mayor, the government will then say that we voted for it, therefore there's no need to push ahead with more powers to Greater Manchester.
Or, a mayor of Manchester could push for a GM Mayor and make it a more prominent issue.

I don't live in Manchester at the moment (York for university) but if I did I'd vote YES for a mayor.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 01:55 PM   #16
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It'd be less of a walk than you'd think. If the Manchester voting system was the same as other places in the UK with an elected mayor (e.g. London) then it'd be the "Supplementary Voting" system, i.e. you choose a 1st Choice and a 2nd Choice candidate.

If your 1st choice gets knocked out early on your 2nd choice gets your vote.

In reality this would mean that elections would become Labour vs Not Labour. Depending on the popularity of various individuals running this may be the Liberal Democrats, Greens or even something like the Community Action Party. I doubt that more than 20% of Mancunians could ever put themselves in a position to vote Tory so I don't think they'd be up there.



Or, a mayor of Manchester could push for a GM Mayor and make it a more prominent issue.

I don't live in Manchester at the moment (York for university) but if I did I'd vote YES for a mayor.
I forgot about the different voting system that would be introduced. We might end up over time with something akin to late 19th/early 20th century local politics, where the specificities of the local electorates produced alliances that diverged from the national parties.

In a city like Manchester the two camps would seem to be corporate-statist Labour and a community based fluffy liberal grouping. Although Labour would still have the advantage, I think confronting the party with a different approach to urban politics might not be a bad thing.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 02:26 PM   #17
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Thing is the mayor may well run on a slightly different position than the council just to get elected.

At least in the short term, the Lib Dems are no where in Manchester.

Being in government with the Tories just about ensures no opposition whatsoever to Labour in Manchester (and other poor northern cities).
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 02:42 PM   #18
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There has been working together before, 2007-2010 GMITA was run by a coalition of Lib Dems and Conservatives with Labour in opposition.
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 02:56 PM   #19
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I mean at national level the Lib Dems have made themselves very unpopular in cities like Manchester.

And yes, was it not the Lib Dems / Tories that came up with the GM Transport Fund?
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 03:34 PM   #20
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Spurious logic there Isaac.

If we vote for this form of Mayor, the government will then say that we voted for it, therefore there's no need to push ahead with more powers to Greater Manchester.
No the government will just say you don't want mayors full stop and offer you none in the future.

Vote for these mayors and let them lobby for a GM mayor.

With all due respect, better for a somebody to say yes than a nobody to say no.
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