While Joe Anderson was sweeping all before him to become Liverpool’s first directly elected mayor, the people of Manchester narrowly voted no.
53% voted no and 47% yes but only a quarter of Mancunians voted following a low key campaign. The government had wanted “a Boris in every Town Hall” but it will be business as usual in this well run city.
The truth is that the post has not attracted the colourful outsiders or dynamic business candidate that might have caught the voter’s imagination. Combined with that was uncertainty about what difference it would have made.
The government might have wanted a Boris in Manchester Town Hall but they weren’t prepared to give the post the powers in advance.
However Manchester’s rival city just down the M62 does now have the opportunity to exploit any advantage there may be to be gained by having an elected mayor.
Joe Anderson, the city’s council leader won easily on the first ballot. The former BBC producer Liam Fogarty came second and immediately accepted an unpaid post as Anderson wasted no time in signalling that the partisan rhetoric was being put away.
That’s just as well because the campaign has been characterised by disruptive behaviour by the fruitcakes and fascists representing the British National Party, National Front and English Democrats.
Their interventions in radio debates and at the count were crude examples of boneheaded racism. When they got beyond immigration, their other policies for the city were implausible or downright ridiculous. The people of Liverpool pronounced their verdict by putting the bunch of them at the bottom of the list.
In third place was Liberal Democrat Richard Kemp. With his long experience on the council and national positions with the Local Government Association, he could have plausibly run the city.
Fourth place wasn’t bad for the Greens’ John Coyle with the veteran Socialist Coalition candidate Tony Mulhearn in fifth.
Steve Radford of the Liberals was virtually tied with Tory Tony Caldeira in sixth and seventh place. Caldeira campaigned well, attracting top ministers in to support him like Cities Minister Greg Clarke. Caldeira has laid the foundations for a bid for parliament.
Manchester will now watch the elected mayors of Liverpool and Salford bed in but most cities across the country holding referendums have said no to the project.
There’s already a feeling on Merseyside that Joe Anderson will seek to extend his influence beyond the city’s boundaries. Transport is an area where his writ does not run beyond the city boundary. As the ballot boxes were stacked away he told me he would be asking questions about the deal the city gets from Merseyside Transport Authority.
The saga of the lost tram scheme for the city still wrankles with the old bruiser. Anderson told me he intends to open discussion with the government about more powers for the office he now holds.
Although Sefton, Wirral and St Helens are either opposed to or equivocal about a sub regional mayor, they are now all under full Labour control for the first time. This may or may not assist in bringing Merseyside together.