One senses that whoever wins the Labour leadership contest, they will never become Prime Minister and hold real power. So we must look elsewhere for Labour politicians who will affect our lives in the coming years.
The position of elected mayor for the city regions of Liverpool and Greater Manchester seem a reasonably safe bet. I say that with the important caveat that all Labour strongholds in the North may soon come under a challenge from UKIP. But presuming the new leader of UKIP hasn’t had time to get his/her ducks in a row, the two Labour politicians currently being chosen in party ballots in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region will hold significant power.
Only those two areas will have elected mayors next May. Internal squabbling and a government distracted by Brexit has ensured that there will be no great roll out of elected mayors across the North come May.
Leeds may yet get its act together but it has been a painful process with competing demands for a Greater Yorkshire mayor competing with Leeds more city focussed approach. Then there was a fight over transport powers with North Yorkshire. It appears likely that Leeds will do a deal with Craven, Harrogate and Selby but politics is in the background. Some Tory MPs are pressing the new Communities Secretary Sajid Javid for more Tory districts to be included to prevent an inevitable Labour mayor being elected.
Warrington had the same concern in reverse, that an elected mayor including Cheshire could jeopardise Labour’s control of the town. In Lancashire Wyre district continues to hold out against a countywide elected mayor whilst Chorley wants to become a unitary authority.
It is all a bit of a mess. It is what you get when a government decides on the superficially democratic idea of allowing devolution to grow from the bottom up. It is a recipe for petty rivalry resulting in a chaotic pattern that voters don’t understand. We need regional government with only unitary authorities underneath, but we are where we are, so let’s look at who might win the Labour nominations.
TOPPLING BIG JOE?
Joe Anderson has been Labour’s elected mayor for the city of Liverpool for four years. The independent academic Michael Parkinson recently published a glowing report on his success. He listed Joe’s achievements including persuading a Tory government to devolve powers, the International Festival of Business, and the Exhibition Hall; all done against a background of massive public spending cuts. He had also raised the profile of the city, the central aim of this elected mayor project.
Anderson now wants to be mayor of the City Region and needs to deal with the perception that it would always be Liverpool first and Wirral, St Helens and Sefton second.
That is why Steve Rotheram, MP for Walton, is standing on a platform of “No borough left behind.” He says he will give more priority to the needs of the whole city region. He has remained as parliamentary aide to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn which might go down well with the current Labour membership.
Luciana Berger, MP for Wavertree, is seen as the outsider which is a shame because these positions were meant to see different faces coming to the fore. Her call for fresh leadership following Brexit seems to be falling on deaf ears.
TONY THE MAN TO BEAT.
In Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd is relying on big union support and the fact that he is currently doing the job of interim mayor to see him to the Labour nomination. Dynamic wouldn’t be the first word to come to mind in describing Lloyd’s political style but he has often been underestimated in his climb from Trafford councillor, to MP, to Minister, to chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party before seeing off Lord Smith of Wigan for his current job.
Ivan Lewis (MP Bury South) is bringing dynamism to the race with his challenge that so far the benefits of devolution have not gone far beyond Manchester.
Meanwhile Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham says his Cabinet experience will bring heft to the job. He wants more emphasis on council houses instead of plush flats and is challenging the Prime Minister to clarify her position on devolution. The Everton supporting Burnham is battling a perception that he is not Manc enough for the job.
The results of the Labour candidate ballots will be known in early August.