The actual elections for the Mayors of the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and possibly Leeds, won’t be held until next year. However in effect the people who are likely to occupy these posts will be settled this summer. Labour has an iron grip on our big northern cities and unless a spectacular independent candidate comes forward, whoever Labour members choose, will win.

The party’s choices will be made very soon. Nominations close on June 10th and the results will be announced on August 4th. Whoever thought it was a good idea to run these selections when the European Union Referendum was on needs their head examining. Labour Party members should be concentrating on getting out the Remain vote amongst its supporters. Without them the referendum could be lost. I guess it reflects leader Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of enthusiasm for the Remain campaign.

However the battle for the Labour nomination has been truly joined. The Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham declared this week for the Greater Manchester job. Meanwhile in the Liverpool City Region, 2 MPs Steve Rotheram and Luciana Berger are set to throw down the gauntlet to Big Joe Anderson. There are also suggestions that Barry Grunwald, the leader of St Helens, might try and rally Labour members who want a candidate from outside Liverpool.

Joe Anderson has just started his second term as elected mayor of the city of Liverpool. He got a glowing report on his first period in office from the boss of the Heseltine Institute, Professor Michael Parkinson. However not everyone shares the academic’s views. Critics believe Joe brings a “my way or the highway” approach to the office. They worry about his ability to reach out to the people of Wirral, Southport and St Helens. They remember his petulance when Phil Davies, the leader of Wirral, was originally chosen as chair of the Liverpool City Region instead of him.

There has been a sense of inevitability about Anderson gliding from one mayoralty to the other and this is what Rotheram, Berger or Grunwald will have to combat.

Grunwald is quite a character, inheriting the feisty tradition of his predecessor Marie Rimmer. If he stands he will need to work hard to get name recognition across the city region, but he may be able to play on the fear that a Liverpool politician won’t represent the interests of the other councils.

Joe Anderson is now likely to have to battle with two MPs in the city. Steve Rotheram is the amiable MP for Walton and was a popular traditional mayor of the city some years ago. He has family and work connections with Knowsley, St Helens and Halton and is close to Andy Burnham. They would form a powerful alliance for a North West version of the Northern Powerhouse. Efforts may be made to depict him as a Corbynista. He is the leader’s Parliamentary Private Secretary but Rotheram nominated Burnham for leader and will want to portray himself as a good Labour man first and foremost.

Merseyside politics is very male and a female elected mayor would send out the sort of positive messages that Sadiq Khan’s election in London has done. Wirral South’s Alison McGovern was thinking of standing but is heavily identified with the Blairite Progress movement and is unlikely to run. So what about Luciana Berger? She is bright and personable but will have to deal with the, no doubt unfair, feeling that she is a posh outsider from London.


Sir Richard Leese recently expressed his disappointment at Tony Lloyd’s tenure as interim mayor of Greater Manchester. It is a blow for Lloyd as he seeks the post permanently. Leese is now believed to be backing Andy Burnham.

The Shadow Home Secretary’s decision to enter the contest is significant. He has Big Beast status in this municipal contest but it has caused dismay among some Labour supporters for what it says about Labour’s chances of winning the 2020 General Election. Burnham has decided that the only way he can be effective is to run Greater Manchester with no chance of becoming Home Secretary. He represents Leigh and so is not from the Manchester City elite. But will he be any match for the Bernstein/Leese partnership, the powerful Chief Executive/ Leader pairing that has dominated for 20 years?

The other candidate, Ivan Lewis, the Bury South MP, has made it clear that he thinks the devolution agenda has been too Manchester focused and concentrated on economic priorities at the expense of social ones.

It all means a high summer of high drama for Labour Party members in our big conurbations.




The image of the private sector has taken a mighty knock. Whether it’s the sight of police and troops rescuing Olympic security from G4S or the tattered reputation of our banks.

Will this have a lasting effect on our politics with Ed Miliband catching the wind of public opinion if it moves to the left?

Public sector bad, private sector good, has always been a simplistic mantra but recent events could mean a more sympathetic hearing for the role of the state. Ed is sending out subtle signals. He was the first Labour leader to speak at the Durham Miners Gala in 23 years.

It’s a good time to take the political temperature as parliament goes on holiday yet again.

I know the government has run out of things to do except reform the Lords (or not as the case may be) but MPs seem to be doing very little legislating at the moment.

Off in mid February, off at Easter, two weeks for the Jubilee and now barely a month later, they are off again. When a political commentator claimed the other day that these were dog days at Westminster with MPs yearning to get away on their holidays, I nearly drove off the road.

July used to be the month of soaring tempers and temperatures as the government sought to get bills on the statute book before a long break leading up to a short wash up session before the Queen’s Speech in November. MPs were often involved in all night sittings and were genuinely exhausted.

We can forget the soaring temperatures, but the rhythm of the parliamentary year has changed too. With the Queen’s Speech now in May, the pressure point for legislation is Easter.

It is true that a September session has been introduced because of public outrage at the July to October break. I also agree that MPs work hard in their constituencies, need to be off when their kids are on holiday and that there is little point in debating bills in the early hours of the morning.

However I think things have swung too far the other way making claims that there isn’t parliamentary time for this and that, risible.

On the subject of parliamentary time, how long does the Labour Party want to debate the Lords’ Bill in the House of Commons? The party’s brazen political manoeuvring reached new heights this week as the Opposition was asked how many extra days it wanted to discuss the measure. Luciana Berger, the normally eloquent Liverpool Wavertree MP, was reduced to mumbling about it being a matter for discussion behind the Speaker’s Chair.

Helped by Tory rebels, it is Labour quibbling over the number of days needed for debate that is likely to scupper a reform that the party has been committed to for a long time.

The row over the Lords forced another photo opportunity out of the Prime Minister and Nick Clegg designed to reassure the markets that Britain has a stable government. I’m sure that’s true. Indeed what struck me is that Cameron and Clegg are getting closer and closer.

While they are huddling together in the economic storm, they are in danger of becoming isolated from their grassroots. This is particularly the case with Cameron. He must be worried that the ranks of the Tory rebels on the Lords’ bill were swollen by large numbers of Conservatives who only entered parliament in 2010.

They were prepared to risk future promotion and incur Flashman’s temper because many of them have fallen out of love with Cameron. They blame him for not winning the election outright and even doubt if he is a real Tory.

As far as Nick Clegg is concerned, he is testing the patience of his dwindling army of grassroots activists. They fear calamity at the next election with the Lib Dems blamed for tuition fees and with no voting or Lords’ reform achieved.

It will be an interesting party conference seasons but first the Olympics. I’m looking forward to seeing all those soldiers….and the athletes.


Mayor Joe addressed Liverpool councillors for nearly an hour on Wednesday night. It was the first opportunity to see how the elected mayor would interact with the 90 councillors whose power has been much reduced.

Influence is shifting to bodies like the Mayor of Liverpool’s Development Corporation. I can report that the following will be providing “strategic direction for the city’s economy.” Sir Michael Bibby, Bibby Line; Claire Dove Blackburne House; Liv Garfield Openreach; Robert Hough Local Enterprise Partnership; Sir Howard Newby Liverpool University; Julia Unwin, Rowntree Foundation; and entrepreneur David Wade Smith. Pat Richie (CEO of the Homes and Community Agency) will also be joining subject to confirmation by his board.