Andy Burnham is right. The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) has been top down rather than bottom up. This dry sounding document is set to make serious inroads into the greenbelt in the county for housing development.

One needs to take into account the rampant opportunism that most politicians display ahead of elections; that said the dismay of three of the candidates standing for elected mayor of the Manchester City Region over the housing plan is notable.

There were widespread demonstrations as the consultation period closed with claims that people were unaware of what was being proposed.

There has been an opportunity to put viewpoints on line and there have been drop in sessions across Greater Manchester for people to state their case. However, many feel that the exercise was cosmetic and a product of the Combined Authority, a body mainly consisting of the ten leaders of the councils in the area.

Will the elected mayor change this perception? Will the new post herald an era where there is full democratic debate on issues like housing, the congestion charge and health? The jury is out but talk of making the elected mayor “the eleventh member of the family” suggests that Manchester City Council in particular will want to prevent the elected mayor being truly independent. The model is flawed. District council leaders sit on the Combined Authority with no direct mandate from the people. The Local Enterprise Partnerships are business organisations and strategic bodies like Transport For The North do not open their meetings to the public.

Real devolution requires politicians directly elected for the purpose of making big decisions on housing, transport, skills and health. We have Police Commissioner elections in an area of policy where there is little controversy. Why can’t debate over issues like greenbelt and hospitals be argued back and forth in election campaigns for a regional or sub regional assembly?

There need not be more politicians, the number of district councillors could be cut (Manchester has 96) and replaced with directly elected assembly people.


I went to the Fabian conference in London last week to see if there was any sign of the Greens, Lib Dems and the anti Corbyn forces getting their act together. I was once more disappointed as they continue to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Amidst self indulgent in fighting, there were small signs that thinking is being done about local deals to allow the strongest of the opposition parties in a particular area to fight the Tories. But mostly people remained in their trenches with the Greens being attacked by Labour for standing a candidate in Copeland where the issue of nuclear power is a key one in the by election.

One red faced Labour purist, Luke Akehurst of Labour First claimed the Lib Dems should pay the price for many elections for going into coalition with the Tories in 2010 rather than support a rainbow coalition under Gordon Brown. Supporting him was Johanna Baxter of Scottish Labour saying she would never work with the SNP. It didn’t seem to occur to them that the rainbow coalition would have needed SNP support to make it remotely stable.

At the same conference, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made a better speech. He’s hired John Prescott’s son apparently as a writer. Consequently, it had more North of England references than north London for a change. His theme that the system is rigged against ordinary people has potential.


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Labour are stuck with Jeremy Corbyn but have little prospect of winning the 2020 General Election. That looks to be the situation with many results still to come in today, including the vital London mayor election.

The Labour leader did better in England and Wales than his critics thought he would, but coming third to the Tories in Scotland means the party will lack the ballast of 40 Scottish Labour seats it would need to win in 2020.

That is why the Shadow Home Secretary and Leigh MP Andy Burnham is considering running for elected Mayor of Greater Manchester. He clearly doesn’t see the prospect of holding one of the major offices of state as very likely in 2020 and may settle for running Greater Manchester. Its a big job but not as big as being Home Secretary. Andy Burnham knows it will be 2025 at least before Labour form a government. By then we may have the realignment of political parties that I have written about before, but for now we must get back to what happened overnight.

Some commentators and Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies were poised to write off the Labour leader overnight.

The truth is that Labour were at a high point going into these elections following years of progress since they lost the 2010 General Election. It is a mystery to me that Labour spokespeople (including Corbyn) didn’t make this point more forcefully. All the easy wards to win had been won in the last five years and further progress would be difficult.

The most interesting northern result so far is in Stockport where Labour look set to gain minority control, ending a long era of the Lib Dems being in charge. On a night when there were signs of a slight Lib Dem recovery, the party self destructed in the town. A botched consultation on the market was followed by a nightmare evening which saw the Lib Dem leader Sue Derbyshire lose her seat and a Lib Dem councillor defect to Labour.

Joe Anderson was comfortably re-elected as Mayor of Liverpool but shortly the city is expected to revert to a leader/cabinet model as Joe stands for election to be Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

Labour fended off a Tory challenge in West Lancashire but the Conservative flagship council of Trafford remained blue.

So where do the parties stand this weekend as they return to campaigning on the momentous issue of our membership of the European Union?

Parties in government usually start a rapid decline in local support once they are in national office. This hasn’t happened to the Tories despite their splits over Europe, probably because of Labour’s weak leadership and disarray over anti-Semitism. The Conservatives will be encouraged by holding Trafford and the performance of Ruth Davidson, their leader in Scotland, who may have a wider national role one day.

Labour are in stalemate with the results not bad enough for an immediate coup against Corbyn but with no prospect of winning in 2020. The Shadow Chancellor John McDonald has had a good campaign. He appears more sure footed than his leader and if Labour is to have a hard left leader, perhaps it should be him.

Stockport is a further blow to the Lib Dems but partly due to local factors, elsewhere in the North there are signs of a modest recovery after five dreadful years.

UKIP have made a few gains in places like Bolton but their effectiveness in taking decisions on local government issues instead of just banging on about Europe, remains a big question.

Now the battle for our membership of the European Union resumes, let’s see some passion from the Remain camp.