Manchester has firmly resisted the government’s backing for elected mayors, but that could be about to change. Tory sources at their conference in Birmingham were suggesting that in return for extra powers for the city region, Labour would concede the concept of an elected mayor for the Combined Authority.
The Scottish Referendum aftermath has sparked a feverish debate about how the North of England should be governed. On Merseyside it has caused a fresh outbreak of tension between Liverpool and Wirral. The city’s mayor Joe Anderson, denied the leadership of the Combined Authority by Wirral leader Phil Davies, declared that if the government was going to decentralise powers and fiscal responsibility “it would need to know that this is not being managed by a group of part time councillors who meet every four to six weeks.”
The Mayor claims that the Liverpool City Region is in danger of being left behind when the government devolves extra powers because the area views things through “the short-sighted prism of local politics”.
Wirral Council would see things differently and is spearheading a drive to widen the debate about how the whole of the North can benefit from devolution, not just the city regions.
It is very much in the interests of business investment and people’s welfare, that the North’s politicians representing both city regions and the large number of towns and rural areas in between can speak with a united voice on a complete blueprint for the future government of the north. If they can’t then the winners will be a more powerful Scotland and Borisland to the south!
The Conservatives left Birmingham in upbeat mood despite polling predictions that they can’t win May’s General Election.
They’ve decided to take UKIP on following the latest defection. Delegates delighted in telling me how ex Tory MP Mark Reckless had been chased out of a Rochester pub along with UKIP leader Nigel Farage by Conservatives angered by their former MP’s treachery.
This must be the right approach. There is no appeasing people who want to take us out of Europe. They must be opposed and the British people warned about the prospects for UK business outside the EU.
In an otherwise excellent speech, David Cameron laid a trap for himself over Europe by promising that the free movement of immigrants would be sorted. Free movement is an integral part of the free market and he will find it very difficult to get concessions when he goes into negotiations if he wins the election.
At a number of fringe meetings I attended, Tory delegates were advised that if the UK goes into the talks with threats and ultimatums, it will get nowhere. The better approach would be to find allies who want change as well and work with them.
Many Tory representatives felt it was the first really conservative speech David Cameron had made with no mention of gay marriage or green issues but plenty on tax cuts. Just how they will be paid for whilst fulfilling much delayed promises to bring the deficit down to zero remains to be seen. Also for all the signs of recovery, it is not being felt in the pay packets of people in the north.
That’s a message that Ed Miliband hopes will keep Heywood and Middleton out of the clutches of UKIP in Thursday’s by election.