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OPINION | Graham Stringer MP On The Elected Mayor

The MP for Blackley and Broughton on an extraordinary turnaround

Published on March 10th 2015.

OPINION | Graham Stringer MP On The Elected Mayor

BEFORE the end of March and the dissolution of Parliament, in a committee room on a corridor high above the House of Commons chamber, 18 MPs from all parties will meet for 90 minutes and pass an Order which will enable Greater Manchester to appoint a non-elected mayor. 

The democratic changes would be worth it just for the powers to reregulate the buses and take the smiles off the bus owners’ faces who have exploited the travelling public far too long.

Any ambitious councillor, MP or even the police commissioner can apply for this powerful and prestigious position. Hats are already flying into the ring.  The Leaders of our 10 councils will decide who will be the first Mayor of Greater Manchester.  The appointment lasts until 2017 but if circumstances demand could be extended for 2 years.

This is by far the least satisfactory part of the deal between the Greater Manchester Leaders and the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. 

George Osborne has demanded an elected mayor for Greater Manchester as his price for handing over control of services delivered locally but controlled by central government. Fair enough. It would have been irresponsible to have turned down this opportunity to improve our local health service, buses, housing and the economy.

George Osborne At February's Nhs %26#163%3B6Bn Sign-Over In Manchester Town HallGeorge Osborne At February's NHS £6bn Sign-Over In Manchester Town Hall - click here

In fact an elected mayor is a democratic bonus. 

There are two obvious alternatives. Recreating the Greater Manchester Council is costly and impractical and leaving it to the Leaders leaves a democratic deficit. 

Unfortunately the law needs to be changed before an election can be held hence the appointed mayor. I think appointing a mayor is a contradiction in political terms. Leaders appoint officials and the electorate appoint mayors.

Until the law can be changed the leaders should remain in charge. Although not elected on the basis of the new powers and resources they have political legitimacy in a way an appointed mayor never will. 

I suspect an appointed mayor is a convenience for officials and nothing else. 

All this begs one very big question: should the people not only have the right to elect the Greater Manchester Mayor but decide whether one is desirable at all.

In local referenda Salford voted for an elected mayor but Manchester and Bury rejected the concept.

This has been used as evidence for the unpopularity and lack of support for elected mayors leading to the conclusion that before any change is made, an enabling referendum should be held across the county.

This is comparing apples and pears. The referenda in the three districts were concerned with the current services and democracy and how they could be changed.

What is on offer in this case is a major decentralisation of resources and powers. In my mind there is no question that the electorate should have the final say and as the two alternative democratic structures are expensive or less accountable; an elected mayor is a no brainer.

This is an extraordinary turnaround after 50 years of centralisation. The democratic changes would be worth it just for the powers to reregulate the buses and take the smiles off the bus owners’ faces who have exploited the travelling public far too long.

Bus madness, row after row of deregulate buses

Bus madness, vehicle after vehicle of deregulated buses

This is a recognition that centralisation has failed. After all the cuts we have faced in Greater Manchester over the last 5 years public expenditure is still at the same level as in 2010. It has just been moved from productive to non-productive areas. 

Of course there's a long way to go but Greater Manchester must not look a gift horse in the mouth. The UK is one of the most centralised countries in the world to the benefit of London and the disadvantage of Manchester. This should be seen as the start of Manchester taking control of virtually all our public services. Having an elected Mayor is the correct democratic solution.

Graham StringerGraham StringerGraham Stringer is a regular columnist for Manchester Confidential. He is the Labour Member of Parliament for Blackley and Broughton with a majority of 12,303. He was elected to Parliament in 1997 for the now abolished constituency of Manchester Blackley. Prior to this he was the Leader of Manchester City Council from 1984-1996. He is one of the few MPs to have science experience, as a professional analytical chemist. He is a member of The Science and Technology Committee at Westminster. 

Greater ManchesterGreater Manchester

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26 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DavidMarch 10th 2015.

There seems to be a sense that Leese is going to be the Labour candidate for Greater Manchester mayor,but I think this would be a big mistake.Mr Stringer was far better as council leader than Leese and would be far better now as Mayor of Greater Manchester.I don't know why he persists with being a fairly unsuccessful backbench MP when he is much more suited to a role in regional government.In contrast to Leese Stringer does at least bother to make an effort to communicate with the electorate and is not a bland,dull figure like Leese.I also think Stringers more right wing views would win a lot more popular support for Labour in the other towns of Greater Manchester

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoyMarch 11th 2015.

This is a first. +1

AnonymousMarch 10th 2015.

Not a job for Karney at least... He is too busy keeping our wonderfully clean city centre in order and crouching like a Cheshire cat in one of the new bins for MEN....

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidMarch 10th 2015.

You would never guess after all these years acting like a fool that he actually went to university in London back in the 1970s,so he cannot be so stupid.This public image he has cultivated is not true.

Steve5839March 12th 2015.

The fact you can pass exams does not make you emotionally intelligent which is a personal trait and plus. Also, he finds detail interesting to the point of dogma, this is his failing.

AnonymousMarch 10th 2015.

What will the Mayor of GREATER MANCHESTER do? In reality Boris does very little and now wants to combine the job with a seat in Parliament. It is in my view unlikely the Mayor will come from MCC. In any case if we follow London Labour, there will be a primary to select a Candidate. The current 'stand in' comes from Wigan. But will the 'mayor behind the curtain' step down?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidMarch 10th 2015.

The vast majority and hence voters in Greater Manchester do not live within the bounds of the city of Manchester.Thr combined population of Bolton and Wigan is more.Anyone who wants to be elected as Mayor will have to consider the wishes and interests of all the voters in Greater Manchester and not just those in Manchester.If Leese is seen as only representing the interests of Manchester he would have no chance of getting votes in Wigan or Bolton.They will want to know what any potential a Mayor is going to do for them.For that reason expect Metrolink expansion to Bolton and Wigan and Stockport to take priority over more extensions to suburban Manchester. The mayor of Greater Manchester will have vastly greater powers than Boris who has no powers over the vast health budget for instance.This will make it one of the most important and powerful political jobs in the whole country.In other countries such as France or Indonesia now with the current president,a career as a successful City mayor can be a springboard to being the leader of the whole country.

AnonymousMarch 11th 2015.

What do you think the turnout will be in the likes of Bolton & Wigan for such a vote David? Do the voters of Bolton & Wigan want a Greater Manchester elected mayor anyway? Really embarrassing if we end up with a UKIP elected mayor too wouldn't it? Well I hope not, but you just never know!!!

DavidMarch 11th 2015.

Have a democratically elected Mayor for the whole of Greater Manchester who will have to listen to them,is much better for voters in Bolton and Wigan.Rather than at present being dominated economically by Manchester whose leader they have no say over.The present system benefits Manchester too much over the other towns and cities in Greater Manchester.

AnonymousMarch 10th 2015.

Don't kid yourself about the powers of GM CR under in health. The NHS announced today a major initative in relations between Community Services Social Care and Trusts. GM Health Authority when we have it will follow it for the most part and this will happen with other services too. My understanding is that Stockport don't want the Metro which stops in East Didsbury at the moment though I think area for the extension is protected.

Lucy BMarch 11th 2015.

Great article and utterly agree. The devolved Manchester region will be hugely better and because of the extra significance it will gain in the eyes of the world, will attract far more investment.

Manci DoodleMarch 11th 2015.

Stringer's view is insightful. Few people would be as well qualified to comment on the devolution process.

AnonymousMarch 11th 2015.

Not sure what the problem with busses is, the more the better means less waiting for one to turn up and competition helps keep the price down.

7 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 11th 2015.

Or there could be fewer buses and you can plan your journey's.

DarrenMarch 11th 2015.

Or sparsely filled buses clog up the roads and lead to traffic jams. The metro should help take more buses off the road as it expands and then maybe we can look at having proper cycle lanes that we'd be happy for our loved ones to use.

AnonymousMarch 11th 2015.

but the busses are not empty at peak hours when all the congestion is, they are full and therefore clearly necessary.

DarrenMarch 11th 2015.

And at non peak hours?

SquirrelitoMarch 11th 2015.

..at non-peak hours, they reduce the frequency, so they're still not clogging up any roads. The buses are rammed at rush hour, sat in queues of cars with 1 driver and no passengers, until they get to a bus lane...

AnonymousMarch 13th 2015.

Sparsely filled cars are by far the greatest problem at peak times, not buses. Car use has always been unregulated and that's the sole cause of all our traffic problems

DarrenMarch 13th 2015.

Well if we had more routes and less buses hammering the profitable routes, some car users might swap. As it is I'd have to take 3 buses to get to work. Who would chose 6 buses a day over 20 minutes in a car?

AnonymousMarch 11th 2015.

If we have an enabling referendum, depressingly wouldn't the people of Greater Manchester inevitably say 'no' to an elected mayor and hence say 'no' to devolution? I think Osborne and the 10 local leaders know this full well - and that's exactly why they've had to come up with this realpolitik solution.

Kevin PeelMarch 11th 2015.

I completely agree with Graham Stringer (!) that having an elected mayor is a no brainer. We're getting an unprecedented level of devolved control over local services which I don't think anyone foresaw just a couple of years ago and with that must come increased democratic legitimacy. I think I was probably the only councillor in the city who publicly backed a Yes vote in the last referendum on introducing an elected mayor just for the City of Manchester. Many use the outcome of this referendum to make the case that the people of Manchester don't want a Mayor, but they conveniently forget how close this result was. Compare the offer then (no extra powers or funding and at the wrong level) with the offer now and it really is a no brainer.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidMarch 11th 2015.

To be fair it's the one thing you have consistently supported and on Labour forums.Its something you should do more.We want to see independent thinking local politicians not ones who just toe the leadership line.

DavidMarch 11th 2015.

We have Leese rightly being applauded for doing in secret a deal with Osbourne to bring more powers to Greater Manchester.This was not exactly loyal to Burnham and the leadership in London. Labour council members should follow this example and do the same and stop being loyal all the time to the leadership of Leese.So when he is wrong and the public knows he is wrong,such as with Library Walks speak out against him and be prepared if necessary to threaten to resign or join another party.

AnonymousMarch 13th 2015.

Any possibility of using the opportunity of electing a Greater Manchester mayor to change the way we elect all councillors and go over to PR which would more represent the voting patterns of the city? The present system is just so undemocratic.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 13th 2015.

Yeah no problem will sort that out on Monday for you.

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