Posts Tagged ‘elected mayors’

Time to put away the needle and thread and stop stitching up selections

11/04/2012, 08:30:59 AM

by Peter Watt

If I was sat in Labour party HQ in Victoria Street right now, staring down the barrel of further financial strife, then I would be tempted to do everything I could to minimise unnecessary expenditure.  And I would be right to do so.  If the reports are true that the party overspent last year by £1.7 million then it is quite a big gun after all!

But if it really is financial strife that has apparently lead to a proposal to ban sitting MPs from standing for election to directly elected mayors or police and crime commissioners later this year, then that is a terrible error.

It is however an error that merely highlights a serious malaise at the heart of our politics, and to be fair, the politics of all of the major parties.

On the face of it, the argument for the decision to ban ambitious MP’s from standing is persuasive.  Each by-election will cost £70 – £100,000 or so.  We might lose to another (popular) candidate.  Why take the risk?

But these reasons are all predicated on an out-of-date thought process.

The assumption is that the only way to win is for the party to impose the “right” candidate. That the campaign must be run using the central party machine which imposes the will of the “experts” on the locals.  And finally that the campaign must then spend on staff, hotels, travel, campaign HQ and lots of flash literature.  All spending money that the party doesn’t actually have.

To be fair, for many years this model served the party pretty well.  As I know well because I have worked on, planned, set budgets for and managed selections (read into that what you will) for more by-elections than I care to remember.  But it is a model that is simply no longer fit for purpose.


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Depressingly, it takes the Tories to make localism come alive

31/01/2012, 11:33:54 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Localism is one of those annoyingly wispy catch-alls in British politics that never actually takes corporeal form. Like the big society, deciphering its linguistic mysteries would keep an abbeyful of medieval monks busy.

But things are getting clearer. As of last week, localism now means big city mayors.

Local government minister Greg Clark’s confirmation that we could see powerful elected mayors running Manchester, Liverpool, Bradford, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Nottingham, Wakefield, Bristol, Birmingham and Coventry as early as this November is nothing short of landmark.

Look at it this way: the prospect of a dozen big city mayors (Leicester was due to hold a referendum with the rest but opted to switch early) represents the biggest potential transfer of political power since Scottish and Welsh devolution in 1998.

Actually, forget the Welsh, so to speak; the joint population of England’s eleven largest cities and conurbations dwarfs that of the principality. While Birmingham and Leeds combined are more populous than Northern Ireland.

This new version of localism represents a real tilting of power away from Whitehall and towards our other great cities and conurbations. A moment where powerful new political voices with huge mandates emerge in new centres of power and influence.

Unfortunately, many in the Labour tribe remain unconvinced there is such a prize to be had. The party issued no press release heralding last week’s news that mayors are now within sight and no offer to form cross-party yes campaigns to win the referendums was forthcoming.


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Remind me why we hate elected police commissioners

08/09/2011, 02:00:59 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Ed Miliband was right in the Commons yesterday: spending £25 million postponing elections for the 41 proposed police and crime commissioners is a waste of money that could instead pay the wage bill (presumably before overtime) of 2000 coppers.

Cameron should be ashamed of himself. And he was doing so well: police commissioners are one of the few things he has got right. He should have stuck to his guns and held the elections next May, as planned. Unfortunately he has caved-in to Lib Dem backwoodsmen in the Lords who have pushed for the polling day to be postponed back to November 2012 to “depoliticise” the issue.

Whenever police commissioners arrive, the resource-intensive, low performance culture of British policing will at long last get a democratic makeover. They will be a shot in the arm for accountability in a key frontline public service and a finger in the eye for complacent chief constables. The public’s priorities might, for once, get a look in.

The only snag is that Labour opposes elected police commissioners. Why? Nobody knows why. But oppose them we do. On grounds, it seems, of cost and because they will politicise policing (whatever that is supposed to mean). (more…)

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Economic rebalancing: Labour must be “more interesting”

24/06/2011, 02:29:37 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The Labour front bench might not welcome advice from retirees, no matter how dignified. But they’ve got some. “Be a little bit more interesting”, said Peter Mandelson, in response to a question at a recent Progress event. National recovery from the major economic crisis of recent years requires big, bold ideas. He wants Labour to rise to this challenge.

This is the stuff of pragmatic radicalism on economic rebalancing. Pragmatism demands workable solutions to national concerns. The support that politicians, of all parties, proclaim for rebalancing the economy indicates that this is such a concern. The persistence of the imbalances in our economy – between domestic consumption and exports; finance and manufacturing; the south east of England and much of the rest of the UK – attest that this support is inadequate to purpose. A dash of radicalism is needed, for not only rebalancing to be achieved, but for Labour’s arguments to cut through the white noise of mainstream politicians professing support and delivering so little.

Many more elected city mayors are the stuff of this radicalism. Our top heavy state is a drag on economic performance. Elected city mayors are the next step on the devolution journey begun by the last government. The centre for cities and the institute of government recently called for their powers to be beefed up – through, amongst other things, chairing integrated transport authorities and co-chairing local enterprise partnerships. The common sense of people in cities voting for their leaders and retaking command of their destinies should be a truth loudly proclaimed by Labour – as should be the common sense of rewarding hard work. (more…)

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Labour should properly embrace elected mayors, says Andy Westwood

11/10/2010, 09:00:52 AM

Back in 1997 Labour’s big idea for local government was the election of city mayors. But it appeared and then disappeared in an instant. After creating the office of mayor of London (and then a few others in places like Middlesborough, Newham and Hartlepool), Labour enthusiasm quickly waned as an independent Ken Livingstone fought and won it. After a second term as the Labour candidate, he lost it again. But Ken has been rehabilitated once more and has been selected to fight again in 2012. Does his return suggest that we should take a moment to rethink our rather lukewarm attitude to mayors in England’s other larger cities? Mayoral elections are now in the pipeline with the government committed to introducing the offices in England’s twelve largest cities.

But we should pause and take a breath. This is far from a popular idea – among many in the Labour party and perhaps even more so in the wider electorate. Some readers will already be writing their comments – and they won’t be positive. Most local councillors in cities across England are not keen. National politicians have been happy to drop the idea given the degree of opposition from some town halls. Even Eric Pickles has been lobbied by Tory and coalition councils to back off. And perhaps they all have a point. After all, we’ve started to win back many of the city councils that we lost during our time in government. But we really should think about it more deeply – not least because we will need to fight any mayoral elections every bit as hard as we plan to do to in London. (more…)

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