What the Conservative manifesto says and what it means
The Prime Minister and her team pride themselves on their upfront and honest approach to politics. Nevertheless, sometimes the ‘whole’ truth needs teasing out. Steve Barwick reads between the lines…
With devolution now established in London and other parts of England…..
David Cameron and George Osborne started something, I was lukewarm but now the Conservatives have won four out of the six elections for mayors on May 4th, we are going to have to carry on with it.
…we will consolidate our approach, providing clarity across England on what devolution means for different administrations
Let’s be frank, devolution has all been a bit of a mess, with deals all over the place including Cornwall where no mayor was insisted upon and metro mayors in areas with differences in population from 600,000 in Tees Valley to more than 3 million in the West Midlands. We are going to tidy this up. Or at least start to think about doing so.
… so all authorities operate in a common framework.
Who would argue with establishing some ground rules and clear guidelines for what element of government is expected to do what? Nobody! But finally getting to grp with subsidiarity and setting out with absolute precision which issues are the responsibility of which level of governance – local government, Mayors/Combined Authorities/counties, England and UK – is a huge task. So is reconfiguring the patchwork of devolution deals in England. Maybe we’ll get round to doing this, though with Brexit negotiations, don’t expect anything too soon.
We will support those authorities that wish to combine to serve their communities better.
Despite the above it’s still quite a laissez-faire approach from us. If you can’t agree then we will not drive forward solutions – so, sorry, but Yorkshire councils will have to sort out their own impasses, ditto the North East, the Solent, and elsewhere.
For combined authorities that are based around our great cities, we will continue to support the adoption of elected mayors, but we will not support them for the rural counties.
In city areas, mostly Labour, we won’t care that council leaders don’t want the metro mayor model. Who knows, we might win the mayoralties anyway – if not the first time then like in London after the Mayor disappoints. In rural areas, mostly Conservative, we have decided to respect council leaders who don’t like mayors. Where this leaves a Greater or all Yorkshire bid (both of which combine cities and counties) is far from our problem!
We will retain the first past the post system of voting for parliamentary elections and extend this system to police and crime commissioner and mayoral elections.
We’ve never liked PR and may as well take advantage of the inability of the electorate to forge any kind of progressive alliance by abolishing the single transferable vote system for mayoral elections. With a divided opposition that will cement our electoral domination further. Mind you STV has been popular in London so when we try and change the legislation, there could be quite a bit of opposition. However, if the polls are right, probably not enough for us to worry about too much.
We see the opportunity to close this gap [between the capital and other cities in the UK] as the biggest prize in Britain today.
This is the kind of thing people seem to like to hear and its certainly as far as we are going in terms of the Osborne/Cameron agenda of the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine (which by the way, those are two phrases for which there wasn’t enough room in our 30,000-word manifesto). NB: we’ve said it’s a big prize – we haven’t actually said we will deliver on it.