You would be forgiven for thinking that the ‘devolution revolution’ had shifted into evolution gear under May and Hammond, but with the Conservatives winning four of the six elections for Metro Mayor a significant gear change is now likely. The election of six white men on 4th May is hardly an advert for doing ‘politics differently’ but devolution can be pitched as an economic solution to Brexit and wholly in line with the post-referendum mantra of ‘taking back control’?
It’s not clear yet how this will play out in the Conservative manifesto and what it will mean for those areas that have, for various reasons, been in the Metro Mayor slow lane thus far. That means not just Yorkshire and the North East but also places such as Southampton and the Solent. But with turnout exceeding (admittedly low) expectations, Metro Mayors are here to stay and part of the changing face of UK politics which is guaranteed to change even further in the next five years.
Andy Burnham won a major mandate – not just a whopping 359,352 votes, 63% of the vote, but a majority in all ten local authority areas and all but six local council wards that make up Greater Manchester! His short, easy to read and likeable manifesto set out why ‘Our Greater Manchester’ will be the best place to grow up, to live and work, and to grow older. The Labour Party nationally would do well to emulate this approach.
All eyes will now be on how Metro Mayors turn pledges into results but it is clear that Andy Burnham has hit the ground running, setting out his priorities and appointing his new team. Regardless of his alleged snub to Jeremy Corbyn after the results were declared it is safe to say he is in a strong position post 8th June. Along with Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and Steve Rotheram in Liverpool City Region, Andy Burnham has a national role flying the flag for an alternative Labour brand.
Many are already asking where, if the current ‘strong and stable’ opinion poll leads for the Conservatives continue until the General Election, where will the opposition come from? Labour’s triumvirate is part of the answer but so too must be those four Conservative winners – especially Andy Street who triumphed by the narrowest of wins over Sion Simon in the West Midlands. Conservative Mayors will need to speak up for their regions as well as speak out when the national Conservatives head in the wrong direction.
You can read our profiles of all of the new Metro Mayors via the links below: