I remember e-mailing Nick Clegg, John Leech, and George Osborne in 2012 calling for a ‘New York-style’ figurehead to run policing, fire, and Transport in Manchester – my main inspiration being Tony Wilson’s vision to ‘make Manchester great again’ – I still look back at that coalition thinking “those were the days”.
I can’t help but feel the short-sighted implementation has left us with a flawed system which is being replicated across the country.
Unlike the Scottish or London Assembly which uses proportional representation, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is just made up of ward councillors and borough leaders.
The dominance of Labour in nine of the ten Manchester local authorities has created a fiefdom where little scrutiny or transparency takes place.
I’ve always questioned the legitimacy of a council leader being given a portfolio that covers all of Greater Manchester.
They are only elected as ward councillors by 1500 or so people, and have no mandate from the people of Greater Manchester.
The attempted implementation of the region-wide ‘Clean Air Zone’ with little to no consultation, resulting in a huge backlash from the public, is an example of the hubris from unchecked power.
We’ve seen other issues such as the scrutiny (or lack of) Greater Manchester Police, England’s second biggest police force, and the Spatial Framework which attempted to concrete vast areas of the green belt.
It’s highly likely that if a campaign to abolish the GMCA and Mayor was started by prominent people in Manchester, it would garner such support a referendum would be triggered on its future.
Local Labour politicians were so spooked by the prospect of new entrants in ‘sensitive’ elections they decided to pause their congestion plans.
Conservatives have become increasingly disillusioned with Tory Ministers who are more concerned with having a cozy relationship with Andy Burnham instead of addressing the ‘closed shop’ setup.
A Tory councillor recently told me that by 2024 there’ll be no Conservative Council or MP’s in all of Greater Manchester and they’re leaving for a new career with prospects.
Whilst interviewing a Labour candidate recently, one of the most powerful politicians in Manchester said: “say farewell to Bolton, Trafford, and Bury, a legacy we won’t forget”.
Looking at the local level, the last Tory elected in the City of Manchester was in the 1990’s, but even in recent elections they have polled 40k votes with little to no campaigning.
The representation at borough level is very skewed, and FPTP creates chambers which do not represent the vote share or deliver scrutiny.
Scottish and NI elections
It’s highly likely the new unitary authorities and county councils in the shires/provinces are going to be dominated by the Lib Dems for the forceable future, and metropolitan areas completely taken over by Labour.
Proportional representation might be the lifeline the Conservatives need.
The first step to remedy this and bring in real scrutiny is an elected Greater Manchester Assembly with more powers, and a voting system similar to London, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.
Long-term, the voting system requires proportional representation and multi-member consistencies.