I woke up this morning to be regaled by the Tories latest bonkers idea on mayors. I say Tory because although this is in the coalition agreement it did not come from the Lib Dem side any more than the other bonkers idea of elected police commissioners.
The problem for the Tories is that that are two Tories who believe in the idea. Cameron and his leading adviser Steve Hilton. So pro American are they that they would have us do everything American bar replacing the Union Flag with the stars and stripes and making the noxious MacDonald’s compulsory.
Desperate to find out how the elected mayor idea was taking off they sent a leading Peer who shall remain nameless to scuttle round the 11 cities in the Bill to look at how the referenda would shape up. To their alarm they found that there would not be a pro mayoral majority in any of the cities.
At the time (earlier this year) not one part of the Tory, Lib Dem or Labour parties was in favour of the idea and were making it clear that they would campaign for a no vote in the referendum. That position has been a little weakened apparently because Albert Bore in Birmingham is now changing his mind on the issue perhaps because he thinks iota would be him!
So what might the Tories do?
Well they may still change the legislation to enable the referenda to take place over a period of time rather than in one big bang next year. I understand that a proposal might be to have the referenda next year in only Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol which they perceive to be the weakest councils and hope that they can concentrate on Yes votes there which move the other cities into the yes campo the following year.
Their latest idea is even dafter! The legislation currently says that the current leader would become ‘shadow’ mayor. They are hoping that this boost to the vanity of an individual will encourage them to change side. But they have just realised that this might not work. What if the Leader and his/her deputy refused to become mayor? Well they would designate someone else to do the job.
There are two problems with this:
- What if no-one would be prepared to do this? An outcome that is highly likely. They could not designate someone from outside the council to be the shadow mayor.
- What if they designated a super coalition loyalist who is in opposition to be shadow mayor like ME! (Yes I am only joking). As an opposition councillor I could not use the powers of Mayor even if my party supported me because I would not have enough votes in the chamber.
So the Tories are up the proverbial creek without a paddle in a problem that is entirely of their own making. There is no call for a new Yankee-Doodle model for Mayor because there is NO evidence that it works. Some of the Mayors have done well – others have spectacularly failed to do well.
With little experience of urban government Tories have made assumptions based on no evidence about mayoralties. They say it’s worked in London but then not implemented the London model which is a conurbation and not a council mayor.
So Liverpool next year might have 3 ballots on the same day:
- One third of the council up for re-election just for the city
- A Police Commissioner ballot for Merseyside that is incoherent
- A referendum for an elected mayor that is pointless.
So much for localism! I know that behind the scenes Lib Dem Ministers and MPs and Peers are trying to get the Tories to see sense but I am not over optimistic that sanity will prevail and that 11 cities will have foisted on them two types of ill thought out unworkable proposals.