Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Having a Mayor

The London election has captured a lot of attention. It's led to people calling for other big cities to have city mayors and supposedly, engaging public contests like Boris v Ken in London. There's plenty of this here, on the Centre for Cities blog.

I don't think it necessarily follows that a well contested election means other urban centres need a mayor. Manchester has achieved all that it has with a powerful chief executive's office, an unelected mayor, in all but name. Other cities would love to have a Sir Howard Bernstein, but no amount of legislation or changes to the LGA would create the conditions for a forward looking, entrepreneurial chief executive that could attract inward investment and win bids for casinos, transport funds and party conferences. That comes from leadership.

Would we all be saying the mayoral system is so good if it was Ken Livingstone v Steve Norris again? Is the current personality led clash between a nasty control freak and a buffoon actually good for democracy? And frankly, who would stand for mayor of Manchester and make the contest as lively as the London one if that's the aim?

Now if there were to be an election for the mayor of Marple, I could think of a few people who'd make for a good showdown!

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