Shamocracy – The Tories give a whole new meaning to democracy

If you won’t vote for an elected mayor have an unelected one

Robert Henderson

The Tories are currently bleating their heads off about how they  are all for bringing  politics and the exercise of  political  power to the people. Local democracy is, they shout ever louder, the order of the Tory day.  In the  vanguard  is Manchester, where a mayor and a “cabinet”  is to have the responsibility  for the spending and administration of  billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money  on  public transport, social care and housing as well as police budgets and, most dramatically, ultimately  the devolving of all NHS spending for the region.   When the process is completed local politicians will control more than a quarter of the total government money spent in Greater Manchester.

The political structure to support the mayor will be this:

“The mayor will lead Greater Manchester Combined Authority [GMCA], chair its meetings and allocate responsibilities to its cabinet, which is made up of the leaders of each of the area’s 10 local authorities.”

This is to be known as a city region. The mayor will not be an absolute  autocrat and can have  both his strategic decisions and spending proposals voted down by two thirds of the GMCA members – go to para 8.  On public service issues, each  GMCA member and the Mayor will  have one vote, with a  policy agreed by a majority vote. However, the mayor will have considerable powers and the requirement for over-ruling him  on strategic decisions and spending – two thirds of the GMCA members – is onerous to say the least.  That will be especially the case because the  councils of the  Manchester city region are largely Labour and the mayor, at least to begin with, will also be a  Labour man.

The casual observer might think this is a democratisation of  English politics. But wait, was not Manchester one of the nine English cities which firmly  said no to an elected mayor in a referendum in as recently as  2012? Indeed it was. Manchester voted NO by  53.2% to 46.8%  (48,593 votes to  42,677).  Admittedly, it was only on a 24% turnout,  but that  in itself shows that the local population generally  were not greatly interested in the idea. Nonetheless, 91,000 did bother to vote, a rather large number of voters to ignore.   Moreover,  low as  24% may be,  many a councillor and  crime and police commissioner has been   voted in on  a lower percentage turnout.

After the 2012 referendum the Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said  the vote was  “a very clear rejection”  of an elected mayor  by  the people of Greater Manchester while the  then housing minister Grant Shapps said  ‘no-one was “forcing” mayors on cities’.   Three years later that is precisely what is happening to Manchester, well not precisely because  Manchester is to have an interim mayor (see para 11)   foisted on them without an election,   who will serve for a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years before an election for a mayor is held.( The period before an elected mayor arrives  will depend on how long it takes to pass the necessary legislation,  create the necessary powers for the mayor and create the institutions on the ground to run the new administration ). When the time comes for the elected mayor the interim mayor, if he wishes to run for mayor, will have the considerable electoral advantage that incumbency  normally brings.

Sir Richard Leese, now promoted to be  vice chairman of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, has had a Damascene conversion to the idea of a mayor : “It was clear that an over-centralised national system was not delivering the best results for our people or our economy.

“We are extremely pleased that we can now demonstrate what a city region with greater freedoms can achieve and contribute further to the growth of the UK.”

The  interim mayor will be appointed  on 29 May by  councillors meeting in private.  There are two candidates, Tony Lloyd and Lord Smith of Leigh. Both are Labour Party men.  This is  unsurprising because the body organising the appointment is the  Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, (AGMA) which  is comprised of the  leaders of the 10 councils making up the region. Eight of them are Labour.   The job description for the interim mayor included the provision that he must be a politician from Greater Manchester ‘ with a “proven track record” of “achievement at a senior level in local government”’ . These requirements  made it virtually certain that both candidates would be Labour politicians.

The exclusion of the public from the appointment of interim mayor  is absolute. Here is Andrew Gilligan writing in the Sunday Telegraph:

“ The two candidates for mayor  have published no manifestos, done no campaigning, made no appearances in public and answered no questions from voters or journalists. Last week, The Sunday Telegraph asked to speak to both candidates. “He’d love to,” said Mr Lloyd’s spokesman. “But he’s been told he’s not allowed to talk to the media.”’

A spokesman for Lord Smith said: “He can’t speak about it until it’s over.”

Perhaps as a result, the “contest” has been barely mentioned in the local press and has gone completely unreported nationally.

His precise salary, predictably, is also not a matter for public discussion. It is being decided by an “independent remuneration committee” which meets in private and whose members’ names have not been published.

Judged by the mainstream media coverage there has been precious little public dissent about this gross breach of democracy  from influential Westminster politicians. Graham Brady, Tory MP for Altrincham and chairman of the    1922 Committee,  has ‘questioned whether the process was “within the bounds of propriety”, saying that any arrangement which gave the interim mayor “two or even up to four years to establish a profile and a platform for election would clearly be improper and unfair”.’  But that is about it  and  the appointment of the interim mayor carries  on regardless.

There are many serious  practical objections to devolving power to  English city regions , but the naked disregard for the wishes of the voters  makes the practical objections irrelevant  if democracy is to mean anything.  Nor is the fact that eventually there will be an elected mayor of any relevance  because the voters have already rejected the idea. Even if  there was to be an election  for the mayor now instead of an interim mayor,  it would still be wrong because the voters of Manchester have already said no to an elected mayor.

This affair smacks of the worst practices of the EU whereby  a referendum  which produces  a result that  the Euro-elites do not want is rapidly overturned by a second referendum on the same subject after the Euro-elites have engaged in a  huge propaganda onslaught , bribed the offending country  by promising  more EU money if the result is the one the elites  want and threatened the offending country with dire consequences if the second vote produces the same result as the first referendum. In fact, this piece of chicanery is even worse than that practised by the EU because here the electorate do not even get another  vote before the elite’s wishes are carried out.

But there is an even  more fundamental objection to the planned transfer of powers than the lack of democracy.  Let us suppose that the proposal for an elected mayor for Manchester  had been accepted in the 2012 referendum, would that have made its creation legitimate?  Is it democratic to  have a referendum in   part of  a country on a policy which has serious implications for the  rest of the country  if  the rest of the country cannot vote in the referendum?  Patently it is not.

The effect of the proposed devolution to Manchester would be to set public provision in the  Manchester city region  at odds with  at the  least  much of Lancashire, parts  of Cheshire and  Derbyshire plus  the West Riding of Yorkshire.  For example,  Manchester could make a mess of their NHS administration with  their medical provision reduced in consequence and   patients from    Manchester seeking better  NHS  treatment elsewhere.  This would take money from the Manchester NHS  and place pressure on NHS services outside of Manchester  as they catered for people from Manchester.  Alternatively, Greater Manchester might be able to improve their health services and begin to draw in patients from outside the city region, reducing the public money  other  NHS authorities  receive and driving down the quality and scope  of their services.

A single city region having the powers that Manchester are going to have will  be disruptive to the area close to it, but  If other city regions  follow suit – and it is clear that the new Tory government intends  this to happen –  the Balkanisation of England  will  proceed apace, with city region being set against city region and the city regions being  pitted against the remnants of England outside the city regions.

Nor is it clear that  the first candidate city regions would be evenly spread around the country.  The cities which like Manchester rejected an elected mayor in 2012 were Birmingham,  Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Wakefield, Coventry, Leeds and Bradford.  Having been chosen to vote for an elected mayor It is reasonable to presume that these would be the cities which would be at the front of the queue for city region status.  They are all either in the  North  or  Central Midlands of England. Even in those areas there would be massive gaps, for example,  all  four  Yorkshire cities (Sheffield, Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford) are  in the West Riding.  The most southerly one  (Birmingham) is 170 odd miles from the South Coast.

There may of course be other city region candidates , but  it is difficult to see how such a policy could be rolled out across the country simply because there are substantial areas of England without  very large cities or towns. In fact, south of Birmingham there are precious few large towns and cities (London being  a law to itself)  which could form a city region in the manner of that proposed for Manchester.  The only  Englsh cities south of Birmingham which have a population of more than 250,000 are Bristol and Plymouth.   Hence, it is inevitable that England would be reduced to a patchwork of competing authorities with different policies on vitally important issues such as healthcare and housing.

The idea of giving powers to city regions  stems from the imbalance in the devolution settlement which leaves England, alone of the four home countries, out in the cold without a national political voice. It is a cynical and shabby  political fix for a problem which will not go away but may be submerged for the length of a Parliament  through a pretence of increasing local democracy in England.  Anyone who doubts this should ask themselves  this question,  if devolving power to the local level is so desirable why do Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show no appetite for it?  The answer is that their politicians recognise that to do so would weaken both the  political clout of their countries and deprive their electors of a focus of national pride and loyalty.

There is also an EU dimension to this. The EU welcome anything which weakens national unity, and there is no better way of doing that than the time honoured practice of divide and rule. That is precisely what Balkanising England through creating regional centres of political power will do. The EU will seek  to use city regions (or any other local authority with serious powers)  to emasculate the Westminster government by  attempting to deal directly with the city regions rather than Westminster and using the fact of the increased local powers  to justify bypassing Westminster.

Once political structures such as the city regions are established it will become very difficult to  get rid of them because the national political class is weakened by the removal of powers from central government and the new local political power bases develop their own powerful  political classes.  If the Tories or any other government – both Labour and the LibDems have bought into the localism agenda – succeed in establishing city regions or any other form of devolution in England it will be the devil’s own job to  reverse the process of  Balkanising England. That is why it is vitally important to either stop the establishment of  serious powers being given to local authorities or  to put a barrier in the shape of an English Parliament between  Brussels and the English devolved localities.

 

 

 

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10 Responses to Shamocracy – The Tories give a whole new meaning to democracy

  1. DICK R says:

    This elected Mayor scam is just another means to balkanise England into squabbling city states
    at the behest of their Brussels puppet masters.
    What is really needed is a properly elected ENGLISH Parliament.

  2. I couldn’t agree more.

  3. Phil bauckham says:

    It is time for the people of England to wake up and make their voice heard I read TIME and time again support for an English parliament is well over 50% yet nothing has materialised. I for one do not want England balkanised which seems to be the path we are now on. Come on people the time for action is now.

  4. Peter Brown says:

    Hello Robert.
    Having once again read your blog ‘The EU IN/OUT referendum: strategy and tactics for those who want to leave the EU’ Posted on March 31, 2013 I believe that your thinking is very much along the lines of our website; theunituk.com.

    Having visited many fora on the subject, I am concerned that far too many commentators are treating the referendum and possible secession as an ‘Academic’ excercise on alternative membership rather than follow the mandate of the straight in or out referendum question.

    Now that the General Election is over, it is in the hands of people like ourselves to inform the public and not allow anyone to obfuscate the issue. That is going to be the prime motive of our website from this point.

    I do not have any contact details of you except by way of this blog. I do not even know if my contact details actually reach you or not. If that is the case, could I prevail upon you to go to our website: theunituk.com. If you are interested, perhaps you can contact me. The link is in the ‘Contact’ menu at the top of the home page.

  5. All I gotr when I used your website url was a page for a business Abazander .

  6. Peter Brown says:

    Personal note to Robert Henderson.
    We have discovered the reason for you being misdirected when trying to connect with theunituk.com. The reason is that the Abazander Company (now defunct) was on the same server and my failure to advise you to type http://WWW.theunituk.com caused it to be misdirected. We are now in the process of setting up the site on completely new, dedicated servers which will alleviate the problem. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you would again contact me via http://www.theunituk.com

  7. This is simply because Shameron and the rest of them are EU apparatchiks. The faux Scottish independence movement is peopled by the same. They’re totalitarians to boot.

  8. Peter Brown says:

    Robert, have your read the document; ‘Fundamentallaw.pdf’, published by the Spinelli Group; a splinter group of the European Parliament started by Guy Verhofstadt? If you believe that the EU is already undemocratic, you ain’t seen nuthin yet. It is available at http://tinyurl.com/omsvgrm

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