Wednesday, May 02, 2012

No Political Theatre

I can be a political junky at times. Though its a long time since I was a party member, (and briefly, ward treasurer!), that's more because of my artistic take on the world - like the most politically astute Marx, i.e. Groucho, I wouldn't join a club that would have me as a member. I'm temperamentally unsuited to following party lines; even if most of those point left. I cheered wildly when the coalition ditched the identity card plans for instance; yet stubbornly put my cross in the Labour box at the general election because I never had any illusions which side the coalition was going to be on.

At our last voting opportunity - for AV - my natural democratic instincts strongly supported, however flawed, a move to a slightly more democratic system - and was surprised, not just that the vote went for the status quo, but that the Labour party was so ambivalent about the issue. If Cameron/Clegg abolish an unelected House of Lords I'll be shaking my head with amazement that this wasn't possible in a decade or more of New Labour. Yet, there are few policies where I see eye-to-eye with either of those Arrogant Posh Boys, ahead of the younger Milliband.

Tomorrow, in Manchester, as well as electing a third of the council, the city has an opportunity to say whether or not it wants a Mayor. As a natural democrat, my instinct is always to support anything that improves choice, and makes up for this country's appalling democratic deficit - and will certainly vote tomorrow. However, the mayoral election has put me in a bit of a quandary.

I'm guessing that the Labour party in the city are against it - though the "no" campaign seems to have adopted a tactic of "don't mention it" probably wary of the last council-run referendum, on road pricing - but it's hard to find any real information on either side. A  letter from the "no" campaign in the M.E.N. and some half hearted under-publicised debates aside, we're voting tomorrow on a question that hasn't exactly fired the imagination.

As I said, I'd usually choose any widening of the democratic franchise, but this one's more complex. For its uncertain what powers a mayor would have or how that would work with - presumably - an elected council executive. You could well imagine the current leader of the council standing and simply changing the job title on the door.

This coalition hasn't shown much interest in a region where it lacks any political mandate so it's hard to come to any other conclusion that the Mayoral referendum is a distraction deliberately pitched at Northern Cities to weaken rather than strengthen their say on the national stage. So, with no real sense of which way the vote will go, tomorrow I'll be voting against a mayor for the city; even as across the Irwell, Salford chooses its first elected mayor. I'll be looking at both votes with interest.

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