Monday, June 15, 2015

The Monday Morning Blog - avoiding one party states

I have written previously about the need for Lib Dems to be prepared to engage with the issue of elected metro mayors. The Government, whether we like it or not, is pushing ahead with them. The model is not one that sits comfortably with our own policies and principles. The danger is that what is proposed could result in the perpetuation of one party states. Here in the North East, Labour control all 7 councils in the combined authority. They are the establishment here. If the members of the combined authority are to scrutinise the elected mayor, it will mean Labour are scrutinising Labour. Hardly likely to be rigorous and to hold the mayor to account. The issue for Lib Dems is, how do we improve the model? An assembly of about 10 members, elected on a proportional basis, would, in my opinion, help counterbalance the mayor, ensure opposition voices are heard and avoid cementing into power one party states.

Lib Dems have to be realistic. If we want devolution to places such as the North East, elected mayors are the only way we are going to get those powers. If we stand out wholeheartedly against them in Parliament, we will have very little influence on the final form they will take. If we engage with the debate however, we will stand a better chance of building a system that avoids creating one party states.

Lib Dems are not the only party that needs to consider our position on elected mayors. Labour in the North East cannot bring themselves to have a considered view. Strangely enough, Labour would be the favourite to win the position of elected mayor of the region. The issue within Labour ranks is where in the Labour party should power lie? The existing Labour establishment is dominated by the local government base. An elected mayor would see their power reduced. No wonder Labour council leaders are cool at best on the issue.

Step forward however Mr David Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon. His grasp on the issue is interesting to say the least. He thinks the creation of an elected mayor in the North East is a conspiracy by the Conservatives to seize control of the region. In Parliament on 8th June he made the rather whacky claim:

The Chancellor ... said that we can have semi-devolution if we sign up to elected mayors. We know what that is about: it is about giving mayors from the Tory party a chance to rule parts of the world that do not want Tory rule, and would never, ever vote for them in local elections. 

So, according to Mr Anderson, the Conservatives can't get elected here in the North East so to get past that problem, they create, ahem, another elected post! It seems Mr Anderson is starting off his 3rd Parliament in an entertaining manner!

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