In case you hadn’t noticed, and it seems that few people have, the way in which much of the population of England are governed will radically change on 4 May. With all the hullaballoo about Brexit and Indy Ref 2 it’s all too easy to forget about the upcoming elections for Metro Mayors.
The elections will be held in six urban areas; Greater Manchester, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Liverpool City Region, West of England, Tees Valley and West Midlands. What these directly elected Metro Mayors will actually be able to do will vary a little from city to city depending on how good a devolution deal they’ve got from Westminster. Broadly speaking they will be responsible for issues like public transport, economic development and housing.
But does anyone care? Turnout for the 2016 elections for Police and Crime Commissioners was pitifully low and the main political parties have a lot of work to do to make sure that that pattern isn’t to be repeated on 4 May.
Earlier this month I attended a Devo Question Time in Liverpool at which the Labour candidate Steve Rotheram was joined on stage by various representatives of the city’s business community. The fact that there were less that 20 of us in the audience would suggest that the campaign hasn’t exactly caught the imagination of the public.
When I asked Rotheram if he was worried about a low turnout he said that he was and put it down to voter apathy caused the fact that there is no real alternative to Labour on Merseyside.
Interestingly, Rotheram said during the discussion that one of the problems in the Liverpool area is that many people suffer from a poverty of aspiration. He may well be making a valid point, but somehow I don’t see that slogan appearing on his election material.
There is an additional complicating factor here on Merseyside. Joe Anderson, who is seriously miffed that Rotheram beat him to the Labour nomination, seems likely to hang on to his title of Mayor of Liverpool. We also have a ceremonial Lord Mayor. So on 5 May we will have a Lord Mayor of Liverpool, a Mayor of Liverpool and a Mayor of Liverpool City Region. Am I alone in thinking that that might be just a little bit confusing, not to mention a tad ridiculous?