Andy Burnham’s victory in first Gtr Manchester Mayoral Race should not be regarded as a foregone conclusion

Andy Burnham’s victory in first Gtr Manchester Mayoral Race should not be regarded as a foregone conclusion

Manchester Evening News May 19 2016

Former LAB Health Secs have flopped in mayoral races before

The biggest election, in terms of the one involving the most number of voters, planned for 2017 is the May contest for the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester. The bookies make ex-LAB health sec and twice failed leadership candidate, Andy Burnham the tight odds on favourite. Ladbrokes have him at 1/6. As well as the City of Manchester itself it covers a huge range of local authorities from Wigan in the West to the Yorkshire border in the east.

This is an area that at GE2015 was almost solidly Labour and in the referendum on June 23rd went 53% to LEAVE. The city of Manchester itself saw a REMAIN share of 60.4%. The area has pockets of former Lib Dem strength which got wiped out in 2015.

One of Burnham’s big problems is that he’s a scouser and they don’t go down well in Manchester. This is how the Manchester Evening News reported his decision to fight last May:

“Andy Burnham yesterday became the latest Labour figure to throw his hat in the ring for Greater Manchester mayor – but was immediately hit by a flood of criticism that had nothing to do with his politics or his policies.

Many of the comments on both the M.E.N’s story, social media and elsewhere online claimed one thing and one thing alone should primarily rule him out.

Not his shifting stance on devo, or his Blairite past, or the fact he’s left it so last minute. No. It’s that he’s a ‘Scouser’

It may seem petty, but even senior local Labour sources have made the point privately, only half-joking.

And doubtless if a Manc went and tried the same thing in Liverpool, words would be had – and just as loudly..”

I don’t believe this is a petty point. A major part of an elected Mayor is being seen as the embodiment of the area he/she represents. Remember how the “Hartlepool monkey” was successful in that town’s first mayoral elections or the success of Ray Mallon in Teesside.

Party labels are not always a guarantee in elected Mayoral races. In the very first one, London 2000, the official LAB candidate was the ex-health sec Frank Dobson. He came in third behind Tory Steve Norris and Ken Livingstone who stood as an independent after failing to win the party’s nomination.

Also to be taken into account in initial elections for newly created posts is turnout. Remember how pitifully low these were in the first Police & Crime Commissioner elections in 2012. The first London elections achieved 34% far lower than we saw last May.

    Another possible problem for Burnham is BREXIT which will dominate national politics throughout next year. As we saw in the 2015 LAB leadership race he has the ability to get his stance wrong on what matters most to those voting.

The LDs plan to run the Gtr Manchester Mayoral race as a replica Richmond Park making support for the EU their key plank.

If not Burnham then who? That’s hard to say at the moment but he’s far from value at 1/6.

Mike Smithson

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