Mayoral Elections - Greater Manchester

Newington's Oliver Ryan previews the Greater Manchester mayoral election

In contrast with the general election campaign to date, the GM mayoral campaign has been lengthy, engaging, tackling a diverse set policy debate and primarily fought at public hustings. We have seen the political spirit level settle around a handful of perceived – now politicised – regional problems: namely access to housing, the Greenbelt, healthcare, transport and skills retention.

Mayoral elections have given candidates of all colours the chance to flaunt their local credentials as well as the opportunity to write their own narratives for the problems, opportunities and solutions in the region. Greater Manchester is no exception. Personality politics has been key to the Greater Manchester mayoral election, with both Conservative candidate Sean Anstee and Labour grandee candidate Andy Burnham opting to distance themselves from their respective parties. This is clearly an attempt to personalise the election at a time when the two ‘broad church’ parties of Greater Manchester are struggling to connect on their manifesto platforms alone as Brexit posturing and leadership, or lack thereof, take prominence nationally. Therefore, neither candidate has been overt in their explanative vision of a post-Brexit Greater Manchester, even though it’s known that the region will lose resources and likely single market export access. This stance has been to the advantage of the candidates who have seemingly sought to legitimise their respective mayoral bids through the flaunting of pertinent local experiences - the politics of localism.

Both candidates have sought to personally and culturally connect with ‘Brand Manchester’ in various ways and both have attempted to tailor national debates over ideology to Greater Manchester on a scale previously unseen in the region, certainly on transport funding, housing availability, inequality and homelessness.

Burnham and Anstee have performed well and ensured - in true Manchester form – a lively and robust debate over the future of the region; this has importantly not been seen as a coronation of a Labour candidate but a more relevant and engaging discussion. Turnout will be difficult to predict given the overbearing presence of the general election looming the following month, and whilst it is expected to be low, it is thought to improve on the previous Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner election, the only comparative similar.

From the current demographic and political representation of the conurbation, one would widely expect a ‘Labour GAIN’ for the new mayoral constituency of Greater Manchester. The proof of any value in the mayoral role will be in the pudding of the GMCA going forward; the mayor will now chair the region’s ‘super council’ and undoubtedly have to wrangle with its internal politics to deliver on what will, by that point, be a directly mandated policy package. Whatever the result, meaningful communication of the role, its brief and its holders ambitions for the region will be critical as GMCA internal politics and party policy splits likely spill into the regional media, the challenge will be in ensuring this does not permeate into industry and GM communities.

The full list of candidates is: Sean Anstee - Conservative, Mohammad Aslam - Independent, Jane Brophy - Liberal Democrat, Andy Burnham - Labour, Marcus Farmer - Independent, Stephen Morris - English Democrats, Shneur Odze - UKIP, Will Patterson - Green Party.