The Labour hopefuls to become mayors of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Liverpool are “committed to bringing social justice to the areas they hope to represent”, Jeremy Corbyn has said, as voting is set to close in the elections to select each candidate.
The creation of elected mayors is the most controversial condition of a series of devolution arrangements agreed by former chancellor George Osborne and a series of “metro” regions, including the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, the Liverpool and Sheffield city regions, the Tees Valley, the north-east, and Greater Lincolnshire.
Voting to select the Labour candidates to run for three of the newly created positions closes at noon on Friday. The results will be announced on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. All three regions are Labour strongholds, meaning that the party’s selected candidates for the roles will be odds-on favourites to win the electionson 4 May 2017.
“We have eight great candidates vying to lead some of the greatest cities in our country,” Corbyn said. “Whoever wins selections in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, I know we will have strong Labour candidates committed to bringing social justice to the areas they hope to represent.”
The shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, is the most high-profile candidate seeking his party’s nomination for one of the new positions. He declared his candidacy for mayor of Manchester in May,warning that Labour risked being eclipsed in the north of England if the party failed to take devolution seriously. If he wins, Burnham will stand down as MP for Leigh and trigger a byelection, as well as resigning from the shadow cabinet.
To be eligible, voters must have lived in the relevant city region and have been a member of the Labour party before 19 July 2015, a rule that has excluded a high proportion of the party’s new, largely Corbyn-supporting membership, which has increased to 515,000 since the Labour leader was elected. The vote is conducted using the alternative vote system and votes are cast by post and online.
The West Midlands city region includes Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall, Wolverhampton and has a population of about 5.7 million. The new mayor will have responsibility for transport, adult skills and planning, and will oversee a £1.1bn, 30-year investment fund.
The mayor of the Greater Manchester city region – an area with a population of 3.5 million that covers Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan – will have control over a catalogue of public services, a £900m, 30-year investment fund and a £6bn health and social care budget.
The Liverpool city region has a population of 1.5 million and covers five Merseyside councils – Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral – and Halton in Cheshire. The area’s new mayor will oversee transport, planning and post-16 education, as well as a £900m, 30-year investment fund.
At first it looked as if the race to be Labour’s mayoral candidate in Greater Manchester was for the region’s police and crime commissioner and former Manchester Central MP, Tony Lloyd, to lose. Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South and a government minister under Blair and Brown, entered the competition shortly after Lloyd in February, but unlike Lloyd – who is currently also serving as interim mayor – Lewis does not benefit from such high-name recognition outside his own constituency.
Burnham’s announcement that he would stand to be Labour’s candidate gave the race in Greater Manchester a new national profile and increased the sense of unpredictability. The shadow home secretary irritated local politicians when he said the metro mayor role was a “cabinet-level job requiring cabinet-level experience”.
Like Greater Manchester, the race in Liverpool started with a prominent local government figure as the favourite when Joe Anderson, the current mayor, declared he would run. He has criticised Westminster politicians for standing for the nominations, describing Burnham’s comments as “ignorant and insensitive” and “disrespectful to every local government leader who has worked hard for their area”.
Steve Rotheram, MP for Liverpool Walton and Corbyn’s private parliamentary secretary, was the second to announce he would stand for the Liverpool city region nomination. The former bricklayer and mayor of Liverpool has won fans locally with his prominent role in the Hillsborough justice campaign.
When Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree and a former shadow minister for mental health, declared she was entering the race against Anderson and Rotheram in May, she became the second member of the shadow cabinet in a month to announce their intention to stand. She is both the youngest and the only woman standing to be Labour’s candidate for the new positions.
In the West Midlands, it initially looked as though the region’s MEP and the former Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, Siôn Simon, could be the only candidate. The former minister in Gordon Brown’s government is still the favourite, having campaigned to be mayor of Birmingham before the job was scrapped in a 2012 referendum, but he is now standing against Steve Bedser, a former Birmingham city councillor and businessman.
While there has been no independent polling in any of the races, some campaign teams have anonymously released their own polling data to the media, often showing contradictory results. Polling conducted by two of the three campaign teams in the Greater Manchester race and passed to ITV news suggested that Burnham was set to win the contest, with Lloyd in second place and Lewis coming third.
Polling from the three campaign teams in the Liverpool race that was released to ITV shows no clear leader, with a large percentage of voters undecided. Anderson comes out on top in two, and a close second in a third. Rotheram leads one poll but finishes last behind Berger in another, and Berger comes second in two polls, and third in another.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin North of England reporter, for theguardian.com on Friday 5th August 2016 07.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010