Before we even knew who the candidates were to be the first directly elected Metro Mayors, we took a very firm view that we would actively engage with our devolved political structures, either just up the road in Manchester city centre, or further afield.
Greater Manchester was ahead of the rest of the UK’s city region’s with a series of eye-catching city deals and devolution agreements, notably to manage the integrated health and social care budgets. There was an expectation in some quarters that the directly elected Mayor would be nothing more than a figurehead; a PR person greeting foreign dignitaries and doing what the other ten leaders told them to do.
I don’t think it’s quite worked out like that. True to the ambition to be bold and do things differently, Andy Burnham has been high profile since the day he announced his candidacy. He sought to crowdsource his manifesto, drawing on ideas from around Greater Manchester businesses, campaign groups and the specialist agencies. As you’d expect from a politician who fought so hard for justice for the families of the 96 who perished at Hillsborough, he wasn’t in this as a place holder or as a stepping stone to another big job.
I enjoyed interviewing Andy Burnham for this magazine. He was forthright, impatient for change, but also measured in what was possible within the framework of the available powers. But he has grasped quickly, not least in the aftermath of the appalling terror attack in May, that great influence can emerge from soft power, from an ability to convene people who will respond to his call to action. Be that on travel passes for the young, where houses get built and how rough sleepers are helped.
Frankly, this country has had enough of easy answers, but there remains an opportunity to heal the deep divisions in society that the 2016 referendum exposed, through a fairer and transparent governance delivered at city region level. Our second issue of MetroPolis magazine features a lot of ideas in this regard. We hope you enjoy it, there’s much work to do, but we’re committed to being fresh, radical, driven by justice, backed by evidence and open for business.
Drop me a line if you’d like to get a copy, or if you have any feedback for me.