Ever since I first ever became involved in local politics as a local councillor in Preston from 1998 to 2002, I have always supported the concept of a directly-elected mayor system of local government. Whether its a Ken Livingstone or a Boris Johnson style the one thing a directly-elected mayor can bring is a character to local politics. Obviously, this is not the main reason why I support the concept but isnt great that local politics can be once again enthused by people of character running our city.
A directly-elected mayor can act as a figurehead for our city, promoting our city, promoting growth and investment. Everyone would have to agree that the directly-elected mayor in London has been a success. On many occasions has the mayor of London been seen on a national and international level promoting London. Obviously, London being the capital of the UK clearly has its advantages but I believe what is good for London is good for Salford.
Labour introduced the model of a directly-elected mayor when in government so they support it. The current coalition government support the system hence its reasons for authorising many cities to hold referenda next May 2012. The Salford Conservative Party support the system of a directly-elected mayor. Hazel Blears is on public record supporting the concept and so is Barbara Keeley, both Salford Labour MP's.
A directly-elected mayor is elected by the whole city where the current system of a strong leader model, the leader is chosen by a few councillors behind closed doors. If a directly-elected mayor does not perform they get voted out. Its as simple as that. That has to be more democratic.
With a directly-elected mayor the people speak. They are voted in by the people and if they do not perform they are voted out by the people. It is transparent.
Although the referenda has been triggered in Salford, Salford was not one of the cities chosen by the government to have a referenda. Manchester has been chosen. No surprise there then but what is good for Manchester is good for Salford. Its my prediction in the event of a NO vote Salford will be left behind. Manchester will have a directly-elected mayor. I am in no doubt about that. The Manchester mayor, will then UK wide become the figurehead for Greater manchester although technically they will have nothing to do with Salford. A greater Manchester mayor through the back door ? Almost certainly is ! Salford will be left behind.
Salford has the chance of a lifetime to be at the forefront, to lead by example, promote Salford and be the beacon city in Greater Manchester where our city has a leader that is chosen by you, all of you by the people to manage our city, manage our services and be our figurehead in promoting the city of Salford on the national stage.
Lets make it happen and I will be certainly voting yes on the 26th January 2012.