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Mayoral model ‘step backwards’ for Greater Manchester – Leese

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said he considers the new mayoral format to be a “step backwards, a step down even” for the city, as he announced he will not be running for mayoralty next year.

In a blog post published on the city council’s website yesterday, Sir Richard also criticised the two “premature” Labour mayoral contenders – interim mayor Tony Lloyd and Bury South MP Ivan Lewis – by claiming his ideal candidate “would probably be twenty years younger and a different gender”.

The blog was apparently spurred by the sheer number of times he’s been asked whether he will join the race in 2017.

“The bottom line is that I have no desire to be mayor of Greater Manchester and have no intention of being a candidate. It is not something I want to do,” he said.

“Over the past months many people have come to me with loads of perfectly rational reasons why I should stand, including the not very flattering that at least I'm better than the alternatives, and given the importance of the position to the future of the city I have regularly weighed those reasons in my mind. Every time my gut tells me no.”

But Leese said it was not a purely emotional decision, claiming he has always looked for progress throughout his two-decade political career in the city – something which he felt contradicted with the mayoral model.

“Given the experiences of the last few years, in many ways I see the mayoralty as a step backwards, a step down even, although after two demanding, difficult but exciting decades as leader of the council I would struggle to think of another political position that wouldn’t be a step down,” he wrote.

“In contrast, the challenge of developing ‘Our Manchester’, our own strength based approach to the council working with Manchester people, is infinitely more exciting than anything being mayor of GM has to offer.”

He also criticised the ambassadorial role the mayor would have to take on to a much larger extent than he currently does, joking he’d rather “be having a pint in the Cleveland than selling Manchester to investment funds in some anonymous international hotel”.

“I would also resent the amount of time seeking to be a candidate would take. There's too much to do – elections in May, the referendum in June, a devolution agreement to implement, investment for the north of England to be secured, a city to run,” he said, adding that the ideal candidate should have at least two terms in mind.

Despite his criticism of the mayoral model, Sir Richard said it is a new position “unlike any other”, creating the perfect environment “to move on from those of us that got us to this position and have a mayor who can bring freshness and originality to the post without being tied down by the past”.

“I hope we see a range of potential candidates that reflect the wonderful diversity of our city, but having said that a pen picture of my ideal candidate would probably be twenty years younger and a different gender,” he concluded.

The date for Greater Manchester’s mayoral election, the first to be confirmed by the government under the new Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, is currently set for 4 May next year.

Whoever is elected will also have to chair the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and become the new police and crime commissioner, meaning they will take the reins on policing and the integration of health and social care.

(Top image: Sir Richard Leese speaking at the NHS Confederation conference last year, c. NHS Confederation, Flickr)


Interested Manc   25/02/2016 at 14:01

Just for clarity, the actual quote from Sir Richard's blog is "frankly I'd rather be having a pint in The Cleveland than selling Manchester to investment funds in some anonymous international hotel". In other words, he'd rather be having a pint in his Manchester local.... not he'd rather be in some geographically separate part of the country. The first is relevant, the second bizarre. It all comes down to the quality of the editing.

PSE   25/02/2016 at 14:34

Good spot, thanks for the heads up. Edited!

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