Kris McBurnie seems to speak for many of the voters out and about in central Manchester. “I had no idea we were getting a mayor,” he said. “And I certainly didn’t know he was being appointed today by the council. I would have assumed we would get a chance to vote on it.”
Like many of the shoppers and office workers bustling through the city, the 27-year-old financial services worker is not against the idea of more devolution for the area or even an elected mayor; it’s just that he has never heard of Tony Lloyd, the man who would be anointed by civic leaders later that day to lead the 2.7 million residents of Greater Manchester. There were no hustings or public debates.
Mr Lloyd, who is currently the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, will now control an £8bn budget and lead a new experiment in city governance. However, there was not a ballot box in sight during his appointment – instead the decision was made by a “selection panel” of 10 civic leaders in a closed-door meeting that has already been described as an “undemocratic stitch-up”. He will be replaced by an elected mayor in 2017, but that has not stopped residents and governance experts raising objections.
Mr McBurnie did not “understand” why there was not a vote. Standing outside Manchester town hall, he said: “We’ve just had an election, but for some reason we’ve been excluded from this one.”
Others agree, including pensioner Denise Pover, who is waiting for friends nearby. “It’s such as terrible shame as they’ve done 75 per cent of the work by giving us devolution, but they have failed on the democracy part. I think it’s diabolical.”
It is a fortuitous outcome for Mr Lloyd, who was set to lose his job as Police and Crime Commissioner with the introduction of an elected mayor in just over two years’ time. Even if there had been a vote, it would not have been gripping political drama because his only rival was fellow Labour veteran Lord Smith, leader of Wigan Council. Both men are close to Sir Richard Leese, who oversaw the selection, and Sir Howard Bernstein, the leader and chief executive of Manchester City Council. Leese and Bernstein have dominated Manchester politics for a political generation.