Salford goes for elected mayor – should worry all parties

Salford’s decision to go for an elected mayor should give us all cause for concern. It was pretty clear from all the vox-pop interviews the media undertook in the aftermath of this shock result that this was that most contrary of creatures, a negative yes vote.

Journalists could not find a single person within the loose unholy alliance of Conservatives, English Defence League, Tax Payers Alliance and BNP who had led this campaign, who would give a positive reason for having an elected mayor. The only reason given was they felt a non-labour party person might be elected. Karen Garrido, the Tory group leader suggested it might end Labour’s 40 year rule in the city. It might, it might not…

Garrido misses the point that the option to change parties is open to voters everytime we have local elections.

If the leader of Salford Conservatives has given up trying to win Conservative votes across the city, then it seems unlikely it will be a Conservative Party Mayor in May. Her hope seems to be that some charismatic person will come forward without party affiliations, but broadly in tune with Conservative thinking. That is an incredibly dangerous hope with truly awful precedents. She hopes for a meritocrat, when she’s just as likely to get Kilroy-Silk or Silvio Burlusconi.. or worse.

Did she never ask why the BNP and EDL were so much in favour?

It was portrayed as a chance to cut council tax when in fact budget setting remains with Salford council. So the best the Conservatives are hoping for is a right-wing mayor and a Labour Council. This seems to be an act of political sabotage and at best, irresponsible. Far better to have promoted the mayor for the positives – if there are any, rather than misleading information.

Nevertheless, the vote was a clear majority in favour of a mayor for whatever reason. And that should worry us in the Labour Party. We should learn from this.

However, this is in no way a handy and convenient method of removing a hard to shift council of a different persuassion. The Tories currently run Trafford and have done for 8 years. We do intend to defeat them, but we’ll do it through the election of Labour Councillors, not through manufactoring a referendum on a subject few care about. We will not sink to the depths of the Tories in Salford.

Salford is too close to Trafford for it not to matter. I sincerely hope they can make the mayoral system work for Salford. My fear is that there will come a point at some time in the future when the mayor and council are in such opposition to each other, that Salford suffers more than it can bear. When that time comes we should all remember the Garridos and the English Defence League etc who brought this about.

Mike Cordingley






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