A Greater Manchester

All eyes may be on June’s General Election, but the Greater Manchester Mayoral Election in May is a key part of the most comprehensive devolution deal for any English region. Dr Andrew Mycock talks to Ella Parkinson about why local matters too.

“Manchester has always been at the forefront of radical social change: think of the Industrial Revolution, the Free Trade movement and the Suffragettes.

Devolution is an opportunity to inspire – to work across party lines, and redefine politics for the next generation. I firmly believe that it’s a chance to heal the wounds and political divides that the Brexit referendum has left in our communities. We can unite behind a new vision for a radical future for Greater Manchester.

So what needs to be done to make that happen?

If the whole of Greater Manchester is to prosper, we need to connect all 10 boroughs together: at the moment our public transport network looks like the spokes of a wheel, going into the city centre and out again. We should look at some sort of orbital tramline or transport system to complement the M60 and connect the boroughs to each other.

At the moment, the city centre is where you see most of the cranes and major development projects: we need to see that sort of investment right across the city-region.

You suggest that devolution will ‘redefine politics’ – how so?

MPs spend most of their time in London: I believe that devolution presents a new, more human, approach to politics, where things that local councillors say will carry more influence. We can make devolution what we want it to be – it’s not just a legacy for George Osborne.

Where will the power lie in the future? 

By voting in favour of devolution, MPs will actually be reducing their own ability to influence Mancunian policy. As an example: Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith will be able to vote on policing in Shropshire, but not in Manchester, because policing has now been devolved to our combined authority.

Some of us are concerned that the mayoral candidates have made some pretty sweeping promises – sometimes beyond the scope of the policy areas on which they will be able to deliver. Another campaign of empty promises?

No not necessarily: it’s easy to be cynical, but I think this is a good thing. As well as shining a light on the gaps in the existing deal, it highlights where the next steps should be taken – devolving education, environmental and fiscal policies. Devolution is a process, and this is just the start: we are already developing our own policies in these areas, and it shows that Manchester is on the road to securing something bigger.

So what would your ultimate goal for devolution be?

I’d like to think that one day everyone in the region would refer to themselves as Greater Mancunians – just as a young person from Barnet or Croydon would call themselves a Londoner. Young people in Wigan or Bolton should feel like they too are a part of Greater Manchester.

Chorlton’s Dr Andrew Mycock is Reader in Politics at the University of Huddersfield. He is passionate about engaging young people in politics and ensuring their voices are heard. He’s currently working with young people across the city-region to establish a Greater Manchester Youth Assembly.

Ella Parkinson is a student of politics and economics at Xaverian Sixth Form College.

The election takes place on May 4 in all ten boroughs. Your vote matters. Find out more at gmelects.org