All politics is local - and public affairs should take note

Written by Simon Petar on 17 May 2016 in Opinion

Luciana Berger is considering a bid to become the mayor of Liverpool, while Andy Burnham mulls the Manchester role.

As the dust settles on the recent local elections and the recriminations and navel gazing begins for political parties, it is worth taking a moment to pause and reflect on the hugely significant decisions by both Andy Burnham and Luciana Berger to consider standing to be the Mayor of Manchester and Liverpool respectively.

It is significant, not because it is a kick in the teeth for Jeremy Corbyn to potentially lose two big names from the Shadow Cabinet – he probably won’t lose any sleep over it – but because it is a sign of the direction of travel for politics in general. The fact that nationally recognised and respected politicians are considering standing is proof that the Northern Powerhouse project is alive and well and all politics, when boiled down, really is local.

There are now 17 directly elected Mayors and a number of Police and Crime Commissioners all with responsibility for local decisions and budgets.  For Labour MPs that are not natural Corbyn bedfellows the Mayoral elections are arguably their best chance of shaping a political programme where they actually have levers of power to pull.  Elected Mayors now have responsibility for local transport, housing, skills and healthcare.  Whilst local authority budgets are being squeezed and services merged between different authorities, the Mayoralty budget is growing.  Cities and areas as diverse as Bristol, London, Liverpool and Manchester are competing for inward investment on the global stage. 

The Government administration machine is also moving towards a more regional focus.  The Department for Transport are looking to provide regional public affairs, presumably to help support the government’s agenda for HS2 and other major infrastructure projects.

Being a Mayor is also unquestionably a platform for bigger things; just ask Boris Johnson. We have already seen allies of the newly crowned Mayor of London Sadiq Khan make clear he has the biggest ‘personal mandate in British political history’.  He has not wasted any time in flexing his mandate muscles and has already given coded warnings to the Corbyn camp over appealing beyond hard core supporters in target constituencies.

All politics is local – but more so than ever before and public affairs agencies would be wise to be in tune with the political shift that continues to take place.  


About the author

Simon Petar is an associate director at iNHouse Communications.

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