The party could rebuild itself through devolutionby Liam Booth-Smith / August 15, 2016 / Leave a comment
When the history of these years of the Labour party is written, there will be a footnote for the year 2017 thanking the former Tory chancellor George Osborne. Next year, some of our largest city regions will be voting for metro mayors, which wouldn’t have happened without the support of the MP for Tatton. Yet the new mayors have the potential to save what’s left of sensible Labour.
Behind Osborne’s championing of metro mayors was the desire to hurt the opposition. They were to be the Conservatives’ way into Labour’s urban heartlands. Much as Boris Johnson had proven in London, with the right candidate, red cities would vote blue. Newly enfranchised Tory voters would rebuild the Conservatives in the old industrial north. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
Instead of being Tory Trojan horses, these mayoralties are becoming Labour lifeboats. Freed from the parliamentary party’s struggles, Andy Burnham, Labour’s candidate in Manchester’s mayoral election, will find the city a rejuvenating sanctuary. Similarly, Sadiq Khan is wearing the independence of City Hall like a tailored suit. These mayors aren’t panjandrums; they do, and will, have real influence and power. As Jeremy Corbyn shuffles imaginary pieces of his social movement across the electoral map, Burnham et al could reconnect Labour with its base.