John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for November, 2014

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A massive devolutionary moment for Manchester and perhaps the whole of Britain | John Harris

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

This week the north-west felt the first tremors of change to our woefully centralised system of government

On 3 May 2012 Manchester was among 10 English cities to stage a referendum on whether or not to do what the government wanted, and place its affairs in the hands of an elected mayor. By 53% to 47%, it was one of nine places that decided against. The turnout was only 25%, and neither side of the debate had done much campaigning, but there it was: Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester city council, said the vote represented a very clear rejection of the idea, and that was that.

Only it wasnt. On Monday George Osborne and the 10 councils that make up the Greater Manchester combined authority announced a trailblazing agreement to devolve new powers to that part of England. And at the heart of the plan is a so-called metro mayor, who will arrive without a prior referendum, have powers covering the police, planning, transport and housing, and be directly elected from 2017 onwards. In the meantime, just to underline the fact that democracy has its limits, an interim mayor will be appointed.

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Jon Cruddas: Ed Miliband faces a dilemma as the political ground shifts

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

The head of Labours policy review discussed the way forward for the party, as the English regional cabinet committee met in Manchester

On Friday proceedings in Manchester town hall began with something in rather short supply of late: good news for the Labour party. In the wood-panelled first-floor Scrutiny Room, Ed Miliband understatedly informed his guests that his party had seen off the Ukip menace and won the byelection to decide the next police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire. There was a cursory round of applause; then official business began.

Twenty or so Labour people, including shadow ministers and council leaders from across England, had gathered here for the sexily-titled preparatory meeting of the English regional cabinet committee, a body intended to spread power and prosperity across Englands regions and oversee a dispersal of power that Labour should it win next May, at any rate will commence with an English Devolution Act.

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