The Wirral West MP Esther McVey should be in the Cabinet this weekend as the new Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. She had a career in television, she is from the North, is female and doesn’t have a posh accent. All boxes ticked Mr Cameron, so why didn’t you pick her?
Perhaps because while you were foolishly supporting the defiant Maria Miller, Esther McVey was listening to the public and issued some mild criticism of Miller’s perfunctory Commons apology.
Cameron isn’t the only one who should be criticised over the Miller affair. I frankly thought Ed Miliband had some gall laying into the Prime Minister. What does Mr Miliband have to say about Sir Kevin Barron. Who he? You may well ask, because he has managed to keep a pretty low profile this past week. Sir Kevin is the chairman of the Commons Standards Committee that decided to slash the amount of the mortgage payment claims that Maria Miller was ordered to repay. He’s also the Labour MP for Rother Valley. I venture to suggest Sir Kevin is less in touch with his Yorkshire constituents than Esther McVey is with her people in Wallasey.
LABOUR’S POOR DEVOLUTION OFFER.
It’s not been a good week for Mr Ed. He’s revealed his party’s plan for devolving power to the North. It is very much in line with hints that Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves gave at a Downtown event some time ago.
She forecast that Labour would not radically alter the hotchpotch of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), Combined Authorities and City Deals that the Coalition are operating. I agree with the approach of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation who are holding their annual general meeting in Manchester this weekend. The Foundation is committed to democratically accountable regional government.
Chair Barry Winter calls Miliband’s proposals to close the North- South divide a sticking plaster, an attempt to breath life into underpowered LEPs and unaccountable joint boards of local councils. Winter says the plan for regional ministers is equally flawed because they are accountable to Westminster. He concludes that while Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London have significant control of their destinies, the north with 15 million people remains largely tied to Whitehall.
Until we get a regional or pan North of England Council in place, we are going to continue to see the sort of parochial infighting that continues in some of our city regions. I have in mind the Halton, Wirral, Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens Combined Authority. I’m giving its official title donated by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, although to be fair the members will use the working title Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
Its not very combined at the moment because Phil Davies, the leader of Wirral, is chair rather than the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson. It was reported that this happened because Mayor Joe was late for the meeting. I understand that his physical attendance was neither here nor there. He and ally Peter Dowd (the leader of Sefton) had lost the vote at a pre meeting.
Let’s hope they can all work together. In the longer term we need elected mayors for the Combined Authorities in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool with a Council of the North for the big strategic decisions.
Cracking idea for Easter. Have a good one.