Must we presume that the interim mayor of Greater Manchester has to come from the Labour Party? May we not consider the possibility that another party or an independent could hold this post? Might it not be healthy for the all powerful Manchester City Council to have to deal with someone not of their stripe, holding a post they never wanted?


The Labour dominated Greater Manchester Combined Authority has drawn up a job spec for the person they will appoint as interim mayor to fill in until a directly elected mayor is chosen by the people in 2017. The person has to be an elected member of one of the ten councils or an MP. Two other post holders, the elected mayor of Salford and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester are specifically included (which may be very significant in the latter case).


It is unlikely that many rank and file councillors will fancy challenging their leaders for the post and MPs have a General Election to fight. So the chances are that the interim leader will either be a current council leader, the Elected Mayor of Salford (Ian Stewart) or Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd. the current chair of The current chair of the Combined Authority Lord Smith of Wigan might still go for it but the hot money is on another Labour man, Tony Lloyd. He would lose his job under a Labour government as the party is pledged to axe the post of crime commissioner. It’s unlikely people like Sir Richard Leese (Manchester) and Jim McMahon (Oldham) will be interested in this interim position. They are aware that a Labour government might not implement the permanent post and even the Tories may be distracted in another minority government.


It is open to Sean Anstee, the Tory leader of Trafford to put himself forward. Good luck with that.


Then we come to Stockport where the Liberal Democrats head up a minority administration. The leader Sue Derbyshire shows no sign of wanting to stand for interim mayor, but her colleague Lord David Goddard may do.


David Goddard has had a roller coaster ride in politics. Once of the Labour party, he switched to the Lib Dems and became council leader. He lost his seat in 2012 in a targeted campaign by Labour, won it back two years later before becoming a peer . As an Offerton councillor he is eligible to be the interim mayor and is reluctant for the post to go to a Labour politician by default.


Goddard has been an active member of the Combined Authority(C.A), helping to negotiate the City Deal, the first C.A Environment Commissioner and represented the nine local authorities on the Airport Board during crucial investment talks . He was a leading member of the successful campaign against plans for a congestion charge in Greater Manchester.


That was a rare defeat for Sir Richard Leese and Chief Executive Sir Howard Bernstein but it was an indication that Goddard is prepared to stand up to the mighty Manchester.


The Combined Authority plans to have an interim mayor in place by June and we must see what happens if Lord Goddard finally puts himself forward. Let’s hope he does because it is important, if the Greater Manchester Mayoral Election does take place in 2017,that it is not seen as just a rubber stamp for a member of the Labour hierarchy.





From the seventies to the noughties the Liberals and then the Liberal Democrats came to occupy the space vacated by the Tories as the opposition to northern Town Hall Labourism. In many cities the Lib Dems actually came to power. Ten years ago I goaded a political commentator into predicting that Labour would lose its majority in Manchester. That didn’t happen and from its peak in the early years of this century, it has been a downhill slide for the Lib Dems.

It became precipitous after the Coalition government was formed in 2010. So going into these local elections Leeds and Liverpool councils have just ten Lib Dem councillors and Manchester nine. They could be all but wiped out as a serious political force in our big cities on May 22nd. That would be very unhealthy for Town Hall politics. With the Tories showing no sign of ending 40 years of impotence in our big cities, the result of a Lib Dem meltdown will be massive Labour majorities and the danger of arrogance and lack of scrutiny that goes with it.

Little attention will be paid to these local elections because, for once, the European Parliament elections held on the same day will command centre stage. That’s partly because of UKIP but also because Labour has already acquired supremacy across most local councils across the North. For four years they have been benefiting from being out of government. Their recovery began in 2010 . Even as Gordon Brown was leaving No 10, Joe Anderson was celebrating Labour taking Liverpool.

So there is less to fight for than usual in our local elections. Nevertheless there will be polls for a third of the seats on the councils that control our great northern conurbations around Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. A third of the seats are also to be contested in the unitary authorities of Blackburn with Darwen and Warrington. A few councils outside our big cities also have elections including West Lancashire, Preston, Burnley and Harrogate.

There are some interesting contests. Trafford rarely lets us down for drama. The only Conservative controlled metropolitan council in the country, the Tories will surely lose their wafer thin grip on power. This will be a disappointment for the recently appointed Sean Anstee, the youngest council leader in the country. West Lancashire can also be expected to fall to Labour. Harrogate may remain a rare patch of blue in the North but the hung councils of Kirklees, Calderdale and Bradford are all being targeted by Labour.

In what is likely to be otherwise a grim night, the torch of Liberalism is likely to remain alight in South Lakeland where Lib Dem President Tim Farron has kept his party in power since 2006. The party is likely to continue holding the balance of power in Pendle where all three parties are almost equal. Stockport is the biggest challenge for the Lib Dems where one net loss could end their power deal with some ratepayers. Labour are the challengers with the Tories continuing to under perform in this leafy part of Greater Manchester. Adding spice to the elections here will be the return of Dave Goddard, the former Lib Dem council leader who was specifically targeted by his former Labour colleagues two years ago.

Overall Labour will find further gains hard to make. The Tories and Lib Dems will be hoping the economic recovery helps them to minimise their losses. All eyes will be on UKIP. They have made no breakthrough in northern Town Halls so far but may benefit from double support as people cast their European and local votes at the same time.

If UKIP do get a substantial number of councillors, it will be interesting to see if they are actually able to actually cope with issues like elderly care and planning.

Next week I’ll be looking at the fascinating European election contests in Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West.