Northern eyes are on you now, Liverpool

IPPR North, local government, regional issues

Author(s):  Katie Schmuecker
Published date:  08 May 2012
Source:  The Northerner Blog

Liverpool is the most important northern city to have a directly elected mayor. Jokes aside about how cosy the cabinet of mayors meetings will be, if the government is true to its word, Merseyside should now have a direct line to the corridors of power.

This will be good for Liverpool, a city that has been hit hard by the recession, yet has considerable untapped economic potential – prior to the recession it was one of the fastest growing parts of the north. This is an opportunity for Liverpool to steal a march on other cities.

While the precise powers of the mayoralty remainsa little vague, the post brings with it considerable 'soft power'. Unlike the other towns that have had directly elected mayors up to now, Liverpool is a major city, with cultural power and recognition and a place in the nation's heart. The new mayor, Joe Anderson, needs to use this to his advantage.

But if he chooses to, Joe Anderson potentially has a much larger canvass on which to paint. Overnight he has become one of the most significant political figures in the north, and one of the hardest people for the government to ignore

The local government map of the north has turned a deeper shade of red, particularly in the urban areas, where Conservatives and Lib Dems have struggled to hold onto councillors. Some Conservatives might be tempted to write off the north as unwinnable, but to get an overall majority at the next general election the Conservatives need to win key marginals here, so what to do? The answer has to be deliver on economic development in the three northern regions.

Leaders such as Joe Anderson must therefore work with other councils, business and wider civil society to create a strong northern voice calling on the government to deliver for the north, including allowing the freedoms and flexibilities that will enable northern cities and their economies to reach their potential. On this the Liverpool mayor can lead from the front.

It seems that Liverpool politics are back with a bang on the national stage. Let's hope that they prove more constructive than back in the days of Derek Hatton.