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Mayors flexing muscle – and it’s good to see

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

The dearth of talent at the top level of British politics is clear for all to see.

When one of the most uninspiring of modern day Prime Ministers can take to the stage and look like a beacon of light against the mob that are currently running the show, you know that Westminster is in a sorry, sorry state.

John Major took the unusual step of thrusting himself into the spotlight this week by calling for a second referendum on Brexit. He issued a withering assessment about the current occupant of Number Ten and her government. But he was hardly complimentary about Her Majesty’s opposition either, reflecting that against a Tory party this bad, Labour should be twenty-points ahead in the polls, rather than running neck and neck.

As in any walk of life, when a vacuum appears, someone or something fills it. Politics is no different. In the absence of strong, visionary, national leadership it’s time for our regional mayors to step up to the plate and, on behalf of the areas they represent, start to map out a vision of how we can cope with the challenges the country faces.

The government seems paralysed by Brexit, and word from the corridors of power is that it is the only thing exercising the minds of our brightest civil servants, and our dimmest politicians.

Meanwhile social issues such as homelessness get worse. The skills gap gets bigger. The economy bumps along. And plans for the future are put on the back burner.

So, the announcement that a Northern Summit is to be hosted by Northern Powerhouse Metro Mayors, where infrastructure, the economy, and Brexit will be discussed and debated, is welcome.

The West Midlands mayor Andy Street shows no sign of slowing down as he approaches his first anniversary as a politician, this week pushing for Chanel 4’s relocation to Birmingham.

On a whole range of issues, London mayor Sadiq Khan is ahead of his parliamentary peers, getting practical help to get the homeless off the streets of the capital this week, and commissioning Brexit impact assessments being just two examples.

As Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn destructively divide the nation, Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram Andy Street, and other leaders of devolved UK governments are joining Sadiq Khan and Nicola Sturgeon in starting to flex their muscles – and its good to see.

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