Five challenges facing Andy Burnham

Announced yesterday as the Labour nominee for Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham MP is likely to be a shoo-in come the election next May. But the hard work isn’t over, as he’ll face various challenges if and when he takes office.

Calling the shots. Manchester’s top dogs have been in place for some time, with council leader Sir Richard Leese and chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein forming a powerful duo since the 1990s. Whether Burnham will be able to carve out a role for himself with any meaningful leverage, in the face of what is a well-oiled political machine, remains to be seen. Burnham has also ruffled the feathers of long-time local politicians, by previously suggesting only someone with Cabinet experience should be mayor.

A public imposition. Manchester’s residents very clearly voted against the idea of a directly elected mayor back in 2012, only to have the wider role for all 10 boroughs forced on them as part of the devolution deal with central government agreed in 2014. The political elite might have preferred more of a ‘yes man’ to work with the status quo, and Burnham was certainly not Leese’s favourite, who backed rival Ivan Lewis.

Swimming against the tide. Labour-led Manchester made great gains with the last Conservative government, but to say the political landscape has changed since the devolution deal is an understatement. The Northern Powerhouse was former Chancellor George Osborne’s pet project, but he’s returned to the backbenches, while new Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet choices reflect a Southern bias with only one Northern member, from Yorkshire. The government has been tightlipped on the extent of its commitment to the North, and with his Westminster contacts it could fall to Burnham to attempt to extract that promise.

Too many cooks. The mayor will be the eleventh member of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, sitting alongside the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities. A unanimous 11 votes will be required in order to make certain decisions, and while that gives Burnham a power of veto, it also means that he has a lot of people to get on side should he wish to flex his mayoral muscles and pass policies that he can take credit for.

Building bridges. The mayoral position comes with additional powers over planning, and responsibility for the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. Dealing with political hot potatoes such as green belt release and housing supply is tricky enough, but Burnham hasn’t demonstrated much more than a cursory knowledge of regeneration issues, and has already played the blame game with the property community after referring to housebuilding as “over-development”. Now he’s said he wants to solve the housing crisis, so will need to make friends fast.

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“Burnham hasn’t demonstrated much more than a cursory knowledge of regeneration issues” – you can say that again.

By Burnham watch

I’m hopeful. He’s likely to be better at planning than certain GM authority leaders.

By Gene Walker

The city of Manchester has long said it wanted a mayor only of Greater Manchester, now it will have it. Yes, the mayor will have to seek consensus with all those towns, and as people on here have long argued whether or not they are Manchester, that may not always be easy. The days when Manchester got special treatment from George Osborne are probably over. Manchester knows it will need to work with Liverpool now to be heard. Despite what people used to say, the Liverpool area is much more united than ever it was. Both cities need to make a go of it for their respective areas and for the north. They should present a united front where they can if they are to be listened to by government.

By Alfie

Hopefully he can sustain some northern focus. We’ll need it even more post-Brexit/European funds. I just hope he isn’t too adversarial. The best part of Manchester’s political elite is their willingness to work with all politicians in order to get the job done. Burnham is walking in to a different arena and will need to tailor his game accordingly.


Well done Agent Andy.

By Man on bicycle

Bambi on Ice. A failed national politician seeking the safety net of the North. Pity that Leese wasn’t 20 years younger, a much better choice.

By John Brown

Oh great we need more cycle lanes , a clamp down on cars in each City and Town Centre , less carbon more wellness more inclusion and anything else that is a smokescreen for doing nothing

By Roberto

A LOT on his shoulders….At least IS known down south….

By Schwyz

I see that he is working with Rotherham in Liverpool I know we have banter on here,but the two most iconic cities outside London working together is essential for the North West to prosper.

By Elephant

Andy Burnham was selected by the pre-Corbyn Labour selectorate. Only people who had been members in May 2015 could vote for him in this selection. He will therefore be eager anything that puts him on a collision course with the Labour Party membership and leadership. Will there be issues on which his leader pushes a harder stance on anti-austerity, or refusing to appear on platforms with Tories. Everything Manchester has achieved thus far has been about co-operating, doing deals and smart politics. It completely goes against the shrill political grain of the new Labour Party. He also has a very short three year term where he will have the threat of deselection looming over him if he doesn’t dress to the left and if another Mayor in another city behaves differently.

By Michael Taylor

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