Trafford Tory Leader Sean Anstee has thrown his weighty hat into the ring in the battle to become Greater Manchester Mayor. Although nominations for the Tory candidature are open until the middle of October, Cllr Anstee is uniquely placed to seize the position and run with it, writes Rob Loughenbury. It is hard to imagine another GM based Tory cutting a comparably serious challenge at this point.
Most of us are familiar with two things: Cllr Anstee’s relative youth and his burgeoning reputation. But what will matter most to Party chiefs is that he is the boss of a successful, Conservative, northern Tory council, with a track record in delivering electoral results.
A diplomat, and a pragmatist, Cllr Anstee skillfully balances the often competing demands of battling a strong Labour opposition in Trafford, whilst rubbing along with his Labour colleagues at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
It will be interesting to see how his policy formula evolves during the race. Trafford Tory politics comes with its own well established push-buttons; excellent schools, including grammars; low council taxes; and protecting open green spaces.
But will a distinctive GM-Tory platform emerge, between the familiar territories of Trafford politics and national Party policy?
What will Cllr Anstee have to say about housing, transport, education and skills, from a GM perspective?
These are complicated policy issues, hard to distil for consumption by voters. Of course, populism will retain a certain lustre for all candidates, as it may be difficult to pique public interest in an election for a position that doesn’t currently exist and could feel pretty remote from voters.
Make no mistake, Cllr Anstee’s announcement is good for the Conservative Party. It is also good for the race, which could have suffered from a sense of inevitability regarding a Labour victory. But now, with a divided national Labour Party, a strong Tory challenge and the perpetual threat of a third party challenger, one feels that the kaleidoscope is shaking.
Whatever the outcome, Cllr Anstee is very unlikely to be diminished at the end of a battle that on paper looks steep for a Tory, but which could be pried open significantly by circumstances.