Greater Manchester Combined Authority has dropped the qualification ‘interim’ when referring to Tony Lloyd, calling him the Greater Manchester mayor in official communications to the media, as it seeks to “increase awareness of the mayoralty”, and denies the move could be seen as misleading or unfair to his rivals for the Labour candidacy.
GMCA press notices initially used ‘interim mayor’ to reflect the stipulation that the mayor would be chosen by direct public vote. But this began to change with ‘mayor’ in the headline and ‘interim mayor’ in the main text. Now, all references in media communications are without the qualifying label ‘interim’.
Lloyd was appointed by GMCA as interim mayor in June 2015. The role currently carries no formal powers to vote on policy at GMCA board meetings, although the interim mayor chairs those meetings and plays “a significant role”, with “strategic oversight” of policy matters, according to GMCA. Policymaking power and decisions over planning, housing and transport remains with the 10 leaders of the GM local authorities. Ten will become 11 votes around the table when the mayor is elected next year. The public election to decide who will become the first mayor for Greater Manchester will be held in May 2017.
Many of the most important decisions such as on the statutory spatial framework – the powerful planning blueprint which will set housing targets and define development boundaries – will require a unanimous 11 votes in order to be passed.
The directly elected mayor is being introduced as part of the devolution deal for Greater Manchester, handed down by George Osborne.
Lloyd clearly has advantages over other candidates for the Labour nomination, who include shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, MP for Leigh, and Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South. The Labour party has capped all campaign budgets at a derisory £3,000.
A spokesman for GMCA said: “Tony Lloyd currently has a role to increase awareness of the Mayoralty, the GMCA and devolution in GM. Simplifying the title is a small effort to do that.
“He is in the role pending next year’s election and there is clarity around that within the media.”
Amy Hopkinson, senior account director at communications firm Weber Shandwick in Manchester, said: “Given that the GM Mayoral election is not due to be held until May next year, this is an interesting decision from GMCA, and no doubt one which the challengers to Tony Lloyd’s temporary crown will take issue with. In a period of relative political instability, and in particular the perceived threat that Brexit has created around the prospect of the heralded Northern Powerhouse and further devolution, this is arguably a move designed to calm the current choppy waters.”
Colin Talbot, professor of government at University of Manchester, said the decision to portray Lloyd’s as a permanent rather than temporary role “seems a bit previous.”
Ivan Lewis said: “Ultimately we have to agree that this is a decision for the GMCA.”
Many observers say the GMCA was reluctant to accept a directly elected mayor as part of the devolution deal but had to or risk losing the deal altogether, and as such wants a mayor that will follow suit with existing strategy, maintaining the status quo, something for which Lloyd appears to be well positioned.