NW in 2017: Political dynamite ahead

If you thought 2016 was chaotic, 2017 looks set to be equally as interesting, especially in the North West, writes Tom Morrison.

The balance of power is set to change in May 2017, with two elected mayors, one in Greater Manchester and one in Merseyside, taking over two of the biggest metropolitan regions in the country. With powers over health policy, strategic planning, investment decisions and transport, the successful candidates, whoever they may be, will become two of the most powerful people in England.

Not only will elected mayors change the decision-making in these regions, but they will also change how the relationships between councillors, council leaders, and to some extent, council officers can dictate the political direction of local authorities.

In my experience, it’s relationships that drive local councils; whether it’s the relationship between a leader and their chief executive, or a cabinet member and their colleagues on a planning committee, the day-to-day interactions between these people govern how decisions are made and, importantly, how they are going to be implemented. Throwing a position such as a Metro Mayor into the mix is only going to complicate things further. Just how complex these relationships will become, we will see.

Following this political thread, we cannot dismiss the chance we could see a snap General Election in 2017. The arguments over Brexit and the future of Britain’s place in the world will not die down and, if anything, are only going to get louder and more high-profile. Theresa May, sitting on a wafer thin majority of 11, appears to have very little political capital left and has already faced two resignations from sitting MPs.

That said, May is riding high in the polls, with over 40% of the population preferring her over Jeremy Corbyn. The embattled Leader of the Opposition has had a dreadful year, with his tweets about jam and not being able to find a seat on a train garnering more media coverage than many of his policies. There must be a temptation for the Conservatives to call an election in order to increase their majority and deliver a more workable mandate.

Finally, 2017 will see a ‘wind of change’ for the North West in terms of transport. Transport for the North, which is aiming to become a statutory sub-national transport body in the next year, will continue to grow and become a more influential voice in delivering the Northern Powerhouse across the region, whilst the decision to run high-speed rail through Birmingham and into the North West and Yorkshire will not only drive investment, but also create huge job opportunities locally.

In the recent past, HS2 was seen as a political hot potato, with only a few spokespeople championing its development. Yet now, political consensus seems to have been reached, so much so that the likes of Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram (Labour’s candidates for the Manchester and Merseyside mayoralties) are leading calls for the creation of HS3 to better connect the North West and North East. How will this play out? There have been many supportive voices so far, but as we have seen from the journey taken by HS2, there is likely to be a long way to go.

So 2017 looks set to be an interesting year. With mayoral elections, a potential General Election and HS2 becoming tangible, the North West will be one of the most interesting regions in the country to watch political change unfold next year. Maybe 2016 could even be outdone…

  • Tom Morrison is senior account manager at Remarkable Engagement

Your Comments

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How will Theresa May call a snap election now that we have Fixed-Term Parliament legislation on the Statute Book? Unless she get’s the backing of Labour…

By Dan

Connecting the north is even more important than HS2
HS3 will also allow Liverpool’s port the capacity to act as engine of growth and halt the drain towards the south east in this regard.

By Altmouth

It’s a good point Dan, but with the way things are, I don’t think it will be hard for Theresa May to get the support needed to call an election. I honestly believe there are more politicians out there who would want one than not.

By Tom

Completely agree with Altmouth HS3 is more important to the Norths future than the draining HS2 white elephant that will only halt at Crewe anyway , Liverpool and it’s successful growing port is the key player for growth.

By LiverpoolCapital

2017 snap election would be great. Would properly sort the wheat from the chaff

By Developer

Its actually the Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, not Merseyside.

By Mike

Splitting hairs, Mike: most people call it Merseyside. I’m confident Tom understands the difference, but if you’re writing in a way that people actually want to read, it’s a good idea to use the same language as them!

By Josh

By this reasoning we should still use SELNEC when talking about Greater Manchester which would be madness. Using Merseyside in this way is factually incorrect as it has never included the borough of Halton, which the Liverpool City Region does. Regardless if most people call it Merseyside that is not the name of the combined authority and is outdated.

By Flan

Merseyside has common currency and relates to a uniting and prominent natural feature, the River Mersey. SELNEC is a buraucrat’s acronym with zero common currency, supplanted by the accurately descriptive (in economic terms) Greater Manchester. SELNEC and Merseyside are not equivalent terms. Greater Manchester and Greater Merseyside however are equivalent terms.

By Quiche

No one says “Greater Merseyside”. Merseyside itself is an imposed term, imposed on the Liverpool region by those from outside it that can never bring themselves to say the L word. It should be up to us what we’re called.

SELNEC and Merseyside are exactly the same, being created around the same time.

Merseyside, in this instance, is incorrect as Halton borough is not in Merseyside. It is in the Liverpool region, though, and will come under a Liverpool region mayor.

By Mike

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