EDITOR'S CHAIR: Why an elected mayor would not be right for Newport.

Stuart Hammond Mayor of Hartlepool and former mascot , H'Angus the monkey, to Hartlepool United FC. (5617854)

File photo dated 01/10/13 of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson who set out his stall as a political heir to Margaret Thatcher in a speech suggesting their approach would be "one and the same" as the ex-Tory leader. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issu

ELECTED: London mayor Boris Johnson

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South Wales Argus: NEW EDITOR: Kevin Ward by

LATER this year Newport Civic Society will be hosting a debate on the subject of elected mayors.

The debate, in September, will focus on whether Newport should have an elected mayor in the same way that London and a small number of other towns and cities in the UK has.

While it is a debate worth having, I can't help feel that the subject matter has had its day.

The more towns and cities given the chance to vote on whether they want an elected mayor, the more vote against it.

There have been almost 60 referenda on elected mayors across the UK since 2002. Yet there are only 16 directly elected mayors in the country.

Of these, five are in London. Meanwhile, two cities - Leicester and Liverpool - decided to go ahead with elections for a mayor without bothering with a referendum first.

The idea is simply not popular.

Those in favour of elected mayors say they provide cities with strong leaders, that mayors are more accountable to the electorate, that turnouts at elections would be higher, and people from outside the usual party political arena would be encouraged to stand for office.

Well, my views on whether Newport needs a strong leader banging the drum for the city are well known. But I fail to see how another set of elections and another tier of government would deliver such a leader.

The argument that there would be more successful non-political candidates if we had an election for a mayor in Newport just does not hold water.

Look across the country. Of the nation's 16 elected mayors, just four are independent. The rest represent the main three political parties. In other words, a so-called 'new' way of running local government just produces the same old same old - representatives who are governed by the party machine rather than the needs of the people who elected them.

If there is one thing that local government does not need it is more politicians.

People in two areas that voted for elected mayors - Stoke and Hartlepool - have since voted for a return to a conventional cabinet system of governance.

Hartlepool is, of course, the best example of the folly of the directly elected mayor.

In 2002, the good people of Hartlepool did indeed reject party politics and voted into power H'Angus the Monkey - the mascot of the town's football club whose only policy was to provide free bananas for school children.

Admittedly, the man in the monkey suit - Stuart Drummond - turned up for day one of his new job in a business suit and was never seen dressed as an ape again. And he was re-elected three times.

But he is an exception to the rule.

There is a place for elected mayors in places like London. Boris Johnson and Ken Livingston before him are not local politicians. They have a place and an influence on the world stage because of the importance of the city.

But elected mayors do not make sense for the rest of us.

It is a system that risks putting too much power in one person's hands, that risks giving the party political machines more influence than they have already, and that risks sidelining many very able local politicians who have an important role to play.

It is an American idea that would transfer itself as badly to these shores as elections for police commissioners.

And we all know how well received they were at the polls.

  • The debate on elected mayors takes place at Newport civic centre on September 11 at 7.30pm.

Comments (8)

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10:39am Thu 24 Apr 14

westsi1983 says...

So 25% of the elected mayors are independent...?! Surely thats higher than the proportion of independent councillors, PCCs, MPs and MEPs, so on that count alone the arguments made against elected mayors not delivering independent candidates are flawed!

Elected mayors are more efficient in getting decisions made on strategies for cities, if people voted for the mayor based on their vision for the city, rather than the colour of their political badge, then we might stand a chance, but lets be real, this is Newport, and an elected mayor in Newport would be from the labour party, because people sleep vote next to the red rose...
So 25% of the elected mayors are independent...?! Surely thats higher than the proportion of independent councillors, PCCs, MPs and MEPs, so on that count alone the arguments made against elected mayors not delivering independent candidates are flawed! Elected mayors are more efficient in getting decisions made on strategies for cities, if people voted for the mayor based on their vision for the city, rather than the colour of their political badge, then we might stand a chance, but lets be real, this is Newport, and an elected mayor in Newport would be from the labour party, because people sleep vote next to the red rose... westsi1983
  • Score: 9

11:23am Thu 24 Apr 14

Bobevans says...

An elected mayors is also directly accountable to the electorate. The current Mayor is not
An elected mayors is also directly accountable to the electorate. The current Mayor is not Bobevans
  • Score: -2

11:44am Thu 24 Apr 14

Kevin Ward - Editor says...

Bobevans
The current mayor is a ceremonial role, not a political one. The two cannot be compared.
Bobevans The current mayor is a ceremonial role, not a political one. The two cannot be compared. Kevin Ward - Editor
  • Score: -2

12:29pm Thu 24 Apr 14

paddyparry says...

Kevin Ward - Editor wrote:
Bobevans
The current mayor is a ceremonial role, not a political one. The two cannot be compared.
Let's put it another way then... The current leader of the council is appointed by his political colleagues and does not answer directly to the electorate, just his party colleagues. If the electorate are not happy with his performance then there is nothing they can do to remove him.
[quote][p][bold]Kevin Ward - Editor[/bold] wrote: Bobevans The current mayor is a ceremonial role, not a political one. The two cannot be compared.[/p][/quote]Let's put it another way then... The current leader of the council is appointed by his political colleagues and does not answer directly to the electorate, just his party colleagues. If the electorate are not happy with his performance then there is nothing they can do to remove him. paddyparry
  • Score: 11

2:47pm Thu 24 Apr 14

chico16 says...

Westsi1983 makes some valid points . I think it all depends on what you see as a the major role for the mayor.
Should he carry elevated power and bridge the gap between national and local politics and with a serious charter to move the city forward or is he just the ceremonial person . Should he be in charge of the city finances that controls police , city administration , etc. etc or opening the local charity event .
If you want a ceremonial mayor then who cares who he is . If you want a leader with major responsibilities then he must be elected .
Can see the pro's and cons of each ----but what a massive gap between the two types of person you will need.
Westsi1983 makes some valid points . I think it all depends on what you see as a the major role for the mayor. Should he carry elevated power and bridge the gap between national and local politics and with a serious charter to move the city forward or is he just the ceremonial person . Should he be in charge of the city finances that controls police , city administration , etc. etc or opening the local charity event . If you want a ceremonial mayor then who cares who he is . If you want a leader with major responsibilities then he must be elected . Can see the pro's and cons of each ----but what a massive gap between the two types of person you will need. chico16
  • Score: 2

5:11pm Thu 24 Apr 14

Magor says...

This would be a good idea if they got the right person.Like the one who turned things around in New York with "zero tolerance"
This would be a good idea if they got the right person.Like the one who turned things around in New York with "zero tolerance" Magor
  • Score: 4

1:43am Fri 25 Apr 14

mocyoung says...

Magor wrote:
This would be a good idea if they got the right person.Like the one who turned things around in New York with "zero tolerance"
Different type of political system. NYC allowed Rudy Guiliani to enact local laws. While we have by-laws in our city, we won't be able to have law making powers on that scale.

As for a mayor here, well what would be the point? Under the mayor and the council we'd still have layer upon layer of bureaucratic management and unelected public servants collecting an above-average wage pushing paperclips around.
[quote][p][bold]Magor[/bold] wrote: This would be a good idea if they got the right person.Like the one who turned things around in New York with "zero tolerance"[/p][/quote]Different type of political system. NYC allowed Rudy Guiliani to enact local laws. While we have by-laws in our city, we won't be able to have law making powers on that scale. As for a mayor here, well what would be the point? Under the mayor and the council we'd still have layer upon layer of bureaucratic management and unelected public servants collecting an above-average wage pushing paperclips around. mocyoung
  • Score: 3

6:32am Fri 25 Apr 14

Woodgnome says...

An elected Mayor is not the answer to Newport's problems. Only a tiny minority of Council's have gone for this option with very good reason. There seems to be insufficient political accountability in Newport as it is without making it worse by investing too much power in one person. Arrogance and deafness to local residents of the "wrong political persuasion" would be the order of the day.
An elected Mayor is not the answer to Newport's problems. Only a tiny minority of Council's have gone for this option with very good reason. There seems to be insufficient political accountability in Newport as it is without making it worse by investing too much power in one person. Arrogance and deafness to local residents of the "wrong political persuasion" would be the order of the day. Woodgnome
  • Score: -2

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