Why the Metro Mayor is not, and should not be about Brexit

You might have drawn the conclusion that I don’t think the Metro Mayor can or should be made to be about Brexit, either way. Here are some things to ponder…

This is NOT another referendum

This is not a national vote. Using it as a protest vote makes as much sense as voting Brexit as a protest vote. If there are any lessons to be learned from the past year it’s that we need to do our research and we need to make sure that we check our facts. We need to challenge our candidates on the issues that really matter to our region, not just the immediate emergency.

We need a decent Plan B

That’s right, the Metro Mayor and the opportunity brought by devolution are now looking like our strongest back-up plans if the worst case scenarios of Post Brexit Britain come to pass. By mixing the two, you’ve effectively merged them into Plan A. We need a safety net.

Think about it: making it about Brexit will almost definitely harm future devolution deals coming to the region. If you want to fight Brexit, you need pro-Remain MPs NOT a Pro-Remain metro mayor (and the same goes for pro-Brexiteers the other way). I don’t know about you but lobbying our MPs must be a priority rather than expecting a Metro Mayor to shout impotently from the sidelines. He or she will have no say in Parliament, and whinging to Ministers is not and should never be a part of the game plan.

The Metro Mayor necessarily needs to put the region first no matter what the outcome, and needs to work across all parties for the good of the region.  The Metro Mayor we deserve will come with solutions and not (just) criticisms, no matter how justified. Nearly a billion will come to the region for devolution 1 (i.e. this first deal). The second and third devolution deals however are where it really starts to get interesting and REALLY hopeful for the region.

The Metro Mayor Can Address Issues that Caused Brexit: Deprivation, Poverty, Fear

We all know from the referendum that logic doesn’t come into this until much, much later, when the emotional battle is won.

So lets just talk about that. Do you want to alienate or punish those who voted to leave, or do you actually want everyone to unite to fix this?

IMHO we shouldn’t look at what people voted for but at their reasons behind it:

  • If they voted to save the NHS then they should ask their candidates about their experience running NHS trusts or health budgets. (the future devolution deals will almost definitely cover health)
  • If they voted to stop the country haemorrhaging cash so that more could be spent on front-line services and on the vulnerable then ask candidates how much experience they have of responsibly managing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of budget. (Remember there’s nearly a billion to manage over a number of years)
  • If they voted Brexit because of transport issues caused by too many cars on the roads then they should ask questions of the candidates about their experience of working cross-party to get consensus on an integrated transport strategy. Historically our problems are linked at least a little to not being able to partner with our local authority neighbours in the past.
  • If they voted because they were worried about job security then ask candidates about what experience they have in education and skills.
  • If they voted because they feared for our national security then the Metro Mayor is not that role (certainly not yet), but even then, look at who might have experience or an understanding of the issues faced by law enforcement.

And did I mention…?

And so I say again: please don’t make this Metro Mayor election about Brexit. This role is about our region’s security regardless of what happens with Article 50. And if Article 50 does go through you want someone who can deliver to address the fears that got us to this point. Those underlying fears have not gone away and deserve to be taken seriously.

And of course if you want a Remainer in charge, you have a few choices. Don’t let that be your only criteria as you’ll be selling your region short. Understand the role because the message we send to those candidates will determine future deals.


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