This approach to policy-making, coupled with both Covid restrictions on campaigning and absence of high-profile national candidates, explains why turnout to choose West Yorkshire’s inaugural metro mayor is unlikely to be the triumph for democracy once envisaged.
As such, there will be an even greater onus on the successful candidate to make an immediate impact to show how the mayoral role will, in fact, make a lasting difference both regionally and nationally.
That said, their task will be made even more invidious by uncertainty over the Government’s intentions when it comes to devolution in next week’s Queen’s Speech – voters today effectively have little idea at the size and scope of future policy powers, and funding, that will be passed to the English regions.
This continues to point to the London Government only wanting devolution on its terms – namely all the decision-making and little, if any, of the responsibility.
And this tokenism is further illustrated by Downing Street’s refusal to spell out the metrics and targets underpinning its supposed ‘levelling up’ policy after Neil O’Brien, a Yorkshire-born MP, was handed a new policy co-ordination role.
Bizarrely, this led to Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, in response to a question on Radio 4’s Today programme about cuts to local government spending, saying that it was up to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to set out a ‘levelling up’ policy.
By doing so, Mr Zahawi appeared to forget that his government’s failure to be more specific on devolution and also levelling up which is fuelling both this policy vaccum and public apathy over today’s elections.
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