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Liam Byrne wants to be Birmingham's Mayor

By Tim Montgomerie
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It hasn't been a great week for the Government but there is some good news to report. The Coalition's City Mayors initiative is really beginning to take off.

It's been leaked this evening that Liam-there-is-no-money-left-Byrne will leave the shadow cabinet if Birmingham chooses to have a directly-elected mayor. Mr Byrne will then stand to run England's second city if he can get the Labour nomination. Other possible Labour candidates include Gisela Stuart MP and former MP Sion Simon.

The likelihood of Birmingham getting a directly-elected mayor increased with the news that the current Tory leader of the council has overcome his scepticism and endorsed the idea. Writing for the Birmingham Post Cllr Mike Whitby explained his change of heart by declaring that "the Government is determined to devolve real power and access to funding to city mayors". Many city mayors referenda have failed to pass because local party machines - generally run by councillors - have often united to block a change that would reduce their powers.

Earlier this week at a reception to promote city mayors David Cameron promised to chair a six monthly cabinet where cities with mayors would meet with him. Cities minister Greg Clark explained the idea to the BBC:

"Mayors are a very good way of providing the strong, visible leadership that helps attract investment, and have enormous potential to drive a city's future prosperity. By coming together, sharing innovations and building relationships, city mayors will play an important role in ensuring their city lives up to its full potential."

Mayors and Elected Police Chiefs will be slow burn reforms but they will steadily call time on Britain's very centralised state. The most talented people won't all gravitate to the Houses of Parliament but will stay in their localities and develop diverse and locally attuned approaches to their own city's challenges. Business leaders and others who might not have been tempted with the powers available to councillors may well be tempted by the powers available to directly-elected mayors. Westminster and Whitehall will also be able to call on cities for talented executives and to learn from diverse models of policy innovation.


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