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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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HomeDemocracy in DecayDemocracy in Decay: Don’t want a Metro Mayor? Vote for me, then

Democracy in Decay: Don’t want a Metro Mayor? Vote for me, then

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HAVE you ever met someone who wanted another layer of government or extra politicians funded through taxation? This is the easiest question you have ever been asked, for we all know the answer. So, how did we end up with Metro Mayors in our big cities?

I am standing for Mayor of Greater Manchester, but not for the reasons you may expect. I am not a career politician and I have never held public office. I have spent most of my life working in the real world improving the lives of others.

Our democracy is failing. It is happening so slowly that we do not see it in real time, only through the lens of memory – life used to feel much better.  

Four years ago, I believed I was a free man living in a free country with the right of free speech. I was wrong. I was fired from the charity I founded for critiquing Black Lives Matter. I fought back against the tyrants and was victorious – the experience changed me.

This led me to ponder how we ended up in a situation where an online mob can bully people into submission. The answer was obvious: cowardice. The more I looked around, the more I saw cowardice in every aspect of government and our institutions. The difficult choices were not being taken to improve the country, for real leaders were in very short supply. Yet we had a surplus of middle managers concentrating on their careers and prioritising personal convenience. 

How did this happen? Through a lack of democracy.

We elected weak politicians to run our lives and the price we paid was less control of the most important aspects of government. We voted for our own destruction. 

A good example of this is the Metro Mayors. They were created to increase democratic representation and participation but have failed. Only one in three voters cast their ballot in Greater Manchester to select the mayor. Many voters have no idea who the mayor is or what they do. It does not help that the position is constantly confused with ceremonial Lord Mayors who open libraries and parks etc.

The cynic in me says that the Metro Mayors are working perfectly well for their creators – the Conservative government. Any criticism from Labour-run cities is now batted away with a solid excuse – ‘Blame your mayor, vote differently’.

In 2015, a Metro Mayor was forced upon Greater Manchester by the then Chancellor George Osborne and greedy local councils who were promised more money. The then Police & Crime Commissioner, former Labour MP Tony Lloyd, was handed this role along with extra powers without a single vote being cast. Another slap in the face of the people.

The number one comment I receive when campaigning for the election on May 2 is that people do not want a mayor and many say they will not take part in the election because of it. (In the 2021 mayoral election the turnout was 34 per cent.) A career politician listens to these views and realises that these people are not potential voters, so moves on. That is not how it is supposed to work. A politician is supposed to listen to the people so they can represent them, not hold them in contempt.

I have listened. I want to represent the people. This is why my main policy, if elected, is to hold a referendum across Greater Manchester to see if the people want to keep the position of mayor or not. We have a gaping hole in our democracy and I want to fill it with the will of the people – how it used to be.

I am not saying that eliminating the role of Metro Mayor will be a good thing for I do not know. That is not the point of my policy. I want the people to have their say, though I realise this is an unpopular position to hold today, especially after Brexit. We are either a democratic country or we are not.

The more people who have a say in a matter, the better the outcome will be. This is why ‘Ask the Audience’on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is hardly ever wrong. But if the voters happen to be wrong then so be it: it is called personal responsibility. If lessons have to be learned then I would rather the public learn them because the government is incapable of such a thing.

We need to take back control of our democracy by holding politicians to account. This has become more difficult as new layers of government are added. This confuses the public who give up engaging, stop voting, and become disenfranchised with our democracy.

Which politician do you blame when things are not good enough? Local councillor. The whole council. Local MP. Metro Mayor. The Government. A particular minister. The Cabinet. The Prime Minister. It does not matter who you hold responsible for they will disagree with you and blame someone else on this list.

The least I can do is give the people an opportunity to shorten this list so that eventually we may get to the politician who should be held accountable – then we can vote against them. This is how our system is supposed to work: we nudge our politicians in the direction we wish them to travel.

I don’t have all the answers; no one does. That is why we should involve the public in the governance of their country.

Voters are the masters, politicians should be servants hoping to please. 

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Nick Buckley
Nick Buckley
Nick Buckley is a charity founder, author and social campaigner who promotes personal responsibility as the solution.

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