With the vote for Manchester’s first Mayor creeping ever closer, I was pleased to receive through my door a booklet which included an introduction to the election, instructions for how to vote, and the manifestos of each of the candidates (or at least those who submitted one). I thought it would be an idea to have a look at each manifesto in turn, and try and make up my mind on who or who not to vote for.
Let’s start with the first in the booklet, the Labour party’s doe-eyed Andy Burnham. He’s been the MP for Leigh since 2001, holding the position of Secretary of State for Health in Gordon Brown’s Parliament, before becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Education from 2010 to 2011, and then Shadow Secretary of State for Health, a position he still holds.
It’s a very well-laid out manifesto, complete with his signature in a different colour, as if he’d personally signed each booklet himself. A nice touch, if a little obvious. There’s the obligatory red colour scheme, of course, which always looks good. And let’s not brush over the solid collection of photos, passing smoothly from “Campaign Team” to “Andy means business in Parliament” to “Man of the People”, with a big “stamp” on the first page that reads “A strong experienced voice”. It’s hard to tell which is more annoying, the lack of a comma on the stamp, or the clichéd photos. Away from the layout though, the substance of the manifesto is pretty good.
He’s done something to set himself away from his competition. He’s invited “the people of Greater Manchester” to help him write his manifesto. I don’t remember getting an invitation to do that, but still, that’s what he did. And in so doing, he’s set his stall out, as you’ll see the majority of them have, as “the people’s candidate”. He wants to bring Manchester firmly into the “new era” of politics with a plan by the people, for the people. He certainly seems to be well qualified, politically, for the job, so that’s one point for Burnham from my point of view, but his efforts to make himself more people-friendly are a little nauseating.
The points made within this people’s manifesto are pretty good, all told:
- Stopping young people from being the focus of cuts – bringing in uni-style application for apprenticeships – price drops on 16-18 public travel with an eventual free bus pass
- Improved public transport & lowered traffic congestion – making fares more affordable
- More affordable homes to rent or own – new scheme to regulate unscrupulous private landlords
- Rough sleeping ending by 2020 with a new Mayor’s Homelessness Fund – a personal contribution of 15% of his salary from Burnham himself to run it
- Revitalising town centres, protecting green spaces and cleaning polluted air – a new network of separate cycle lanes
- Higher police recruitment – “zero tolerance” to hate crimes
- A new positive vision of active aging with more support for carers
- Create the country’s first National Health & Care Service – bring social care fully into the NHS
Strong, solid points. Some of them you’ll likely find in the manifesto of any candidate for anywhere, but there are some very good promises in there.
As a renter of a flat who eventually will look to own his own home, it’s good to see that there could be an effort to drop the price of houses in Greater Manchester to a more affordable level. It’s interesting to see focus put on Greater Manchester’s public transport system, which I must admit I think is pretty good, as I use it everyday to commute from Eccles to the city centre for work. Obviously, I’m not going to say no to a fare drop so more power to that point.
The most interesting point in the manifesto, by far, is right in the middle. The Mayor’s Homelessness Fund. It seems, in brief, a very good idea to end rough sleeping in Manchester by 2020. Can it be done? My head and my heart both scream “No!”. But it’s certainly a noble idea. It’s also nice of Mr. Burnham to give up 15% of his, no doubt, too-high salary for the new scheme. It at least shows commitment to the cause, something which is desperately needed to tackle the problem of homelessness in Manchester. Strangely there’s no mention of “Spice” in the manifesto. Odd to read anything about Manchester and not have to go over the Spice epidemic again.
Is Burnham the man who’s got my vote? It’s too early to say. Though he is definitely the front runner for the post, and enjoys a large support throughout Greater Manchester, so I’d be surprised if he wasn’t the first Mayor. I look forward to taking a peek at the Lib Dem’s manifesto next. Want a sneak preview? It’s a fair bit worse than Burnham’s.
By the way, if you want to read more about Burnham’s election campaign you can visit http://www.burnhamformayor.co.uk