On the date of the local elections Bradford also gets to vote on a referendum to have a directly elected Mayor. Now, theoretically, I am in favour of greater democracy, particularly at a local level. However, I am deeply suspicious of the idea. And it is not just the glutinous spectre of Eric Pickles that makes me wary.
With a council, you get to make adjustments to the make up of the council repeatedly during an electoral cycle. In Bradford we get to vote for candidates 3 times in four years. This means we can make changes to the make up of the council and policy can change and be censured by the electorate.
With a directly elected mayor we’d get the chance to change the policy maker once every four years. That’s a heck of a difference. And, if we look to London, we can see how poor the choice presented to the electorate can actually be: do you vote for the guy who is currently failing your city or the guy who failed it four years ago?
Bradford, of course, is not London. We’re pretty much guaranteed to attract a lesser class of politician and no one at the pinnacle of their powers will actually want to be our mayor. Rather than the likes of Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson we’re more likely to get Eric Pickles and George Galloway. A very human chill runs through my veins as I contemplate such a scenario.
It’s not just that I don’t trust the Bradford electorate (bluntly, I really don’t, that some of these people have the right to vote angers me), it’s not just that the stature of Bradford will mean we’re stuck with lesser lights (that I still see Ralph Berry’s name in association with local politics is saddening and scary), it’s also that our elected mayoral process in this country has a rather poor precedent. Let’s not exacerbate everything by voting yes to less accountability, the choice of a lesser of two evils or incompetencies every four years and to allow personality to dominate local policy.