Andy Burnham to run for Greater Manchester mayor

Andy Burnham, feeling angelic. Image: Getty.

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, will enter the race to be Labour’s mayoral candidate next year’s inaugural election to the role of Greater Manchester mayor. He has retooled his official Twitter campaign from his failed bid for the Labour leadership as @Andy4Manchester and will give a speech in Manchester tomorrow.

Burnham, who finished second in the 2015 leadership election having finished fourth in 2010, will face heavyweight opposition in his bid to secure Labour’s selection. (The election itself is widely believed to be a slam-dunk for Labour.)

Many Manchester activists are sceptical of his run, with one flatly stating that “the first mayor of Greater Manchester cannot be a Scouser”, and another deriding Burnham as “a professional Scouser” who would be better off running for the role of Merseyside mayor, which is also up for grabs.

However, scepticism of Burnham’s candidacy in Manchester itself is not shared in the entirety of the conurbation that the new Mayor will run. In addition to the city of Manchester, the new Mayor’s writ extends to nine other local authorities: Stockport, Trafford, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Wigan, Oldham, Salford and Tameside. There is an appetite among Labour party activists elsewhere in the region to avoid the new Mayor being too Manchester-focused, which is why many were keen for Jim McMahon, formerly leader of Oldham Council and now MP for Oldham West and Royton, to throw his hat in the ring. Burnham – whose seat of Leigh is in Greater Manchester – may now be able to appeal to those voters.

But Tony Lloyd, the interim mayor of Greater Manchester, and Labour MP from 1983 to 2012, when he stepped down to run for the position of Police and Crime Commissioner, is widely considered to be the favourite. He has secured the backing of Unite, whose political operation is particularly effective in the North West, and has most of the institutional backing of the party’s power-brokers in the region.

Ivan Lewis, Labour MP for Bury South, meanwhile, is believed to have raised more money than his rivals and is already advertising to party members on Facebook. He is thought likely to secure the votes of much of the Bury Labour party. His policy approach is similar to that of Richard Leese, the mayor of Manchester city council. Leese is unable to contest the post himself as he has a police caution and the post includes the powers and restrictions of a Police and Crime Commissioner. 

Although Labour have yet to make a regional breakdown of its leadership results publicly available, Burnham came top of the pack in constituency Labour party nominations in the conurbation, which proved a fairly accurate barometer of membership sentiment. Burnham took 10 of the 27 constituencies, with Jeremy Corbyn and Yvette Cooper taking five each, while a further seven declined to nominate.

If Burnham is successfully elected, it would trigger a scramble for his safe seat of Leigh, however, coming boundary changes may make the post less attractive, as the sitting MP will likely have to fight a selection battle against the neighbouring MP, Barbara Keeley. 

This piece was originally posted on our sister site, The Staggers


Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.

At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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