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What to look out for in the Greater Manchester Mayoral elections

  • Dr Rory Shand, Senior Lecturer in public services at Manchester Metropolitan University, guides us through what to look out for in today's Greater Manchester Mayoral election result 

At a time when some members of the public have had enough of elections, the Mayoral election in Manchester offers greater opportunities to examine themes such as turnout, engagement, and inequalities across the combined authority, as well as the ‘Burnham effect’, and the continued fallout from Brexit.

Firstly, the context for devolution in Manchester: the flagship of the devolution and Northern Powerhouse projects, Manchester’s city region is arguably the most high profile of the city regions electing Metro Mayors.

Labour’s candidate, Andy Burnham, is also high profile and rivals London Mayor Sadiq Khan in visibility and political stature. This may have the effect of encouraging turnout because of the visibility of Burnham and the Manchester devolution agenda; equally, the predictions of success in the Mayoral election for Labour and Burnham may result in reduced turnout as voters see the contest as a foregone conclusion, especially amongst groups such as young voters who tend to be the least likely to turnout.

Turnout tends to be much reduced in local, Mayoral (and previously in European) elections when compared to General Elections, and this seems to have held true for yesterday's Mayoral election. Comments on Twitter this morning suggested the turnout would be between 25-30%, with this figure proving to be true as the day progressed. There was also early suggestions that Burnham would win.

Crucially, the on going consequences of the Brexit vote may also reflect key demographic differences and inequality across the Combined Authority.

As illustrated in the EU referendum in 2016, demographic differences may play a large part in the engagement with the Mayoral election. The massive gains made by the Conservatives in the local elections and the election of Tim Bowles as Conservative Mayor for the West of England show, perhaps, encouraging signs for the Tories, while UKIP has suffered a heavy loss of seats: this may reflect either non-turnout by UKIP voters, or more likely, previous UKIP voters voting Conservative to attempt to ensure a Hard Brexit.

These national trends may be reflected in the Mayoral election in Manchester, or as in Doncaster and Liverpool, we may see a Labour victory. However, despite apparent election fatigue, and the temptation to read from local and Mayoral results towards the General Election in five weeks time, there are key themes we can draw out from Manchester’s Mayoral elections that are likely to be crucial factors in the General Election on June 8th.

Whoever wins the vote to become Mayor of Manchester, the success of Health and Social Care and devolution more broadly, issues of fatigue and turnout, inequalities across Greater Manchester, and the effect of Brexit on the city region will be their governance priorities.

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