It seems like only yesterday that I started writing about the possibility and merits of having a directly elected mayor for Nottingham and now it’s all about tomorrow, May 3rd.
Perhaps there is an issue of timing and therefore election cost, certainly a clearer definition of the powers to be devolved would be useful and introducing a mayor only for the City of Nottingham with its very tight boundary won’t be an end to this story.
But here we are just twenty-four hours from the poll that offers Nottingham voters the greatest say they have ever had over how the city should be run and that can deliver to them the ultimate say over how the person who leads the city is chosen.
The referendum question asks only how you want that person to be chosen, and by whom. By the votes of a few councillors in a secret meeting after an election? Or by the votes of all Nottingham voters in a free and open election.
It’s not a Yes/No question on the ballot paper but I think we all know which is which way around by now. I came out as a Yes man a long time back and that’s where I still stand. I think we could be getting more for our mayor money but this is an opportunity to take a step – however small – in the right direction.
British cities being run by mayors is an idea whose time has come. It’s the way of the rest of the world and the way of our future. If Nottingham chooses a mayor tomorrow the city will remain in the premier league of British cities. If not we will play on in the second division, always hoping to make the play-offs, always running the risk of falling even further behind.
I’ve done no polling, I’ve not knocked on a single door, I’ve not been in Nottingham for most of the past two months (I am now) and I’m not a betting man but I do have a hunch as to the outcome of tomorrow’s vote. I expect a low polling station turnout – as low as 10% maybe – and that the most likely result will be No.
Those who oppose the idea of a mayor for Nottingham are almost exclusively those with the most, personally, to lose from a change to the way things are run now. Almost everything they have offered to this debate can be answered with ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they’.
But come the count, many people will support them – perhaps more than turn-out in person – loyally casting their vote by post from those parts of the city where the Labour Party machine (even though it has coughed and spluttered a bit during this internally-divisive debate) is most effective.
If the power and organisation of one of the major UK political parties, with many thousands of door-knockings under its belt, has not been able to secure a No vote then serious questions about the relevance of the party and how it is led, at least locally, will be asked.
I sign off here, resting my case, hoping I’m wrong about the outcome.
If I had a vote I’d be voting for a change to the way things are run now. I’d be voting for greater democracy. I’d be voting for all of us to choose the person who leads Nottingham.
I’d be voting YES to a Mayor for Nottingham.
I hope you do. (And that you take a friend or two to the polling station with you.)
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