City electors

First published on ProgressOnline

Candidates for city mayors face a breakneck selection process

While the people of London are choosing whether they want to return Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson to City Hall, the citizens of 10 of the country’s biggest cities outside the capital will be deciding if they too want to have a directly elected mayor.

As Progress has long argued, the challenges faced by Britain’s cities – low skill levels, an acute gap between rich and poor, high unemployment, underperforming schools, and too few private sector businesses – require a radical change to their governance. As in London, mayors could not only bring increased accountability, but act as a champion for jobs, growth and investment, and a powerful voice for the cities in Whitehall.

But while winning the case will be crucial up until referendum day, the process of selecting Labour’s candidates in those cities that opt for mayors will take place at breakneck speed after 3 May.

Sadly, on the selection of city mayors, our ‘refounded’ Labour party is going back to the old ways. Forget calls for primaries to select the future leaders of our great cities. Forget that even the most unreformed socialist party in Europe organised a primary for its presidential candidate and over three million French voters paid €1 for the privilege of taking part. Forget, too, that for the police commissioner selections, we opened our ranks by inviting those who shared our values to join the party and stand for us.

The Labour party NEC decided last month to grant potential leaders of 10 great cities just 14 days to apply, be shortlisted and provide material for a ballot of all members that will commence on 25 May.

So if you are thinking of standing, pay close attention. The deadline for your application will be just seven days after the referendum results are known: Friday 11 May. You will be interviewed by the assembled gender-balanced panel (consisting of 50 per cent regional board members, which must include one union rep, and 50 per cent from the city’s constituency parties). Shortlisting will take place by the following Wednesday, 16 May. If you make the shortlist, you will then have just 48 hours to submit ‘promo materials’ to the party.

There then follows a rare pause in the process. Party members will have to wait 11 days between the ballots going out to the selectorate and the first hustings taking place in their city.

But getting a campaign off the ground is still possible. In Birmingham, Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart and former minister Siôn Simon are using the referendum itself as a platform to debate the city they wish to govern. It is a precedent other aspirants would do well to follow.

So be warned. Time is tight. The process is against you. But if you act now, get organised and have a vision for your city, it is time to step forward.


Richard Angell is deputy director of Progress


On your marks: the mayoral selection timetable

  • Friday 11 May: Application deadline
  • Wednesday 16 May: Shortlist meeting
  • Friday 18 May: Submission of promotional materials
  • Friday 25 May: Ballot papers mailed
  • Wednesday 13 June: Ballots closes
  • Friday 15 June: Ballot results


Photo: Louisa Thomson

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