23 April 2021 | OPINION
I have 2 weeks remaining to win over the people of Greater Manchester and become the Metro Mayor of the region. It is a big ask, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. It is never achieved with self-doubt or giving up. Every election is winnable until the polls close at 10pm.
Everyone I speak to, and nearly everyone I engage with online, is voting for me. At this rate, I will have a stomping victory with over 90% of the vote. I could give the Chinese Communist Party a run for their money.
I have to be realistic and admit to myself that I am living in a bubble at the moment. My interactions do not necessarily represent the opinions of a cross-section of voters. It is like looking into a mirror and thinking everyone else sees your image when they do the same.
I am an outsider. I do not have a huge party behind me. I have a mountain to climb. But mountains are conquered every single day.
I am surprised at the level of dissatisfaction many people have towards Labour. Not always directed at the incumbent Labour Mayor, but definitely towards the national party. The ‘Red Wall’ crumbled at the last General Election, and I feel the people in Greater Manchester have now been given permission to voice their displeasure at the party.
Labour was created to speak up for the working class. Many people today do not see Labour speaking up for them at all. Worse than that, they feel the Labour Party despises them for being working-class. The Labour vote in Greater Manchester will collapse – though whether that happens at this election, only time will tell.
Several of my pledges seem to have hit a nerve with the electorate. To be a leader, you need to be brave. You take the decisions that are needed, and most importantly, take responsibility for them. This is why I have stated publicly that, if elected, I will end rough sleeping within my first year, or I will resign. I may be foolish… I may be naïve… but I have my reasons.
Power corrupts. We all know this to be true. People have an innate drive to look after themselves and feather their own nest. It is human nature – just look at the Marxist co-founder of BLM and her array of mansions. I need to be aware of such temptation and have strategies in place to keep me real. I do not wish to move closer to an unethical position one tiny step at a time. We can all be tempted, every single one of us. We are all flawed.
Our rough sleeping crisis can be fixed. I know we can do it in a year if we focus our minds and resources. I want everyone in the Mayor’s team, in the public sector and other partners to know on day one what our joint priority is – no delay or excuses. If agencies do not do their bit, they will be shamed. If organisations play politics with the issue, they will be highlighted.
If I cannot get our fellow citizens off the streets within a year, with all the resources available to me as Mayor, then frankly, I do not deserve to be Mayor. That is why I would resign, so the people of Greater Manchester could have a chance to vote in someone better. But I do truly believe I can achieve what I have stated.
Not many people have heard of the Clean Air Zone planned for Spring 2022 across Greater Manchester. It is basically a congestion charge by the back door. It starts with commercial vehicles, but organisations are already lobbying for it to include cars. There may be a case to be made for a congestion charge for the city centre, but this new scheme covers the whole of Greater Manchester. New cameras will cover the region to catch people who have not paid. Fines will be posted. The question I have asked is: why is it OK to drive a vehicle if its pollutants are killing us, as long as you pay for the privilege?
One of my most exciting policies will be to start the mammoth task of tackling waste and incompetence in the public sector. I will set up a hotline to receive reports. This is not about shaming public services – who do some much-needed work – but instead to ensure that our tax money goes further and achieves more. I have worked in local government; I have seen the waste and incompetence. It is inherent.
If we are going to improve Greater Manchester for the least well-off, then the Mayor needs powers over education. I will demand powers over education. I have worked with many schools, I have run projects in schools, and was based in a school for a short while. Many of our social problems could be prevented through our mandatory decade in state education. I would improve school discipline, hold parents accountable and give more choice to pupils. One size does not fit all. 1 in 5 kids fails in our schools. We need a selection of secondary schools that offer technical education with practical learning. Not dumping grounds for pupils with behavioural issues, but places that give you a different set of skills ready for an adult working life.
I have big plans and big ideas. I will implement change for the people at the bottom who are already out of the game. I intend to shake the tree so hard that some branches will break. This will allow new light to shine through and nourish new ideas and opportunities.
No-one is happy with the status quo – so why do we keep voting for it?