I once had tea with Andy Burnham the present day Mayor of Manchester, back then he was an MP, and I was in the House of Commons as a guest of a former Glasgow MP, called Johns Lyons. We had arranged to meet with Andy with an initial view to talk about the challenges of recruitment and why First UK Bus were employing Polish bus drivers following the accession to the EU in 2004.
As I recall we met in one of the terrace tea rooms of which there are many, loitering within the intriguing corridors of power that is the House of Commons. A building that simply oozes history, intrigue, and raw power, an alter of history making, and unashamedly one of my favourite buildings on this planet. There was a time, in a different life when I used to get invited often, I never turned down an opportunity to attend an event. As the saying goes I would have attended the opening of a pair of curtains, given half a chance.
Anyway, as we made our introductions, Andy apologised for being a few minutes late, as he had been playing football for one of the parliamentary teams and he represented the Commons in the intriguingly called Demon Eyes football team. From that point on the entire conversation was about football which the three of us love. He is a life long Everton fan, as I used to be when I was a youngster. He was knowledgable, funny and clearly an intelligent man ( He studied English Literature at Cambridge). Part of the conversation was about the campaign to get justice for the Liverpool 97. To be fair he lobbied tirelessly with the families for justice. Which they finally achieved and those identified are finally having to answer in a court of law for their actions, and rightly so.
Andy, has had an impressive political career, eventually coming second to Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, however he decided that a change was due, and he resigned as an MP, and stood in the Mayor’s election to become the Mayor of Manchester, not a bad achievement for a scouser. Since then he has still maintained a high national public profile forum for a Provincial Mayor, hitting the headlines with the moving speech that he made when the Liverpool 97, were finally recognised as being victims rather then perpetrators as the Sun newspaper, amongst others tried shamedly to make the public believe.
So, what are we make of this new generation of high profile, powerful mayors. Well they are certainly high profile, and carry multiple responsibilities. Have they enhanced their regions, as was hoped? Overall I believe that they have Andy Burnham has done well in my opinion, he was especially effective and statesman like after the tragic terrorist attack at the Adrianne Grande concert, where the worlds attention was focused on the slaughter of mostly young girls.
The role of the mayor is to be the face of the area where they are elected to represent, Andy Burnham has been a competent and able man, and with the population of Manchester set to hit over 3 million people in the next couple, it requires a capable and decent leader, and a man of principle, and in Andy Burnham I believe they have such a man.