England’s foremost regional leader has called on the government to expand English devolution to the entire country.
Andy Burnham Mayor of Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), told MPs that English devolution is a “work in progress” and that expanding it would create a “healthier politics”.
‘Fill in the map’
Giving evidence at the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, Burnham warned the government against stalling further devolution “just because the odd mayor has answered back”.
He urged the government to “fill in the map,” and “come up with a model of devolution for all parts of England.
Burnham said people “have had a taste” of devolution, and “they quite like the idea of places being able to do more for themselves”.
He said: “I would say, fill in the map, come up with a model of devolution for all parts of England, and secondly, in areas that are more established, allow places to take on more powers as they become more mature as systems, as we are here in Greater Manchester.”
House of Lords reform
Asked whether parliament sufficiently represents the interests of England in particular, Burnham said he would favour reform of the House of Lords to make it “regionally-constituted” based on votes cast in parliamentary elections.
He said: “I think that is the way to ensure that all the regions of England have an equal voice in parliament, because you would have a House of Commons representing all parts of the country, and you would then have a House of Lords that was evenly constituted from a regional point of view.”
“I think parliament over-represents London. If you look at the House of Lords, I’m guessing here, I would imagine a majority of the people in the House of Lords have a primary residence inside the M25.”
He added: “So I don’t believe the House of Lords equally represents England and that is a major problem in a national parliament.
“I can’t see how there can be any justification at all for continuing with the House of Lords in its current form.”
Burnham said that a lack of funding for local government is “holding back the progress of devolution”.
Also appearing at the committee, Mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority, Jamie Driscoll, said that policy-making is “too London-centric”.
He said: “If you look at England, the idea that it needs to be represented as a block is where the problem arises. The north east, for example, economically has very little in common with London.”
He also echoed Burnham’s criticism of the bidding system that regional leaders often have to work through to get funding.
Burnham for Labour leader?
There has been much speculation around whether Andy Burnham might try to run for leadership of the Labour Party, particularly if they had lost the Batley and Spen by-election last week.
While the narrow win there for the party will likely dampen calls for a change of direction temporarily, there is still evidence to suggest many Labour members would prefer Burnham as leader.
A recent YouGov poll found that almost half of Labour members think Burnham would be a better leader than Starmer, while another poll by Sky News found that seven in ten members favour the Greater Manchester mayor.
However, in order to stand for the leadership, Burnham would need to be a Labour MP.
As the mayor of a combined authority with a role including Police and Crime Commissioner powers, Burnham would not be able to be an MP while still serving as mayor.