Although votes won’t be cast until May 2017, the race to become Greater Manchester’s first “Metro Mayor” has certainly begun.
The main parties, with the exception of the Tories, have all announced their candidates.
Election favourite, Andy Burnham MP is the Labour Party candidate, the Lib Dems have confirmed Trafford councillor Jane Brophy, as their runner, UKIP have announced Shneur Odze as their candidate and the Green Party have confirmed Deyika Nzeribe as their candidate.
With that in mind, MM went down to the Green Party mayoral campaign launch at Media City to see what Nzeribe will bring to the mayoral contest.
Green Party Leader, Jonathan Bartley, and Liverpool City Region Mayoral Candidate, Tom Crone, were also present to show their support for Nzeribe.
A wave of anti-establishment sentiment is currently sweeping the politics with Jeremy Corbyn’s ascendancy and Brexit being two of the biggest consequences.
Bartley acknowledged the discontent with “politics-as-normal”, saying that in the past few months the nation has seen “huge political shifts”.
There is a palpable public distrust of perceived career politicians in the main parties and a genuine desire by some to break from the political status quo. It is these sentiments that Nzeribe and the Greens are hoping ride to power in Greater Manchester.
Nzeribe is certainly no career politician. Having lived in Hulme for 15 years, Nzeribe is a temp worker and has held positions across multiple industries including Banking, IT and the Arts.
He feels that this, coupled with his real life experience of the welfare system, makes him a better candidate than any career politician.
“Given the choice of a politician of 20 years or so or me, I would put my experience above theirs any day,” said Nzeribe.
He agrees with people who say they are ignored by Westminster, saying that he is irritated at how “safe” constituencies across the main parties are ignored in favour of marginal seats to win elections.
“I want to take back control on behalf of those in the North of England who feel neglected,” he said.
At the launch Nzeribe exhibited some typically Green proposals: he is committed to bringing a circular economy to Manchester ( an economy that focuses heavily on recycling and reusing products), addressing police cuts and combating “disproportionate” policing against non-European communities and encouraging the use of public transport by improving and expanding the metrolink system to more residential areas.
Similarly, he is committed to encouraging cycling by potentially bringing a “Boris bike” style offering to Manchester.
Crucially, the candidate also raised some worrying statistics about Manchester’s poorest communities.
“There are over 600,000 people in poverty in Greater Manchester and 1.6 million people at risk of moving into poverty,” he said, adding that a successful regional economy, let alone a Northern Powerhouse, can’t be achieved while so many are living in, or close to living in, poverty.
However, when discussing solutions to these issues, Nzeribe’s lack of experience in public office betrays him.
He believes that a solution to the region’s poverty is more social housing, saying that social housing is a “chance for opportunity.”
As a whole the UK is experiencing a severe housing shortage. The Greater Manchester region currently needs to build 10,000 new homes a year to cope with a growing population. How would the Greens build these homes without selling off green space?
Nzeribe felt that the issue could be addressed with forethought and promised to “get tough on property developers”.
He went on to say that he believes that more homes should be built in Rochdale and Oldham along with transport links saying that if that happened “people will want to live there”.
Earlier in the launch, Nzeribe said that the £300million being spent on developments in central Manchester and Salford should be spent on surrounding areas.
Although this could provide a boost for two of the UKs most deprived areas, it remained unclear as to how this would halt building on Green sites somewhat exposing the candidate’s lack of experience.
Nzeribe certainly brings an alternative candidacy to the Mayoral race.
He is certainly no career politician and has direct experience in the issues that working people have to deal with, such as an unstable labour market and the welfare system, in their day-to-day lives.
It is clear that Nzeribe cares passionately about the issues facing people and the environment but his lack of experience will certainly make people think twice about trusting him with the Mayorship.
Riding the present wave of discontent against the political establishment might carry Nzeribe and the Green’s further than they otherwise would in this race, but it is highly unlikely that it will take them far enough when they are against more experienced and savvy left wingers such as Andy Burnham.