Lisa Nandy sets out her ideal vision of devolution at the Manchester Literature Festival

Lisa Nandy MP talked about devolution, Manchester and the cities-town divide when introducing her new book at the Manchester Literature Festival.

In All In: How We Build a Country That Works the Shadow Minister for International Development sets out her plan of how the UK would ideally function.

At the talk on 19 October she mentioned a move towards more power to devolved governments and increased diversity in politics.

Critical of current devolution in the UK, she said: “This government is not real devolution.

“It is disrespectful to our leader.”

The Wigan MP was formerly the Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up for two years, and she talked about how Manchester has benefited from Levelling Up.

She pointed to the Bee Network and how the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, brought buses back into public control after 40 years.

Nandy said: “It has been game-changing to see those yellow buses buzzing around Wigan.”

She maintained that this was proof of how devolution helps deliver specific projects, catered to those areas.

“The current UK government looks at the railway as the main method of public transport,” she said.

But 80% of Mancunians use buses rather than trains.

This to Nandy is evidence of why devolution is needed – but her ideal vision of GM is still far away.

Currently, Burnham has to approach the UK treasury for decisions regarding Greater Manchester.

In a conversation after the talk, Nandy admitted to wanting this to be change.

She said: “The local people care a lot about how the city is run.

“They should be given greater control over it, rather than having Whitehall approve all of its decisions.”

She added that locals know what is best for them, and they do not need someone in the centre dictating solutions to their problems.

However, adding more power and removing the treasury is just the start of the solution for Nandy.

There are two other problems to solve for ‘a country that works’ – male domination in politics and city-centric approaches.

Greater Manchester has 59% male councillors as opposed to 41% female councillors.

This number sees a sharp rise when you look at the members of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority – which is made up of leaders of each GM council.

Only a quarter of the members of GMCA are women.

Given that this committee has the executive power over GM, this would mean there are three times more men than women leading GM’s future.

Percentage of men and women leading politics in the UK and Manchester | Source: Institute for Government and GMCA.

Lisa Nandy criticised this reality, saying: “I do not want to see power move from men in Whitehall to men in the town hall.”

Greater representation of female politicians in the UK is a must, as without it Nandy believes people will not feel heard.

The second issue she mentions is city-centric approaches.

GM has 10 boroughs, only two of which are cities – Manchester and Salford.

These two dominate how GM is shaped, and where its future is headed.

The shadow minister wants to bring more power to smaller boroughs including hers – Wigan.

During this criticism, she remained complimentary of Burnham’s decision to introduce the Bee Network to Wigan, Bolton and Bury first.

The Bee Network for her has gone a great way to promote connectivity across GM, and seeing the ‘smaller’ boroughs access it first will help stimulate their economies.

Finally, she was asked about the age-old conundrum of Keir Starmer or Andy Burnham.

The shadow minister made it a point to say that both are great leaders, with differing personalities and ways of leading politics.

She said: “There are some key differences between them, like Andy will be much more open and outspoke, and Keir is much more silent.

“But both of them want what’s best for the people they represent.”

However, she admitted that Burnham stands as the more popular of the two.

The popularity of Burnham over Starmer has been a ever-present debate in the media.

Nandy believes that Burnham’s position as mayor explains why this is the case, as he is able to talk more directly to the people who he represents.

She added: “Mayors will always be more popular because they can talk to the people quickly and really listen to them.

“Which brings me back to my main argument – the increasing need for devolution.”

The Manchester Literature Festival will be hosting “bookend” events, including interviews with Doon Mackichan and Naomi Alderman, towards the end of November. More information could be found here.

Lisa Nandy sets out her ideal vision of devolution

Photo: Richard Townsend @ Wikimedia Commons

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