Until we diversify where and how decisions are made, we’ll never see any real progress, says Jamie Driscoll. And Tony Maynard-Smith speaks up for Caroline Lucas
Greater Independence of Metro Mayors
Martin Kettle’s article on independent political voices hits some key points, but is Westminster-focused (In our polarised politics, there are no truly independent MPs – and Westminster is poorer for it, 10 August). England’s metro mayors display a greater degree of independence than MPs. Andy Street has been critical of the Conservative government. Both Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan have pursued policies at odds with the leader of the opposition. Keir Starmer has openly attacked both of them as a result. Unlike MPs or councillors, mayors are not subject to a whip. And Sir Keir, it seems, does not like their independence.
The Independence of the Mayor of the North of Tyne
I am the independent metro mayor of the North of Tyne. It was independent behaviour that painted a target on my back and led the Labour party to block me. I do not fit the media label of a Corbynista – I’m noted for working cross-party and landing the best funded devolution deal in England. For setting up a venture capital fund and landing inward investment on the one hand, while working well with trade unions and the voluntary sector on the other. Strong on climate action, but great on taxpayer value for money. Tories, Liberal Democrats and independents openly praised my work and pragmatic approach long before Labour blocked me.
Adversarial Nature of Westminster
I could never have achieved this inclusive consensus in Westminster, which is set up to be adversarial. Nor with Labour’s attempt at north-east devolution in 2004, which was to be a regional assembly elected on party lists.
The Need for Diversifying Decision-Making
The debate about electoral reform focuses almost exclusively on PR for Westminster, which is necessary but not sufficient. Until we diversify where and how decisions are made, we’ll never see innovations tried and tested, or see any real progress that is not tied to the five-year parliamentary cycle.
Mayor of the North of Tyne
Request to Mention Caroline Lucas
• In his piece on independent MPs, Martin Kettle does not include Caroline Lucas. While not politically independent, surely she is sufficiently alone in parliament, and independently minded enough, to deserve an honourable mention?