Sumary of Two Conservative mayors have very different ideas about cities:
- Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, and Ben Houchen, the mayor of Tees Valley, in north-east England, were both businessmen before they became politicians..
- This is not only a matter of two men distinct political styles, or the practical differences between the West Midlands and the Tees Valley..
- The gap between Mr Street and Mr Houchen illustrates the Conservative Party deep confusion about urban areas and their needs..
- The aim is to get a car-dominated, frequently traffic-jammed conurbation moving—and, in effect, to make its workforce bigger..
- Before covid-19 struck, Tom Forth of the Open Data Institute calculated that at peak times only 0.9m people can reach central Birmingham by bus within half an hour..
- The hope was that people like Mr Street, who work with local authorities rather than replacing them, would knock heads together, cajoling local politicians to set aside turf wars and sort out problems affecting all of them..
- The model was Greater Manchester, a conurbation of ten local authorities that had begun to behave like a united metropolis even before it got a regional mayor..
- The general election of 2019 revealed an England divided by population density (see chart), between solidly Labour cities and a uniformly Conservative countryside, with towns as the battleground..
- Even the Labour politician Mr Houchen defeated in 2017, Sue Jeffrey, says that a Conservative mayor has been a boon, given how partisan the distribution of money has become….