Mayors make a mockery of our local democracy

Patrick Ainley  Guardian letter May 7th 2012      

Your extensive coverage of last week’s near unanimous rejection of elected city mayors in local referendums (Editorial, 5 May) missed the point made by Peter Latham in his authoritative book, The State and Local Government: “US-style directly elected mayors with cabinets are the optimal internal management arrangement for privatised local government services.” As in the nationalised industries privatised by Thatcher, and now in what remain of the public services marketised by New Labour for privatisation by the coalition, not directly providing services absolves government of responsibility and reduces representative democracy to occasional plebiscites on which overpaid executive awards tenders at the lowest price for the greatest profit to private contractors. The result: politicians indistinguishable save for “personalities” like Boris, who presage British Berlusconi-ism.

The majority of those who voted in the referendums last Thursday saw through this ruse and ensured that – as Zoe Williams wrote (5 May) – “Mayors are toast, long live the councillors”.

Professor Patrick Ainley
University of Greenwich

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