Metro mayors

Following one of the UK’s largest sets of local and devolved elections in May 2021, the IPPR considers the role of metro mayors in the north of England. The author sets out that three in five people in the north of England live in a mayoral combined authority area. These are: Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, North of Tyne, South Yorkshire, Tees Valley, and West Yorkshire. They have a combined economy of £227 billion GVA (gross value added) annually—larger than the combined economies of Scotland and Wales.

The author goes on to set out the budgets and powers of each mayoral combined authority, which can vary greatly. Greater Manchester has the largest budget at £1,827 million for 2021/22, compared to North of Tyne with the smallest budget of £228 million for the same year. He notes the metro mayors in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and South Yorkshire have the greatest number of powers, covering areas including transport, skills and employment, and land and housing.

The report assesses mayors’ abilities to govern effectively within the current local devolution framework. The author states that they are “leading the north into a new era”, but acknowledges the hurdles to their activity; the limits of their powers; the pandemic; and an “unwieldy” levelling up agenda overseen by the Government. He concludes that:

  • Metro mayors’ powers are limited but significant.
  • They have stretched their role to above that originally conceived.
  • Their ambitions have grown but these have been “held back” by central government.

Read the full article: Marcus Johns, Northern Mayors: 100 Days of a New Term, Institute for Public Policy Research, August 2021

Representation in Parliament

This study, conducted by researchers from universities in Switzerland and the USA, considers the political conditions which affect male MPs’ willingness to represent women’s interests in Parliament. Their initial hypothesis was that male MPs would not face negativity if they did not represent women’s interests, but they may gain additional credit for doing so.

As part of the study, the researchers analysed early day motions (EDMs) tabled in the House of Commons before general elections from 2001 to 2015. The researchers identified 103 EDMs with a women-specific concern. These received a total of 5,055 signatures from MPs. Of these, they found that female MPs proposed slightly more women-specific EDMs (52), but that male MPs were more likely to sign such EDMs (3,982 signatures came from male MPs). They then looked at the vote margin of victory in the prior election to account for an MP’s electoral vulnerability.

The researchers concluded that male MPs do represent women’s interest in Parliament, but they are more likely to if their re-election security is low. They also found that female MPs are more likely to introduce their own EDMs on a women’s issue, but that male MPs are more likely to engage in “low-cost” activities by signing already-tabled EDMs.

The study also found that female MPs’ behaviour in this area is affected by their electoral vulnerability. However, the researchers believe that male and female MPs may have different reasons for adapting their behaviour: men want to gain additional votes, whereas women do not want to lose votes.

Read the full article: Daniel Hӧhmann and Mary Nugent, Male MPs, Electoral Vulnerability and the Substantive Representation of Women’s Interests, European Journal of Political Research, 2021