1. Governance
November 7, 2014updated 30 Jul 2021 2:45pm

No, Greater Manchester never voted no to a mayor

By Jonn Elledge

Okay, let’s get this straight, because it’s been annoying the hell out of me.

Despite what the Spectator believes, George Osborne has not imposed an elected mayor on Greater Manchester, even though it voted “No” in a referendum in 2012. He really hasn’t. He, quite literally, can’t have. Greater Manchester has never even been asked.   

The referendum in April 2012 was as to whether a mayor should be established for the city of Manchester. That’s just one of the 10 boroughs of the wider urban region that’s just been given a swathe of new powers. And it’s a pretty arbitrary area, excluding Salford (which includes part of the city’s central business district), as well as Old Trafford (which is in the borough of, well, Trafford).

Yes, that result was a fairly narrow but clear “no”:   


But the turnout was terrible: just 24 per cent. There are around 500,000 people living in the borough of Manchester, and around 2.7 million in the metropolitan region as a whole. Just 49,000 voted against a mayor.  

And around the same time, a similar poll conducted by the Manchester Evening News found a (slightly bigger) majority in favour of a mayor across the entire region: 56 percent, as opposed to the 53 per cent that had rejected it. This was obviously just a poll, not a formal vote; but it did at least take into account the entire city.   

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So yes, a tiny number of a much narrower electorate did vote “No” to a different mayor. But  

a) this was for a different mayor entirely – for all we know, many of them voted “No” because they thought a city council mayor would get in the way of creating a metropolis-wide one; and  

b) The number of people who voted in this election was tiny. Here’s a chart showing the results of the 2012 referendum as a share of the region’s actual population.

So, to sum up: a borough that contains only 10 per cent of Greater Manchester’s population narrowly said “no” to a different mayor, on a turnout of 24 per cent. Now, stop whinging and let Manchester enjoy its devolution.

I mean, honestly.


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