[The North East and the Tees Valley are to each have a directly-elected mayor from 2017, Chancellor George Osborne has announced, supposedly giving regional figureheads power over transport, strategic planning and employment.]
Our very own talent contest is on its way. How exciting is that?
A very posh man from London has visited us and promises to give us lots of money if we promise to appoint a Mayor who will lead us wisely into the Northern Powerhouse.
A new leader, a supreme leader! Who will he be? I say ‘he’ because, sadly, the possibility of a woman leader is pretty remote.
I was impressed by the picture of the magnificent seven, our political leaders, monarchs of their political fiefdoms. Who will be the first amongst equals? Be in no doubt that their candidates have already been considered if not already selected. Our politicians have guided our progress for many years. They have witnessed the North-South divide increase beyond belief. They have witnessed the destruction of our industries and manufacturing. They have bemoaned the lack of funding to the area. It was always someone else’s fault.
Forgive me, then, if I suggest that we look beyond the political establishment for our new leader. If, like me, you read the regional business news you cannot fail but to be impressed by the number of successful leaders in business, research, technology, medicine, education and the Arts. It is from this group of high achieving North East residents that we should be looking for our new leader.
Who would want the job? There are so many complex issues within our beautiful, wonderful North East: for example, we have some of the best restaurants in the country on the one hand and food banks on the other; a quarter of our workforce earns less than a living wage; we have some amazing schools but over 40% of our children are deemed disadvantaged as they set off on their educational journey.
Only this week we were dealt the blow that not even our NECA ????????? with a combination of seven local authorities could gain backing to publically control our local transport. What challenges we face!
Perhaps devolution and Chancellor O’s money will accelerate our attack on these problems but only if it is well managed and carefully guided. All hail, our new Mayor!
Allow me to list his (or her!) essential qualities as I see them:
- Must be one of us
- Must be passionate about the North East
- Must be an acknowledged leader with proven success in his field
- Must have acknowledged business acumen
- Must mentor, develop and retain the talent we have in the region
- Must be totally free of political shackles
Like most of you I will have no part in this selection or shortlisting process, but on your behalf I would love to know:
- Who will compile the shortlist?
- Who will interview the candidates?
- Who will ultimately appoint our new leader?
Whoever these luminaries are, may I suggest the ultimate test for candidates? Whoever can sing, without hesitation, the first two verses of Cushy Butterfield, Blaydon Races and The Lambton Worm is the man – or woman – for the job. Any nominations?