Gordon Brown to meet Labour mayors in England for constitutional review

Sienna Rodgers

Labour’s regional mayors in England have released a joint statement ahead of their meeting with Gordon Brown on Monday that will mark the start of the work being undertaken by the party’s constitutional commission.

Sheffield City Region’s Dan Jarvis, North of Tyne’s Jamie Driscoll, Liverpool City Region’s Steve Rotheram, London’s Sadiq Khan and Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham, plus combined authority chair Susan Hinchliffe, will attend.

Before the first ‘evidence’ session of the commission with the former Labour Prime Minister, the regional representatives have stressed the importance of the project and of English devolution to the country’s future.

Brown, who is heading Starmer’s constitutional review, will bring together the Labour leaders of devolved metropolitan regions. The commission will explore “the next phase of devolution” to be proposed by Labour.

Launching the project in late December, Starmer said Labour council leaders, mayors and metro mayors had “stood up for their communities against a centralised ‘Westminster-knows-best’ response” during the Covid crisis.

He criticised the UK government for a tendency to “pit council against council, town against town, city against city, mayor against mayor” and said many local leaders had “felt distanced and ignored on decisions”.

The Labour leader said: “This will be the boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation and every bit as bold and radical as the programme of devolution that Labour delivered in the 1990s and 2000s.”

South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis has today described the commission as a “significant step on the road to a better, more democratic UK” that will address the country’s “over-centralised, under-responsive political system”.

He added that the process of “remaking” the UK will “never be finally complete” but “in the face of our growing divisions” it is right to “sit down and find a way to fix them” and the commission will contribute to a national conversation.

The 3.30pm meeting on Monday is taking place as part of preparations for the launch of Labour’s constitutional commission. The regional representatives are expected to release another joint statement after the afternoon gathering.

Below is the full text of the joint statement by those set to take part in the meeting.

“We are very pleased to be meeting with Gordon Brown today (8 February) as part of his preparations for the launch of the Labour Party’s constitutional commission. This is a critical project for the future of our party and our country.

“As leaders of devolved metropolitan regions within England, our message is that the status quo is broken, and the demand for reform cuts across the country. Almost 80% of people throughout the UK believe our political system needs improvement, a record high; only 15% have trust in government, a record low. Change is not only needed: it is unavoidable.

“That demand was visible in December 2020, we signed a cross-party letter along with 40 English local authority leaders calling for substantive constitutional reform. In that letter we highlighted the deep weaknesses in English devolution, which make the UK more centralised than any other comparable country. That problem is inextricable from the wider challenge of the relations between our family of nations. Stronger devolution within England must be an integral part of creating a better Britain that brings power closer to the people and helps us all take back control.

“We look forward to collaborating with Gordon and the Commission as we seek to build a better, more democratic, more empowered Britain of nations and regions. Meanwhile, we look forward to working side by side with our counterparts in Scotland and throughout the country to more effectively fight our common threats of mass unemployment and economic disruption – and to build a fairer and more sustainable society as we emerge from this pandemic.”

Dan Jarvis – Mayor of Sheffield City Region
Jamie Driscoll – Mayor of North of Tyne
Steve Rotheram – Mayor of Liverpool City Region
Sadiq Khan – Mayor of London
Andy Burnham – Mayor of Greater Manchester
Susan Hinchliffe – Chair, West Yorkshire Combined Authority

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