Our 6 Metro Mayors have big ideas. They want to make politics more relevant to people who feel disconnected. They want to do things differently, take control and drive growth in areas where so many people feel left behind.
The rocky road to a Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine have lost some on the way and found others arguing about which way to turn, but in a post-Brexit world English devolution is the nettle which needs to be grasped and provides a solution for a Government who desperately needs to give back control and deliver economic growth and opportunity.
Our Metro Mayors are making good progress and their presence is being felt. Their hard powers combined with their ability to collaborate, convene and work with colleagues in local government and the private and voluntary sectors provides for a new opportunity to engage, influence and campaign. It's not all about Brexit-obsessed Westminster.
Now more than ever we need to rebalance our economy, achieve wealth, generate skills, secure infrastructure investment, fight for greater connectivity and realise inclusive growth and social mobility in those ‘left behind' areas outside the M25.
Now is the time for the public affairs professionals to rethink their communications approach and seek to influence British politics through a different lens. Communications and engagement must stop being so Westminster-centric. It is time to seize the day and work with the new and emerging centres of power and influence on the ground.
There is a new dawn of collaboration and cooperation where Metro Mayors, civic and business leaders, public and private partners and the voluntary sector work together to effect real change which is relevant and in tune with what people want. In Greater Manchester there is real feeling that things can be done differently because they have a Metro Mayor who has a mandate to influence the agenda and who wants to improve life chances for all Mancunians.
There are some Devo-sceptics who say Metro Mayors don’t have sufficient power, funding or scope to make a difference to the communities they represent. The same voices of dissent were heard when Ken Livingstone was elected the first London Mayor but no one now questions the huge influence possessed by Sadiq Khan.
Mark my words, the scale of ambition outside London needs to be communicated and that voice will get louder with greater devolution and control will follow. We are already hearing a stronger pan-Northern political voice making the case for education and skills, greater transport investment, connectivity and infrastructure outside of London.
The Northern Powerhouse APPG, for which DevoConnect act as the secretariat, will launch the Northern Powerhouse Rail campaign next week with the support of Northern Metro Mayor's, Council leaders, Members of Parliament and business leaders joining together to make the case for rail investment across the North. This is big stuff: devolution is the solution, providing a new and powerful way to influence. Don’t get left behind.