By Paul Goodman
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David Cameron's speech on elected Mayors today is timed not so much to help Boris (who the Prime Minister can best help by staying the electoral background) as to make the case for more elected Mayors.
The core of the Prime Minister's case is that elected Mayors increase accountability, boost the economy and decentralise power.
Since the first point is arguable – after all, councillors are also accountable to voters – Mr Cameron deftly rolls it into his second:
"Why are they building the greatest tech university in the world in New York – and not here?
Why are they creating incredible new parks in Chicago – and not Sheffield?
Why have they got a 24/7 one-stop city information line on everything from school closures to marriage licences in Baltimore – and not in Bradford?
In all those cities they’ve got powerful elected Mayors and we don’t.
More accountability means more action, more change, and that’s what we need."
He then returns to America to flesh out his view that elected Mayors will aid economic growth.
"Just last month I met the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker.
He’s had huge success – improving schools, driving down crime, creating jobs.
And when I asked how he did these things, he didn’t say: “President Obama swooped in with some ideas” or “the Federal Government drew up some policies for me”…
…he drew up his own plans, he took matters into his own hands.
Strong leadership can electrify a city.
We see that next door to New Jersey, in New York.
Mike Bloomberg is a powerful national figure in his own right.
When something happens in New York they don’t ask “where is the President?” they ask “where is the Mayor?”
And sticks with the United States as he concludes.
"It’s because of this profile that he can make sure the voice of New York is heard at the top table.
And it’s because there are Mayors like Bloomberg in all major American cities that they’ve got a much better spread of power over there."
Mr Cameron could have cited examples of decentralised power from elsewhere in the world. He didn't. Which is a small sign of the ties that bind us to the Anglosphere – and especially, if city governance is the subject of the day, to America.
After all, who did the Prime Minister originally want to appoint as Met Commissioner last summer? William Bratton, the groundbreaking former Police Commissioner of New York.
Mr Cameron gave his speech in Bristol, presumably because there's a some local political opposition to having an elected Mayor there. Bristol is a long way from Baltimore, and America isn't the U.K.
But an elected Mayoralty has created the conditions, in its rough and ready way, for someone to speak and lead for London. So it could be elsewhere. Elected Mayors are worth a shot.