Thanks to Dave Walsh and Jenny for pointing out to me that the residents of Stoke-on-Trent have voted decisively to ditch the office of elected Mayor.
Stoke uniquely chose to plump for an "Elected Mayor and Council Manager" system back in May 2002. By common consent the experiment has been a disaster, and Stoke has the unenviable reputation of being a political basket case (it's the town where the BNP have 9 councillors, after all). The BNP were setting great store by their plan to win the Mayoral election in 2011, which thankfully has come to nothing. There's a no-holds barred piece by Patrick Barkham in the Guardian on Stoke politics here.
So where does this leave the elected Mayor movement? You might have thought in the can. After all, in the 9 Mayoral referenda held around the country since the heyday of the movement in May 2002, 8 have resulted in "No" votes (including Darlington last September).
In all, there have 37 referenda, with only 12 districts voting for an elected mayor (and now one of those has recanted). Elected Mayors have proved deeply controversial, introducing American-style politics into English local government - Stoke is the most prominent reverse to date, but there has also been a groundswell of opinion against concentrating power into the hands of a single individual in Lewisham, Doncaster and Mansfield too, which all voted "Yes" back in 2001.
It's a shame then that despite the consistently-expressed views of local residents, the barking boffins at the New Local Government Network (who are the sole cheerleadres for the idea) retain influence at Westminster. To be fair to the Government, they have acknowledged some of the deficiencies of the current scheme, and promised to create more of a level playing field, allowing a way back for towns like Stoke.
There remains one party alone wedded to this crackers policy - and that's the Tories. For reasons I can't begin to fathom, David Cameron has promised to impose elected Mayors on big cities with no local consultation. Like a lot of Conservative policy, this has received little nationwide attention to date, but this will change in the run-up to the next General Election.
At the Local Government Conference, even Tories were booing 'Dave' when he insisted on sticking to the policy. After Stoke, maybe it's time for him to reconsider.