It is almost always reassuring to learn that our directly elected political officials are extremely busy and, to no great surprise, Andy Burnham is running late. It is a Friday afternoon and the mayor of Greater Manchester has just been chairing the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) at neo-classical, Grade II-listed Trafford Town Hall, just across the road from the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club. "Apologies," he says, taking a seat and unbuttoning his jacket. "The meeting overran but only in a good way. Let’s talk Manchester."
There is a commendable air of brisk efficiency about Burnham. The 49-year-old Merseysider has already been chief secretary to the Treasury in Gordon Brown’s first cabinet and also secretary of state for culture, media and sport and then health. He stepped down as shadow home secretary in 2016 to become the inaugural "Metro Mayor" of the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan and the cities of Manchester and Salford. "Politics has been too London-centric for too long," he said at the time of his election in May 2017. "Greater Manchester is going to take control."
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