WOULD Durham like its own elected mayor?

Boris Johnson seemed to suggest “county mayors” were on the cards yesterday. Durham, with its new independent-minded administration, should be itching to jump aboard this bandwagon. In terms of profile, it is squeezed between Ben Houchen’s Tees Valley in the south and the city powerhouse that is Newcastle.

Durham has spent years agonising over whether it should be in with the North-East, in with Newcastle, in with Gateshead, in with Sunderland but Mr Johnson – a former mayor himself – has now offered it a possible pathway to a future on its own.

Devolution is a good concept; devolution to the Tees Valley mayor has been a success. Durham, having experienced decades of one party rule and now governed by a curious coalition that was stitched together to get Labour out, may well enjoy the experience of voting directly for a person with a vision and of then holding them to account when, as an example, a dispute over a new headquarters blows up.

Having more strong voices in the region would enable us to demand more local decision-making. Our council leaders have written to the Prime Minister proposing an eminently sensible course of action of keeping masks mandatory in the region which is now the hotspot of the pandemic. Only a powerful figure, like a mayor, though, could impose such a restriction.

Durham’s Tory MPs made a belated splash in trying to coax civil service jobs out of London; will they help Durham be at the forefront of Mr Johnson’s suggested “county mayors”?