A HEADSTRONG Conservative mayor trying to work in partnership with Labour council chiefs wary of losing their influence was always likely to end in tears, wasn’t it? 

When the Tees Valley Combined Authority was set up in April 2016 the five local council leaders talked about setting aside differences to work for the greater good. Even the election of a Tory mayor a year later, who had his own agenda and objectives, wouldn’t upset this experiment in consensus politics, we were told.

But self-interest, party-loyalties, and egos got in the way.  

The issue which lit the blue touch paper is cash for Durham Tees Valley Airport. But this is a battle about much more fundamental issues, such as who holds the purse strings and who calls the shots in Tees Valley.  

In today’s unseemly war of words, from which neither side emerged with much credit, mayor Ben Houchen was labelled a ‘dictator’ while he accused Labour council chiefs of being “in cahoots with Peel Airports”. Enmities which have bubbling away for months boiled over and it’s hard to see how the combined authority and mayor get back on track. Will they kiss and make up? It doesn't look likely anytime soon. 

The row erupted on the day when a literacy report revealed life expectancy for youngsters growing up in Stockton could be up to 26 years less than in Oxford. Clearly there are big social issues to tackle across Tees Valley. It is up for debate if bringing the airport into public ownership or securing protected status for parmos – two of Mr Houchen’s election pledges – should be priority issues right now.

It is also worth asking if the council leaders deliberately used the issue of how cash is allocated to for the airport to flex their muscles and show the mayor they won't let him make all of the big decisions?

There appears to have been posturing on both sides. Meanwhile we have a region crying out for political leaders who can help tackle inequality, poverty and deprivation. 

One thing we should all be able to agree on is that petty bickering will get us nowhere.