Within the context of debates regarding depoliticisation, this article considers how the introduction of a directly elected mayor system of governance impacts on urban politics. Directly elected mayors are now a fundamental feature of many political systems. They have been widely introduced as a reform to improve processes of local democracy and the effectiveness of governing practices to offer a more potent form of city leadership. This article focuses on developments in England, by presenting the case of Bristol, a city epitomising many aspects of modern neo-liberalised urban development. Bristol adopted a mayoral system in 2012 and the article presents empirical data from before and after this reform pertaining to two frameworks to understand city leadership. We conclude that the move to mayoral governance, in Bristol in the 2012-16 period, eroded the influence of party politics and led to the adoption of elements of a leadership style associated with a depoliticisation of urban politics in the city. Nevertheless, the analysis suggests that the mayoral model also provides significant space for the expansion of political agency on the part of the city leader, not least because power becomes concentrated in the mayoral position.
- SPS Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research
- city leadership
- directly elected mayors
- local governement