Harold Wilson famously said a week is a long time in politics – but my first week as Mayor has been all too short. It’s flashed past in a blur of facts and faces, media interviews, meet-and-greets, and the truly exciting detail of planning action for change with my new colleagues in public service at the Combined Authority.
First impressions? I’m over the moon with the warmth of my reception into the Combined Authority family. I wanted a smooth transfer of agendas following the election and we’ve got it. There’s a hunger to bring about quick but lasting improvements for people across the whole of Cambridgeshire and an eagerness to underpin all our work with my 3Cs – Compassion, Co-operation, and Community.
Of course, ‘the 3Cs’ is a handy slogan but it’s far more than that. It’s my belief, the bedrock of everything that I want for this county. For starters, I’m a children’s doctor with a vocation to care for the wellbeing of young and vulnerable lives, our county’s future citizens. And now, as Mayor, I can do my bit to invest in the future they’ll inhabit.
That’s why I talk about public health because it’s the thread that must run through everything we do. In this Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m all too conscious that people’s living conditions dominate their all-round wellbeing, so putting better transport and more social or affordable homes within their reach is a must.
It’s a big responsibility, and not one to shoulder alone. Whatever our walk of life, don’t we mostly achieve good results through partnership, negotiation, co-operation, collaboration? By putting our heads together and pooling our talents and creativity to get the best possible outcome?
That’s what I’m after – better politics and compassion-driven co-operation to benefit the community. Our community. Because the powerhouse cities of Peterborough and Cambridge, the cockleshell city of Ely, the historic market towns, the villages, hamlets, and far-flung dwellings in between, are all unique parts of one Cambridgeshire community, the greater Cambridgeshire that embraces us all.
Which brings me, of course, to football. If you want a cipher for community, just look at Peterborough United and Cambridge United. Great teams – even for this North-Eastern Magpie off his home ground! – and I’d love that spirit of community to spread and gather everyone in with real inclusivity.
The ‘U’s’ and Posh got their promotion just as I got to Mayor – but, because of Covid, it wasn’t in front of joyful fans. The Covid lockdowns have denied us sport, religious, cultural and recreational activities of every sort – Eid celebrations this week but also faith gatherings and services, exhibitions, theatre and cinema, festivals, gigs and concerts, charity fundraisers, talks, clubs, food fairs, you name it, we’ve missed it – and I’m committed to pump the oxygen in and help our regional culture spring back to life.
So that was the week that was. This is going to be a time of fresh thinking and starting the vital cooperation with the councils. I’m raring to get stuck into Week Two as Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough – or should that be skipper of Cambridgeshire United?