Rivalries recede as the devolution deals are done

By Paul Brand, ITV Political Correspondent

Imagine trying to persuade twelve of your friends to agree on politics. Hard enough, right? Then, get those twelve friends to agree with their shared sworn enemy. Pretty much impossible, no?

Well that's effectively what's been achieved in the North East today. Twelve Labour councils, each with their own interests and ideas, coming together to shake hands with a Tory government. While disagreement and debate still lingers, we shouldn't lose sight of how massive these two deals are.

They've taken a good year of negotiations. While Manchester got its act together last November to sign off a devolution deal, councils in our part of the north struggled to swallow the demand of elected mayors. There were concerns, for example, about how one mayor for the North East combined authority would represent everywhere from Berwick to Barnard Castle. Others complained about an extra layer of politics which voters in our region have rejected in the past.

Then there were the conspiracy theories. Was the government secretly hoping these mayors would turn out to be Tory? After all, a largely Labour London managed to elect Boris. Could the Conservatives finally crack the near one-party state that is the North East?

But ultimately, those concerns have been parked for now. Sources tell me our councils didn't want to fall behind other regions - better to catch a bumpy ride than to miss the train altogether. So, subject to a little public consultation and some small print, the deals are done. Two years to elect two new mayors - I hope you're ready for the next round of politics.