The build-up to Birmingham's elected mayor referendum has begun in earnest as the clock ticks down towards May 3.
In the last week we have seen Lords Heseltine and Adonis grace us with their wisdom, again at the University of Birmingham and Sion Simon has jumped the gun by almost publishing a manifesto for the job which does not yet exist.
Meanwhile the Yes and No campaigns have been busy putting their messages to coffee shop customers, business meetings and community groups.
With eight weeks to go until the poll things are certainly hotting up.
But one question which has come to the fore is the extent of powers to be devolved to the proposed new mayor.
Labour council leader and would-be mayor Sir Albert Bore hit the proverbial nail on the head when he said: “The Government should come clean about what powers are on offer. If they are no more than the current council leader they risk losing the referendum to a no vote.”
And Heseltine let slip that the biggest battle faced by any mayor is not going to be the party selection or election, but the tug-of-war with Whitehall over the powers to be devolved.
He admitted there is currently a ‘huge battle’ going on as ministers and senior civil servants in various Government departments struggle to keep a tight reign over their budgets as pressure for devolution builds up.
Budgets and responsibility for housing, transport, welfare, planning, regeneration and trade and industry are all battle grounds.
This does have a knock on effect for the ‘yes’ campaign, as without extra funding, it is easy for opponent to dismiss the mayor as another unnecessary and costly tier of local Government.
Selling informal power and influence is much harder.
In fact, selling the elected mayor referendum to the broader public is tricky full stop. In Salford’s English Democrat inspired poll recently there was a pitiful 17 per cent turnout.
It is hoped that Birmingham can muster more enthusiasm than that and holding the vote at the same time as the local council election should help.
Even leading mayoral advocate and self-appointed front-runner Sion Simon says that no-one on the doorsteps is interested in powers, constitutional questions and just how many councillors can overturn a mayoral budget.
This is why, the former MP explains, he decided to launch his ten point plan, which appears to be sponsored by Island Patties. It may be a little presumptive as the city has yet to agree to have a mayor and Labour has yet to choose candidate.
But he says that the single biggest question from the public is ‘‘what will a mayor do for me and my family?’’
He therefore needs to set out some policy pledges to liven up the debate – 30,000 jobs (although the LEP is delivering many of these with or without a mayor), zero-tolerance for failing schools, improvements in death rates, reversing police cuts, building 20,000 houses and making the buses and trains run on time. He will even insist that the public sector buys Brummie first and if not buys British.
The problem with all this goes back to our starting point – he may not have the power or money to deliver.
On a webchat he said that the budgets was costed and he would go into detail after the referendum.
In another statement he said that funding for a jobs funds and support for small businesses would come from securing Birmingham’s share of the Department for Trade and Industry budget.
He also wants the land assets formerly owned by Advantage West Midlands and Birmingham’s share of the regional transport authority budget and powers to deliver his budget.
So the Whitehall battle on which Lord Heseltine cast some light could be crucial in whether or not Sion Simon or any future mayor could deliver on their election pledge.
Which is why Sir Albert was right, the Government must settle its differences and make a clear statement on mayoral powers, well before May 3.
Another diverting little row from the referendum battle has been over whether a person who has campaigned against an elected mayor should then stand for the post.
In Birmingham this generally refers to Yardley MP John Hemming who is now leading his second anti-mayor campaign.
The idea that he should not go for the job if things don’t go his way in May is ridiculous. Politicians have to work within the system they are presented with.
There is also a strong tradition of anti-mayor Lib Dems doing this. Watford elected Dorothy Thornhill three times, even though she campaigned against the job.
In Liverpool former council leader Richard Kemp is standing despite his opposition and clear anger that they did not even hold a referendum.
Whether or not he will win and whether or not his rivals exploit this lack of faith in the role is another matter.
To put it another way, no one suggests Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband should resign from Parliament because they are opposed to the first past the post electoral system.
And no one suggests that UKIP should not have members of the European Parliament even though they would like Britain to withdraw.
So why should we get hung up about no campaigners becoming mayor?