It was meant to be the biggest shake up of local democracy for a generation – and the centrepiece of efforts to reinvigorate England's great cities for the 21st century.
But yesterday as voters went to the polls in 10 cities to decide if they should be run by directly elected mayors, it looked as if the dream was fading.
Until this week supporters of the scheme, like the former Deputy Prime Minister and current Government advisor Lord Heseltine, had been hopeful of a symbolic "yes" vote at least in Birmingham.
But now even that looks unlikely. We will know for certain this afternoon but supporters are increasingly pessimistic. "It's going to be tight but my guess is it'll be a no," said one. Elsewhere in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle the message is similar: there is no enthusiasm for a new form of leadership at a time when levels of trust in politics are at an all-time low.
Part of the problem is that campaigners for the new mayors are few and far between. Local politicians are opposed, seeing themselves as turkeys campaigning for Christmas.
Voters just see it as one more layer of government that won't do anything to improve their lives.
David Cameron, who supports the plans, says he hopes to instigate a cabinet of mayors – chaired by him – so that cities could be represented at the very top of government.
It looks like they will be sparsely attended meetings.
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