IT was in one of his first and rather dry items of business as First Citizen of Bolton — calling on councillors to approve amendments to the constitution of the council — that we learned what kind of mayor Cllr Guy Harkin will make.

One of the more outspoken members of Bolton Council in years past, observers might have wondered whether the politically neutral and strictly civic position of Mayor of Bolton might stifle Cllr Harkin’s free speech.

But we quickly found out, at his inauguration yesterday, that there will be no such worries. It was only a small aside — a wry joke referring to one of his own party members as “Cllr Tweedledee” — but it was enough to let everyone know that the voice of the former president of the Oxford Union would continue to be heard loud and clear in his year in office.

Earlier, the staunch Labour man, accepting the honour of being named the new Mayor of Bolton and speaking of the council’s failed city bid earlier this year, said: “I am far prouder to be Mayor of Britain’s friendliest town, than I would have been to be mayor of the country’s newest city.”

He announced his chosen charities would be Bolton Lads and Girls Club, Bolton Hospice and the Alzheimer's Society, and that his theme would be to celebrate Bolton’s proud history of welcoming immigrants.

In a highly entertaining speech proposing the new mayor, political adversary, Tory councillor Phil Ashcroft, mentioned his own and Cllr Harkin’s fondness for a pint (“it is not true that he holds his surgeries in the pub”), his love of his holiday home (“he does more casework in Cyprus than in Crompton”), and made mention of one of his more controversial policies — to rename the town Bolton Le Moors.

He said: “I may not always agree with everything he says but he is an outstanding orator.

“When he speaks, he does so with passion and belief.”

Cllr Ashcroft finished by recalling the advice Cllr Harkin had given to him when he first became a councillor.

“It is better to be unpopular and right,” he had told him, “than popular and wrong.”

Expect Cllr Harkin to stick to those words in his year as mayor.