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Battle to replace Bore looks like two-horse race between Ward and Clancy

Battle to replace Bore looks like two-horse race between Ward and Clancy

🕔14.Oct 2015

The contest for the leadership of Birmingham city council will probably boil down to a two-horse race between the current deputy, Ian Ward, and backbencher John Clancy, writes Paul Dale.

Clancy is expected to be first out of the starting blocks in the race to replace Sir Albert Bore, whose decision to resign was announced yesterday.

Councillor Clancy has been a perennial thorn in Sir Albert’s side, challenging him unsuccessfully for the leadership three times, and on each occasion picking up support but never enough to win.

He has the advantage of a pre-prepared manifesto which has been fine-tuned since 2012.

Cllr Clancy was careful today to pay tribute to Sir Albert as “a colossus in Birmingham politics during my lifetime”, but went on to admit the two had not always “seen eye to eye on things”.

He added:

I have tried to ensure these differences have been always about policy and direction, not personality. I wish Sir Albert all best wishes for the future.

Cllr Clancy is thought likely to offer a “return to basic working class Labour values” and has made no secret in the past of his frustration at the council seemingly concentrating on city centre regeneration and retail development at the expense of the poorer inner city and suburban areas.

His 2014 leadership manifesto included a promise to build 16,000 new houses by 2018 and to give a free daily hot meal to all infant and primary school children.

He also promised to rip up the council’s current spending plans and draw up a new budget from scratch “paying only for what is really needed and eliminating wasteful spending”.

Clancy has been at the forefront of policy development, in particular exposing the administrative cost of local government pension funds. His proposal that scores of wasteful funds should be rolled into four or five funds and the billions of pounds in investments used to bankroll economic regeneration and house building has, ironically, become Conservative party policy.

Last week Clancy issued a statement warning that Birmingham city council was in danger of being taken over by Government commissioners because the Kerslake governance reforms and culture change were not being delivered.

He said then:

I shall shortly offer my vision and fresh policy programme for the city based on Labour principles where every child, every citizen and every place matters. And where every business matters too, not just some.

We must now offer radical change and bring fresh hope under Labour to this city’s children, its families, citizens old and young, and its businesses and partners. I encourage others to do the same.

Councillor Ward is yet to declare, but friends believe it is inevitable that he will stand for the council leadership, and may start off as favourite.

The new leader will be elected in a secret ballot at a Labour group meeting and formally appointed at the December council meeting.

Just as interestingly, a new deputy leader will be required if Ward takes the leadership. The problem here is that if Cllr Ward fails to resign as deputy leader in advance of the leadership election, Birmingham may have to wait for another month before a deputy leadership election can be arranged at a further Labour group meeting.

If Cllr Ward does resign as deputy in order to stand for leader, both the leader and deputy leader positions can be contested at one meeting of Labour councillors. That would clearly raise the probability of Cllr Clancy entering the contest with a running mate for deputy, and of several other candidates coming forward for the deputy position.

Cllr Ward’s refusal three days ago to publicly declare his confidence in Sir Albert may have hastened the council leader’s departure. However, Ward did issue fulsome praise after his boss’s resignation had been announced:

Sir Albert Bore has made a huge contribution to Birmingham.  His drive, enthusiasm and commitment have changed the shape of the city to the benefit of Birmingham citizens.  He has been an inspirational leader.

I have worked closely with him for over 15 years and have learnt a great deal from his selfless dedication to public service.  I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

He has always put Birmingham and its people first and whilst I personally am sad that he will be stepping down as Leader of the Council, it is typical of Albert that he has reached this decision by placing the interests of the city ahead of himself.

Labour insiders continue to insist that votes from the group’s Muslim councillors are critical in determining who the new leader will be. Although there has been scant evidence in the past of any organised ‘block vote’, it was widely assumed for years that Sir Albert owed his position to support from Asian councillors.

A senior Labour figure told Chamberlain Files he expected Muslim councillors to get behind Cllr Ward, in a move that would make it very difficult for Cllr Clancy to win.

The possibility of other contenders cannot be excluded.

Supporters of a cabinet member have been openly canvassing colleagues for several days.

It is also suggested that a senior ‘unity’ figure might stand and names mentioned include veteran Ladywood councillor Carl Rice and former Labour chief whip and Lord Mayor Mike Leddy.

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