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Bob, Digby and Mike: time, gentlemen, please

Bob, Digby and Mike: time, gentlemen, please

🕔20.Jan 2012

Word reaches us that the Mayoral candidacies of both Mike Whitby and Bob Warman are alive and, erm, well alive anyway.

Meanwhile, Digby (like Madonna and Lulu just one name suffices) is still not quite ruling himself out.

Our prediction?  None of these will make the starting gates. 
For Whitby, surely it’s a contest too far for both the electorate and his party? Many will say “leave on a high, Mike”. (Well, as high as it gets given all political careers end in failure.) “Housing and social services left better than you found them. Council tax kept low. New Street, HS2, runway extension, Library of Birmingham all happening. Take the K or the ermine and let the till ring for a few off the cuff speeches in foreign parts.”
That said, the Tories seem to be no further forward in sorting a candidate, so the (effective) incumbent is well placed to take the ticket.
For veteran broadcaster Bob (rumoured by some to be part-inspiration for Viz magazine’s Roger Mellie off of the Telly), and buisiness darling Digby there would seem to be less chance of appearing on the ballot paper. In their favour, they are known and have lots of people pushing them to stand. Whilst they don’t have organised political machines, they will have access to cash and lots of goodwill. Nobody would doubt their passion for Birmingham.
But, and here is the crux, do either really want the hassle? Political leaders hardly ever maintain popularity. All those budgets, all those people you are responsible for as Mayor. A bunch of councillors making your life difficult because they are not sure of their role. A Westminster government and civil service largely reluctant to hand down more real power.
Yes, you can make speeches, lead trade delegations and even become a figure on the national stage. But then, too, children and old people unhappy in care; roads gridlocked and dustbins not collected. All, organisationally, miles from your desk. But suddenly, all your fault.
Yours. Just yours.
When that old lady in care has been (allegedly) neglected and dies on Saturday evening, do you really want those cameras turning up at your Warwickshire/Worcestershire pile mid-dinner party demanding apology, explanation and even resignation?
Broadcasting successfully to millions for more than 30 years or becoming one of the most recognisable and quoted business advisers in the country are achievements of which to be proud. But politics is a very tough profession – for profession is what it is. Strong identities and even good ideas will count for nothing in the face of events, “dear boy”, and the momentary wrong reaction.
The dawn of the first elected mayor of Birmingham is an opportunity for a new breed of political leader to step forward. But we need more than just recognisable faces who have been flattered into running. We need candidates with credible plans with the promise of delivering more for council tax and business rate payers than technically the powers afford.

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