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Chamber POTY – Sion Simon, nominated by Marc Reeves

Chamber POTY – Sion Simon, nominated by Marc Reeves

🕔19.Dec 2012

If only . . .  Birmingham voters had been persuaded of the case for an elected mayor to run the city, the Chamber POTY award as well as the role itself could have been a shoe-in for Sion Simon.

The former Labour MP for Erdington famously gave up his seat – and a ministerial post – to campaign for a job that didn’t even exist, then spent the next two years campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote in the mayoral referendum and to win the Labour candidacy for the position.

Portrayed at first as a crazed obsessive, he was soon joined in the battle for the Labour ticket by such heavyweights as Sir Albert Bore and former Treasury minister Liam Byrne, the Hodge Hill MP. But electoral antipathy and a bafflingly absent Government information campaign strangled the idea on May 4 this year.

Who else has been nominated for a Chamber POTY? Find out here.

But look beyond Simon’s failure to turn his home city into a mayor-led metropolis, and it’s clear that his efforts (and those of other campaigners such as Julia Higginbottom) have changed forever the nature of political discourse and activism in Birmingham.

A band of previously non-political activists were mobilised to try to effect the change the mayoral idea promised, and established politicians were forced either to defend the status quo – or become part of the movement for change.

Of course, that chameleon-like local government survivor, Sir Albert Bore (also nominated for a POTY) rode both horses at once, and emerged the overall winner when the dust settled. But the very fact that he has demonstrated a new leadership style that both opponents and supporters have labelled ‘mayoral’ is testament to a lasting change in the city for which Simon can take huge credit, despite not winning the big prize himself.

So what’s next for the boy from Handsworth Wood? Simon is looking increasingly likely to turn up as a Labour candidate in the European elections in 2014, and if succesful, will return to office in a role that is about as far away in terms of scale and geography as it’s possible to get from Birmingham’s putative mayoralty. And who could blame him?

 

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