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ChamberlainFiles Regional Awards for Politics – Part Two

ChamberlainFiles Regional Awards for Politics – Part Two

🕔31.Dec 2015

In the second and final part of our end of the year awards, we list – based on an extensive assessment process with a crack team of judges – our political winners of 2015. 

Lifetime Achievement Award: Paul Tilsley

Unbelievably, the Liberal Democrat group leader is approaching his 42nd year as a Birmingham city councillor. It will actually be 48 years in May 2016 since Tilsley was first elected in 1968 – he was off the council from 1982 to 1988. He was deputy council leader in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition from 2004 to 2012, and remains in charge of his somewhat reduced group. As a presence in the council chamber, delivering a well-crafted speech, Tilsley on his day is in a league of his own. It seems unlikely that anyone will beat almost half a century of public service, and Tilsley shows no sign of standing down yet.

Ambitious Politician of the Year: Darren Cooper

The Labour leader of Sandwell council has made little secret of the fact that he’d like to be the West Midlands’ first elected metro mayor in 2017, and he’s already in a good position to grab the job. Burly Cooper is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it took a tough guy who doesn’t take no for an answer to push Birmingham and Solihull into joining the Black Country councils in forming a combined authority. Cooper was rewarded with the vice-chairmanship of WMCA. He would have been chair, but that role went to Tory Bob Sleigh for obvious diplomatic and political reasons. His friendship with deputy Labour leader Tom Watson won’t do any harm, he may, though, face tough competition from another Watson buddy, West Midlands MEP Sion Simon, who is also thought to have an eye on the mayoral role.

Fence Sitter of the Year: Ian Ward

The first four months of 2015 were dominated by strong rumours that Ian Ward, the deputy council leader, would challenge Sir Albert Bore for the leadership in May. He decided not to, explaining later that it wasn’t the right time. Ward may be regretting his indecisiveness. He finally turned in October, refusing Chamberlain Files’ invitation to express his confidence in Sir Albert, but it was too late. Ward came in a miserable third place in the ensuing Labour leadership election and is thought unlikely to last as deputy council leader for too much longer.

U-Turn of the Year: West Midlands Labour

Labour’s regional office is not known for originality or blue sky thinking, so when Sir Albert Bore announced he was going to stand down as Birmingham city council leader Labour’s officials naturally assumed the election to replace him would be a purely private matter for Labour councillors. Nothing to see here. Councillors attended a Labour group meeting, private of course, and came away believing the regional office had banned the leadership candidates from taking part in public hustings. There was some confusion, clearly, because the regional office eventually climbed down following a campaign for openness led by Chamberlain Files and the Birmingham Post and Mail and the hustings were duly held.

Birmingham Personality of the Year: Lord Kerslake

Love it or loathe it, Bob Kerslake’s review of Birmingham city council’s governance capabilities, or incapability as it turned out, set in train a chain of events that will lead to the most significant changes for decades. In little more than a year since the report was published, Birmingham council has lost a leader, been told it must move to all-out elections from 2018, will have 101 rather than 120 councillors, will have council wards redrawn and will continue to answer to an improvement panel. The recommendations set out in the Kerslake Review are acting as a template for the Future Council plan for 2020. Who could have predicted such cataclysmic changes 18 months ago?

Diplomat of the Year: John Crabtree

The chair of the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel required all of his skills built up over many years as one of the city’s highest regarded lawyers to keep the city council on track towards delivering the Kerslake Review governance reforms. Faced by a council leader, Sir Albert Bore, who the panel believed didn’t really understand the culture change required, Crabtree played a patient game behind the scenes, ultimately kept the show on the road, and helped to see off any immediate threat of Government commissioners being sent in despite the chaos of Sir Albert’s last weeks in office.

Council officer of the Year: Mark Rogers

The chief executive of Birmingham city council has been fighting on all fronts since he started the job in March 2014. He’s had to deal with the Trojan Horse scandal, the Kerslake Review and the harshest public spending cuts in the council’s history, as well as coping with a badly split Labour group and uncertainty over who would lead the council going into 2016. Somehow, he found time to play a leading role in getting the West Midlands Combined Authority off the ground and helped broker a devolution deal. He even writes a lively blog and is a regular on Twitter. Rogers has led from the front on the council’s culture change 2020 programme and is increasingly respected at Government level. Should he sort out Birmingham’s problems, a top post in Whitehall surely beckons.

Goodbye of the Year: Sir Albert Bore

The ‘Great Survivor’ no longer runs Birmingham city council. After 16 years as leader of the Labour group and two stints as council leader, Bore was forced to fall on his sword after a majority of cabinet members lost confidence in him and felt he was not the right person to deliver the Kerslake Review reforms. Sir Albert could only watch from the sidelines as his arch enemy John Clancy finally took the crown, although it was a close-run thing.

Politician of the Year: John Clancy

The serial challenger to become Labour leader of Birmingham city council finally succeeded after a decade of failed attempts. Clancy triumphed after Sir Albert Bore stood down, eventually beating Cllr Penny Holbrook by a single vote. Confident predictions from opponents that his administration would be a disaster because Clancy has no experience and has never held a cabinet position or chaired a committee have so far proved to be groundless. As the new leader put it, “the people with experience haven’t done a very good job of running Birmingham have they?”

Chamberlain Files will return on Monday 4th January 2016, starting with a feature interview. Thank you again for your support over the last year. We wish all our visitors – of every political colour and none – a very happy New Year with all good wishes for 2016. 

Pic: John Clancy with wife Rachel minutes after winning the Birmingham Labour Group leadership contest by one vote; Jas Sansi.

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