Clancy comes in from the cold in ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ power shift moment
Today’s handover of power at the top of Birmingham city council from Sir Albert Bore to John Clancy is taking on something of a cold war atmosphere. You know an exchange is going to happen – it’s got to happen – but the event has to be choreographed so that neither side loses face, writes Paul Dale.
Clancy’s Checkpoint Charlie moment will come at about 4.30pm when Sir Albert is due to rise in the council chamber to issue a statement. He will announce his resignation as council leader, and Clancy will take over the reins of power.
At 5pm, Clancy will gain access to the council leader’s suite of offices. It may even be the first time he will have been there since he stormed through the doors a decade ago to tell Sir Albert he had lost the confidence of the Labour group and would have to resign.
Poignantly, Sir Albert’s possessions are already waiting in cardboard boxes to be removed, the trappings of 16 years as Labour leader and a lifetime of Birmingham politics.
Evidence of a rather uneasy transfer of power was evident at last night’s meeting of the council Labour group. Clancy has been leader for six days, but Sir Albert, as council leader, was scheduled to present the 2016-17 budget proposals for consideration and approval.
In the end, Sir Albert was unable to seal the deal. The Labour group will meet again this Saturday to consider changes that the new leader, Clancy, wants to make to Albert’s proposals. The final budget will then be signed off by Clancy next week in time for consultation to begin on December 9.
The agenda for today’s full council meeting represents a masterclass in diplomacy, thanks I imagine to the patient negotiating skills of chief executive Mark Rogers. For the first 90 minutes, you’d think nothing untoward was happening. Questions to the leader of the council, Sir Albert Bore, will take place as usual, even though everyone knows power actually changed hands a week ago when Cllr Clancy was elected Labour group leader.
Then comes the changeover, and Cllr Clancy becomes leader. But, and believe it or not this is deemed to be important protocol, Sir Albert will remain in the leader’s seat for the rest of the council meeting, a seat he occupied from 1999 to 2004 and from 2012 until today.
There will be no awkward moment involving Clancy and Bore standing, walking across the chamber to change places with perhaps a brief handshake and nod of the head. The king is dead, but the body remains intact for a respectful period of mourning.
The second part of the meeting involves debates on Birmingham 2020, the post-Kerslake vision for a future council, and the schools and social services improvement plan. Cllr Clancy will wind up both debates in his first speeches as leader.
Then it’s time for tea and polite conversation. How very, very British.
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