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Council leader: who next?

Council leader: who next?

🕔11.Sep 2017

John Clancy has resigned as leader with immediate effect. Cllr Ian Ward will be acting leader, but who will become Labour’s next elected leader of Birmingham city council, asks Kevin Johnson?

There has been talk in Labour circles in the last few weeks of a challenge coming from Cllr John Cotton, but with an actual vacancy opening up there is a whole new scenario.

Alongside Cllr Cotton, most talk is about Ian Ward and Lisa Trickett with some also pointing to Penny Holbrook and Brigid Jones.

Insiders in the Labour group have helped Chamberlain Files put together a ‘quick and dirty’ set of profiles of possible leadership contenders. But as one sage pointed out, so far there are more obvious candidates for deputy than leader….

READ: Clancy – questions of conduct

Ian Ward

Labour insiders suggest that the Labour Party will hold off a leadership battle and wait for the AGM next May, following council elections. That will leave Ian Ward as acting leader for the next eight months. Enough time to establish himself or for other candidates to impress colleagues.

Still comparatively young for someone who has been a councillor for over 20 years. His first big job was as the chair/Cabinet member for Leisure and this area has remained his main interest since. Cllr Ward is the main champion of the Commonwealth Games bid and his work was rewarded with Birmingham selected as the UK’s candidate city for the 2022 Games last week.

Over the years he has championed sport in Birmingham, the development of Alexander Stadium and the use of Arena Birmingham for sporting events. He is one of the few Labour councillors who is well known across national local government networks.

Since Labour returned to power, Cllr Ward has held the Deputy Leader portfolio which includes responsibility for the budget and finance.

Critics say he is very good at giving out messages of doom but also disappearing when any responsibility is to be taken. A critic of Sir Albert Bore in the background and a strong critic of Clancy at times too. He has supporters in the group but has annoyed many over his handling of the budget in recent years. He does not have an obvious and strong following and is not seen as a coalition builder by some.

There had been a strong view that he should change his portfolio – perhaps with even more time dedicated to Birmingham 2022. He may now need to appoint someone else to champion the city’s bid.

Chamberlain Files does not believe he was preparing a leadership bid, but his support – possibly on a joint ticket – could be important to another candidate.

READ: Clancy resigns – ‘I made some mistakes’

Lisa Trickett

Seen as bright but very inconsistent by some. Represents Moseley which does not go down well with other members, especially those in the inner city. Cllr Trickett might struggle to secure support from some Asian councillors, crucial in Labour group politics.

She decided not to stand last time as she thought it would be wrong for her family. Nothing suggests this has changed, though she might be prepared to serve as a new Leader’s Deputy.

Previously worked as a senior officer in Birmingham which always presents problems. But it also meant she had a good understanding of the roles and limitations of elected members and officers during a difficult industrial dispute.

She left and worked for PwC and then ran University of Birmingham’s public sector consultancy operation for a while.

As the Cabinet member for Clean Streets, she has been at the centre of the bins crisis with the leader and senior officers. That may work in her favour or against. She spoke out strongly at last week’s Labour group meeting on the leader’s actions and conduct.

John Cotton

Ex-Cabinet member who lost his role under Cllr Clancy. Constantly rumoured to be a potential challenger but has never really shown his hand. Considered to be a very nice guy and works well with officers.

He has never run a major portfolio and often seen as simply not being leadership material.

Brigid Jones

Would seem to be very unlikely as a serious candidate, say some. Still considered to be young and has had a rough ride from Asian councillors.

Needs to develop more as a speaker and media performer. But, she is improving and now quite experienced — has been a senior Cabinet member since Labour came back into power. She was once widely tipped to be an MP but these ambitions seem to have faded. Not to be ruled out in the future, but perhaps not for now.

Waseem Zaffar

Seen by many as a future leader until he was forced to resign after controversy over school uniforms and a school in his ward. Expects to be exonerated by an internal enquiry.

Perhaps the most modern politician amongst Asian members and comfortable working across community boundaries.

A close confident of Cllr Clancy who was 100% loyal until the end.

Majid Mahmood

A young professional of Asian origin councillor for East Birmingham. Both a qualified accountant and solicitor. Frozen out by Sir Albert Bore and brought into the Cabinet by Cllr Clancy.

He has built a reputation as a ruthless political operator in his Hodge Hill base.

It was thought that — along with Waseem Zaffar — he would be a leadership candidate after the 2018 elections, particularly if Labour do badly at the polls and the axis of power in the group moves more to the safer inner city/Asian seats.

Many are suspicious of his manoeuvrings. Supposedly de-selected his ward colleague Anita Ward and has attempted to support the de-selection of others it iss alleged.

A very public supporter of national leader Jeremy Corbyn (the most enthusiastic in Birmingham’s Labour Group).

Has recently put more emphasis on his work as a solicitor. He now only works as a councillor for two days a week. Some had seen this as a reflection of fading political ambition.

Stewart Stacey

A very established councillor who has previously held senior roles in Planning and Transport. Now an elder statesman of the group and sitting more in the background. Not seen as a credible candidate in the outside world but both Councillors Bore and Clancy have relied on him.

Seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’ who works hard to understand the detail of council work; understands how the machine works. Not a leadership contender but will always have influence in the background.

On his day, still one of the best speakers in the Council Chamber.

Brett O’Reilly

Likeable and very bright young Member who represents Northfield. Holds the important jobs and skills portfolio. Thought to be politically ambitious and hopes/hoped to replace Richard Burden when the area MP retires.

Chamberlain Files understands that Cllr O’Reilly has already indicated he will not be standing, but he could be a deputy candidate certainly and certainly one for the future.

Paulette Hamilton

A former nurse who has been a Labour councillor for Handsworth Wood since 2004, Cllr Hamilton was the council’s mental health champion and found herself promoted to the cabinet heading up the health and social care portfolio from May 2015.

Her appointment went some way to answering criticism about the absence of African-Caribbean politicians at the top of the council.

Her appointment to Cabinet was seen by many observers as proof that Labour council leader Sir Albert Bore concocted a deal with African-Caribbean councillors in order to secure their votes to see off a leadership challenge from Cllr Clancy.

Penny Holbrook

A candidate last time although reluctantly so, losing by one vote in the end.

Seen as being manipulated by Sir Albert Bore. Her profile has lowered significantly since she rejected Clancy’s offer to sit in his Cabinet. Would struggle to get any real support beyond the remnants of Albert Bore’s machine.

Peter Griffiths

A Labour councillor for Kings Norton ward since 2011, Griffiths was promoted to the Birmingham cabinet in May 2016. He holds the housing and homes portfolio.

He worked as a community social worker in south Birmingham, moving on to become Assistant Divisional Manger, for Disability Services in Sandwell. In 2002, he became an assistant to Birmingham MP Estelle Morris, Education and Culture Minister, until her retirement in 2005.

Griffiths is a former International athlete who represented Great Britain in steeplechase events.

Not seen as a leadership contender, not least being aged 70 and in poor health.

Steve Bedser

The former Cabinet member could return in May from one of the new seats. He could be keen to renew his leadership ambitions, last thwarted when he lost is council seat.

This post is being updated from time to time as the Files receives further intelligence.

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