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Dale’s Diary: Lord Lieutenant runners and riders; and was Sleigh first choice for WMCA?

Dale’s Diary: Lord Lieutenant runners and riders; and was Sleigh first choice for WMCA?

🕔16.Sep 2015

The fall of Paul Sabapathy as Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands after leaked emails showed him saying British Pakistanis must be taught “basic common courtesy and civility” has naturally raised a debate about who might take over as the Queen’s representative in these parts.

Well, a ‘debate’ is putting it a bit strongly. Quite frankly, the identity of who gets the job probably doesn’t matter a jot to most people, but someone’s got to do it.

Sabapathy’s stunning fall from grace followed a visit to the Pakistan consulate in Birmingham to commemorate Pakistan Independence Day.

Apparently unhappy about the lack of respect he and colleagues were shown as the Queen’s representatives, the Indian-born Sabapathy said: “Pakistanis are lovely people individually but there is a lot of work to do to teach them basic common courtesy and civility.”

Digging further into a very deep hole, he went on:

They talk to themselves and do not engage with the wider community. They are living in the UK not Pakistan. Whilst being rightly proud of their Pakistani culture and heritage they need to explain better and engage more with their non-Pakistani brothers and sisters if they want their children to succeed as British Pakistani citizens.

Unsurprisingly, Sabapathy quickly fell on his ceremonial sword, helped on his way by Valerie Vaz, Labour MP for Walsall South, who said: “I am disappointed with these generalised remarks about the Pakistani community which indicates to me he is out of touch.”

Her Majesty’s lord lieutenants are the representatives of the crown for each county in the United Kingdom and are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister.

There is certainly a crowded field from which to choose a successor with the West Midlands having no fewer than 53 deputy lord lieutenants, which seems to be rather over-egging the pudding. There is also one Vice-Lord Lieutenant, Col George Marsh.

My knowledge of Queen’s representative protocol is a bit hazy and it may be Marsh is a shoo-in for the job.

Other contenders from the deputy lord lieutenant stable may include West Midlands chief constable Chris Sims, who recently announced his intention to retire, so is looking for something to do.

Or how about former BBC executive Anita Bhalla, chair of Performances Birmingham (Town Hall Symphony Hall) and a former high sheriff of the West Midlands? Must be one of the favourites, surely.

There’s also Dame Christine Braddock, former chief executive of Birmingham Metropolitan College and another former high sheriff.

Another contender might be former NEC Group chair Roger Burman, currently pro-chancellor of Birmingham University and, you’ve guessed it, another former high sheriff.

Former Wragge and Co senior partner John Crabtree, also a deputy lord lieutenant, might be too busy to take the top job. He is chair of the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel overseeing the city council’s post-Kerslake governance reforms, and at the current rate of progress is likely to be there for a while yet.

The list of great and good goes on and on and includes David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of Birmingham University, Sir Peter Rigby, founder, CEO and chairman of the Rigby Group, Sir Paul Scott-Lee, a former West Midlands chief constable, Paul Thandi, CEO of the NEC Group, and Millennium Point chair and owner of Acme Whistles, Simon Topman.

Personally, my vote goes to NHS West Midlands chair Elisabeth Buggins, who has been chair of the Birmingham Women’s hospital since 2011.

Surely, it must be Buggins’ turn?

Disquiet at a recent meeting of Birmingham council’s Labour group, I hear.

Some of the more troublesome comrades demanded to know why the shadow West Midlands Combined Authority has Solihull council leader Bob Sleigh, a Tory, as chair when Labour enjoys a clear majority among the region’s seven councils.

They were informed, I’m told, that the position of WMCA chair was first offered to the Labour leader of Wolverhampton council, Roger Lawrence, but for some reason the veteran councillor turned the role down.

Lawrence chairs the integrated transport authority which is to be subsumed into WMCA, with powers over strategic transport issues eventually passing to a metro mayor.

Does Bob Sleigh know he wasn’t first choice combined authority chair? He does now.

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