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Dale’s Diary: Three weeks to that other election – Bore v Clancy

Dale’s Diary: Three weeks to that other election – Bore v Clancy

🕔17.Apr 2015

Three weeks today counting of the votes cast at the 2015 Birmingham city council elections will take place, firing the starting pistol for another fascinating contest, writes Paul Dale.

Anyone who fancies a crack at becoming leader of the Labour group of councillors and therefore leader of the council will have about two and a half days to decide whether to stand.

The count is set to begin in the early afternoon of Friday May 8 and results from all 40 wards should be known by tea time. Only at that stage will contenders for the leadership, and indeed deputy leadership, declare and begin openly lobbying colleagues for support.

As things stand there is only one know contender willing to take on council leader Sir Albert Bore – backbencher John Clancy, whose serial leadership challenges show no sign of coming to an end.

In 2011 Sir Albert beat Clancy by 43 votes to nine. In 2013 Sir Albert won by 51 votes to 23. Last year the margin was closer, with Sir Albert winning by 47 to 27.

Strangely, the process of the annual Labour group meeting has been truncated this year.

Traditionally the AGM is held a week after the council elections, giving appropriate time for those wishing to put themselves forward for any of the posts on offer, including cabinet and scrutiny committee places.

Several months ago it was quietly announced that the AGM would be brought forward to Saturday May 9. No reasons were given for this. That met with protests from some Labour councillors who regarded the mad-dash as a fairly obvious ruse by council leader Sir Albert Bore to make life as difficult as possible for potential challengers.

It was then decided to shift the AGM back to the evening of Monday May 11.

Last week it was announced that the cut-off point for nominations would be put back to midday on Monday, a decision that set several conspiracy hares running. Could Sir Albert be preparing the ground to get one of his candidates in place for the deputy leadership should Ian Ward be defeated by UKIP in Shard End?

The position of Ward is interesting. Last year he was challenged for the deputy leadership by Barry Henley in a ‘dream ticket’ link up with Clancy. Both Clancy and Henley lost, but noticeably Ward gained substantially more votes than Sir Albert. This enabled Clancy’s supporters to cause mischief by putting it about that “Ian is more popular than Albert”.

Since then the air has been thick with rumours about Ward pitching for the top job, possibly with Clancy as deputy leader. The Clancy camp say they have no idea where these rumours come from and as far as they are concerned Ward has no interest in the leadership, and even if he did Clancy is “not going to hand his vision for the council over to someone else”.

Friends of Ian Ward stress that there are no circumstances under which he would stand against Sir Albert Bore for the Labour and council leadership.

Of course, if Clancy was joined by another challenger for the leadership, a stalking horse perhaps, all bets would be off and even Bore’s closest allies might feel inclined to join an open race for fear of being left behind.

Whether that happens probably depends on the results of the council elections. Two cabinet members – James McKay and Stewart Stacey – look vulnerable and could lose their seats. In that case, and certainly if Labour were to end up in a General Election year with net losses of three or four, the floodgates might open.

My feeling, for what it is worth, is there will be just one contest – Sir Albert versus John Clancy.

I expect Sir Albert to win, although possibly by a narrow margin which would cast the 2016 Labour AGM in an entirely new light.

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