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Labour has two Brum mayor hopefuls, but where are the Tories?

Labour has two Brum mayor hopefuls, but where are the Tories?

🕔15.Jun 2011

Sir Albert Bore’s formal entry into Birmingham’s elected mayor debate will have surprised few, but it does represent a significant moment in the process that could see the city’s governance undergo its most significant overhaul in a century.

The declaration by the Labour group leader and former city council leader means former MP Sion Simon now has a rival for the Labour nomination, and they say they are united in pressing for a yes vote in next May’s referendum.

That won’t mean, however, that they’ll be avoiding setting out their different visions for the city.

Sir Albert’s launch speech went into some detail about what he thinks is wrong in Birmingham and what he would do about it if elected. He focused on transport and social exclusion, announcing the launch of a number of policy commissions to get under the skin of these and other issues.

This is to be welcomed, as the debate around elected mayors in Birmingham so far has concentrated too much on chatter about WHO should or shouldn’t occupy the post – and very little about the WHAT and the HOW of the role.

To be fair, Sion Simon appears to have been putting in some serious legwork in developing his policy manifesto, but with Sir Albert now in the frame, a real debate can now begin that will demonstrate to the rest of us what we’re supposed to be voting for next year and beyond.

How ironic, then, that it is two Labour candidates are leading the charge, while from the Conservatives – which alone of the parties formally supports elected mayors – there is silence.

Divisions over elected mayors within the Birmingham group of Conservative councillors are well known, but divisions exist within all the parties.

However, the onward march of two (relatively) heavy hitters on the Labour side should give local and national Tories pause for thought. Bore and Simon will start to frame not only the debate over whether the city needs a mayor, but also the policy agenda upon which the first mayor will be elected.

Already facing certain defeat in next year’s traditional local election in Birmingham, the Conservative Party needs to start engaging in the process that may be its only hope of ruling the city again within the next ten years.

Current Conservative group leader and leader of the council Mike Whitby has remained steadfastly silent on the issue in recent months, while a growing band of younger Tory councillors grows impatient to have a crack at the mayoral campaign. The article in support of elected mayors by Conservative elder statesman Sir Bernard Zissman in this blog two weeks ago has given the younger group more mettle, and a number are expected to attach their names to the ‘yes’ campaign organised by Julia Higginbottom which will be launched soon.

The clock is ticking for the Conservatives. How long can they wait before putting forward some credible candidates?


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