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Lord Whitby sends his apologies, but insists: ‘I’ll stay on as Tory leader’

Lord Whitby sends his apologies, but insists: ‘I’ll stay on as Tory leader’

🕔05.Nov 2013

Mike Whitby has insisted he will remain leader of the Birmingham city council Conservative group even though he is now a full-time working peer committed to attending the House of Lords.

In a determined effort to face down his critics, Lord Whitby told Chamberlain Files: “It is my intention to remain as Conservative leader in Birmingham.”

It also emerged that Whitby is yet to inform party officials whether he intends to stand again for election to the city council in May 2014, when he is due to defend his Harborne seat. An announcement is planned this Friday, November 8.

He will make his maiden Lords speech on Thursday November 7, on the subject of his efforts when city council leader between 2004 and 2012 to increase trade between China and Birmingham.

The internal party debate about whether Whitby can continue as leader of the Birmingham Tories and also fulfil his duties as a working peer lurched into the surreal when he missed a meeting of Conservative councillors because he was on Government business at the House of Lords.

Lord Whitby was due to be at the monthly pre-council gathering of Tory councillors on Monday November 4, but sent his apologies and explained that he was bound by a three line whip to remain at Westminster.

It had been expected he would use the group meeting to announce whether he intends to stand for re-election to the council, but frustrated Tory councillors will have to wait a little longer to find out.

His absence gave fresh ammunition to a number of Conservative councillors who are demanding Whitby stand down as group leader immediately, paving the way for modernising deputy leader Robert Alden to step in.

They believe Whitby cannot do two jobs at the same time and fear the Conservatives will be damaged if the party goes into the May 2014 council elections with a ‘lame duck leader’.

However, there are signs of core support for Whitby from some Conservative councillors who told Chamberlain Files they did not see a problem in him remaining leader until next May. Group insiders claim that Whitby is laying the groundwork for former councillor Ken Wood, who is returning to the council in May, to succeed him as leader.

One Tory who was at the Monday night group meeting said he understood a deputation of senior councillors – men in grey suits – would be visiting Whitby “to tell him the game is up” and urge him to stand down immediately as leader.

The source suggested some Tories were suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome” – a phenomenon where hostages develop feelings of love and admiration for their captors.

He added: “My understanding is Whitby will be told the mood of the group is that he can’t hang on until May. What they will do if he simply ignores them is, as they say, ‘a developing situation’.”

Cover Image: BBC Democracy Live

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