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Lord Whitby’s Downton Abbey moment: ‘I’ll stay on as Tory leader and articulate for Birmingham’

Lord Whitby’s Downton Abbey moment: ‘I’ll stay on as Tory leader and articulate for Birmingham’

🕔13.Nov 2013

Mike Whitby has succeeded in facing down his critics and will remain leader of the Birmingham city council Conservative group until next May.

Whitby, who was awarded a peerage earlier this year, intends to quit the council at the May 2014 elections to concentrate on his new career in the House of Lords.

He led the council at the head of a Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition from 2004 to 2012.

The decision to remain in charge is a blow for some supporters of deputy Tory group leader Robert Alden, who fought behind the scenes to have Whitby removed as leader before Christmas.

They wanted Alden, regarded as a moderniser, to lead the Tories into the next election and argued that it would be a mistake to go to the polls knowing that a new leader would have to be chosen after the election.

Confirmation that Cllr Whitby has succeeded in getting his own way came in a Downton Abbey-style press release, referring throughout to “The Lord Whitby”, in which he promised to “articulate Birmingham’s aspirations” in the upper house.

And in an attempt to present a united front, the press release contained messages of support and praise for Whitby’s efforts from Cllr Alden and Cllr Randal Brew, who three years ago attempted unsuccessfully to become Tory leader.

Cllr Alden said: “Mike understands, like few other politicians have in Birmingham over the years, that people in our great city really do feel close connections to their local area first and foremost.  His work growing our vibrant urban villages demonstrated just how seriously the Progressive Partnership took looking after the suburban parts of Birmingham as well as the city centre.

“That very work which started to regenerate our high streets has sadly started to be unpicked by this Labour administration.  We know that in the House of Lords Mike will continue to demonstrate his huge pride and love for the city.”

Cllr Brew had rather less to say: “Over his eight years of leading the council he is able to look back at an unrivalled list of successes, improving links with businesses and Birmingham’s International profile.”

Cllr Tim Huxtable, viewed by some as a leadership challenger, boosted his chances among Whitby supporters with an effusive tribute: “During his time as Leader of Birmingham City Council, Mike’s strength of character and vision held together an administration formed from a partnership of two political parties for eight years.

“He has overseen the creation of Birmingham’s new Library, secured funding for both the re-building of New Street Station for the 21st century and the extension of the Midland Metro into the heart of Birmingham, and ensured that Birmingham can continue as a global city with a global heart well into the next century.  Mike will continue to be a huge asset to Birmingham in the House of Lords.”

The press release in full: “The Lord Whitby of Harborne in the City of Birmingham has today announced that he will not be seeking re-election in the forthcoming City Council Elections in 2014.

“The Lord Whitby said: “It has been a huge honour to serve the people of Harborne since I gained the seat through a by-election in 1997.  It has also been a great privilege to have been entrusted by my Conservative and Liberal Democrat friends to have led the largest metropolitan authority in the United Kingdom.

“As a peer in the House of Lords, I will be well placed to articulate an accurate portrayal of Birmingham’s aspirations and achievements and build upon the excellent foundations laid down by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Progressive Party.

“Between now and May 2014, I will be working with my excellent deputy leader, Councillor Robert Alden, in continuing to hold the Labour administration in Birmingham to account whilst producing a balanced budget to put to the council in the New Year.

“However, the back-cloth of a grave financial challenge impinges heavily on our city and its finances, and whilst there are challenges that have to be managed, the current administration’s continued cries of doom and gloom and Armageddon is beginning to affect Birmingham’s reputation as a dynamic, progressive city and is totally unacceptable.

“My role in the House of Lords is to show how Birmingham not only manages challenges but is confident of its future as an internationally relevant city.”


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