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Mayor update: Bore and Simon talk policy as Autumn election prospects grow

Mayor update: Bore and Simon talk policy as Autumn election prospects grow

🕔17.Sep 2011

There have been a number of developments on the Birmingham elected mayoral front over recent days, so rather than a number of extended posts, I thought a summary would be more useful.

Election timetable and delegation

Encouraging news for the delegation from Birmingham that last week urged Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to reduce the time gap between the referendum and the mayoral election itself. Following a positive response from Mr Pickles and his team, the Bishop of Birmingham and Lord Adonis tabled an amendment to the Localism Bill to get the mayoral vote synchronised with the first elections for police commissioners in November 2012. The Government seemed to like the idea, on the evidence of this response from Baroness Hanham in the Lords:

“The regulating power [to set the date of the first mayoral election] would allow for an earlier first election than May 2013. Such an approach would be in line with previous practice, where first elections for mayors have on occasion taken place in October, before reverting to the usual May cycle. The most encouraging I can be is to say that the issue is well understood; no decisions have yet been taken on it but we are due to produce secondary legislation before the end of the year and decisions will be taken before then. I cannot give a firm commitment at the moment that that will happen but, as I say, there is a very clear understanding of the proposals made and the reasons and rationale behind them.”

 ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns

Supporters of the campaign to persuade electors to vote ‘yes’ in next May’s referendum on elected mayors are increasingly frustrated by the lack of guidance over how they should run the bid and what – if any – caps there will be on campaign funding. While not exactly being showered with cash, the team led by TV and film entrepreneur Julia Higginbottom has growing ‘in kind’ support that may have to be accounted for. One formula used to govern local referendum campaigns could set the limit at just £40,000, which seems a ridiculously low number for a city the size of Birmingham. The lack of clarity forced the campaign to postpone its launch this week.

Meanwhile, the ‘No’ campaign led by Birmingham MPs John Hemming and Roger Godsiff (Lib Dem and Labour respectively) has been canvassing support from city councillors and is to hold its first meeting in early October.

Candidates

Still no official word from the silent Conservatives (although frustration in the lower ranks is becoming more voluble), but Labour’s confirmed candidates are upping the ante – and may be joined by a third before too long. Sion Simon is gathering support for a Brummie version of the Turino Internazionale, a movement that underpinned what Simon believes is a mayor-led renaissance in the Italian city. His ‘Nation of Birmingham’ initiative is seeking support from both ordinary citizens via an imminent website launch and financial clout from some business big hitters. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, veteran Labour ex-council leader Sir Albert Bore is understood to be planning the launch of the first of his policy commissions with backing from MPs Liam Byrne and Jack Dromey. Cheekily timed for the middle of the Lib Dem’s conference in Birmingham, Bore is hoping the process will kick start a debate about Birmingham’s future direction – under him as mayor, no doubt.

Observers of the mayoral race inside and outside the Labour camp are increasingly convinced that Edgbaston’s Labour MP Gisela Stuart will very soon declare her intention to stand. Ms Stuart, who captured and has since held what was always regarded a Tory heartland through four general elections, has refused to rule out the possibility of making the Labour nomination at least a three-way fight.

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