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Secret Election Diary: Barry Henley enters the race (he doesn’t have a manifesto either)

Secret Election Diary: Barry Henley enters the race (he doesn’t have a manifesto either)

🕔21.Oct 2015

A third candidate has declared for the Great Birmingham Council Leadership Stakes, a five-mile gallop across rough ground with an uncertain handicapping system.

Brandwood councillor Barry Henley, or ‘Dr Henley’ as he prefers to be known, spent his honeymoon abroad considering whether to contest the vacancy for Labour group leader following Sir Albert Bore’s decision to resign. Mrs Henley, you have commiserations from all at Chamberlain Files. Hope the food and weather was good, at least.

Henley is following deputy council leader Ian Ward along the path of standing for election without issuing a manifesto detailing the policies he intends to pursue. Goodness me. Manifestos? So yesterday, don’t you think?

Henley begins an email to colleagues setting out his intention to stand with a splendidly Corbynesque greeting of “Dear Comrades”. But to demonstrate he’s really down with the kids, the missive ends with “sent from my Windows phone”.

He says he has been publicly loyal to Sir Albert and Cllr Ward “while trying to correct their errors” which are said to include “mishandling of council structure, strategy and management, and failure to hold the last two chief executives to account for efficient, effective administration”.

If elected leader, Henley says he will implement governance changes set out in the Kerslake Review quickly, will form policy with Birmingham Labour Party and Birmingham Labour Group and appoint councillors to jobs on the basis of experience and competence.

Trumpeting his own “track record in turning round dysfunctional organisations”, Henley says he can deliver competent management at the council rather than “the shambles” the people of Birmingham have had to put up with.

And he signs off with a dire warning:

Birmingham does not need another council leader like Cllr Whitby or Cllr Sir Albert Bore whose self-belief led them to ignore the contribution others could make and to make the mistakes that Kerslake identified.

You can see why Henley’s made a career in politics and not the Diplomatic Corps.

Dr Barry’s intervention, although not entirely unexpected, has not impressed our very senior Labour expert and Oddsmeister, whose identity must remain secret under the 50-year rule.

The expert is offering evens on Henley getting more than one vote, which seems a little mean since he will presumably vote for himself. He’s at 3/1 to get more than three votes. Brummie the Council House cat is also at evens to get one vote, although he will have to be assisted in the polling booth to put a paw print in the right place (this won’t be a problem in Birmingham).

To be fair, Henley’s two previous attempts to get himself elected deputy Labour leader were less than successful. Most recently, he managed 16 votes in 2014 against 57 for Ian Ward.

A week has passed since Sir Albert announced that, after thinking for ages and ages about a succession strategy, he was going to stand down as council leader at the earliest opportunity, without an obvious successor being put in place.

There are three declared candidates – John Clancy, Ian Ward and Barry Henley. Ward and Henley have no manifestos, Clancy is expected to publish detailed policy plans shortly.

As ever with Birmingham Labour group elections, there is much talk about a block vote from Asian councilors which, it is claimed, could gift victory to a chosen candidate. Cllr Majid Mahmood is backing John Clancy and may bring some colleagues with him. Strong rumours suggest Clancy already has the supportof almost all the Asian councilors, and that this will become clear shortly.

The greatest mystery remains unsolved – the absence so far of a Boreite candidate. The chances of Cllr Mike Leddy carrying the flame for Sir Albert must be lengthening as the days pass by, although there are plenty of people in the Labour group who remain convinced that Leddy will stand.

Chamberlain File’s latest odds:

John Clancy 1/3

Ian Ward 6/1

Mike Leddy 25/1

Brummie the Council House cat 150/1

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