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Vote of confidence for Clancy-Ward partnership as Ali takes a left hook

Vote of confidence for Clancy-Ward partnership as Ali takes a left hook

🕔16.May 2016

Ian Ward’s decisive 49-28 defeat of Tahir Ali for the Birmingham Labour group and city council deputy leadership settles one question at least.

The distribution of votes shows clearly the mountain climbed by council leader John Clancy since he scraped home by a majority of one to beat Penny Holbrook and win the Labour leadership last November.

As the Ward-Ali voting pattern demonstrates if that election was to be re-run today Clancy would win fairly easily.

It is significant that what’s left of the Boreites, and other malcontents, decided against running a candidate for Labour leader at this year’s AGM and were content with a tilt at Ward instead. It was a contest they must have strongly suspected they would not win, but could not resist trying.

A day before the deputy leadership election, Clancy told friends he thought Tahir Ali would get a maximum of 27 votes. He was one vote out, but that won’t stop him from celebrating.

Clancy laid his authority on the line, making it clear to colleagues last month that he wanted Ian Ward to remain deputy leader. Lurking in the background is the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel, on extended summer leave at the moment but due to make a comeback in late September. That return may have been fast-forwarded to June if Cllr Ali had been elected deputy leader, raising difficult questions about the ability of leader and deputy being able to work together.

Chamberlain Files has seen an email sent by Cllr Ali to his Labour colleagues appealing for their support. The lengthy missive, entitled ‘Together, we can make change happen’, suggests that Ali is quite a wordsmith, a talent that has gone unnoticed in the past.

He is careful to praise Clancy:

I was one of the first people to recognise John as a worthy successor as leader of the council and I was proud to endorse him to lead our city through the challenges ahead.  As a member of his cabinet I have given him loyal support and honest advice, not just in public but in private too.

Before sticking the knife into Ward and by implication Clancy too:

I believe that a good deputy has to be a friend to the leader, loyal but unafraid to ask the difficult questions on behalf of the group.

We need to match the fresh start we’ve made to how we do business as a council with a new approach to how we do business in the Labour group.  Big policy decisions need to be shaped by the knowledge and expertise of the whole group, not just taken by one member with little consultation.

And when the group takes decisions, they should be respected and implemented, not ignored or altered beyond all recognition.  All too often, this hasn’t been the case.

We need a deputy leader who will respect and implement group decisions, one who has the trust of cabinet members and colleagues from right across the Labour group.  As deputy leader, that’s what I will do.  I won’t make decisions or do deals behind a closed door.

Magnificent stuff, but it didn’t do Ali any good at all.

The first part of Labour’s AGM also saw Hall Green councilor Barry Bowles elected chair of the group. Bowles, a keen supporter of Ian Ward for the leadership last October, appears to have been forgiven and welcomed back on board by Cllr Clancy.

Sharon Thompson remains group secretary. Val Seabright stood against her. Mohammed Idrees stays as chief whip.

The Labour group will reassemble tonight (May 16) for the election of scrutiny committee chairs followed by Cllr Clancy’s announcement of his new cabinet line-up.

The word is the reshuffle will be far more extensive than hitherto imagined and may involve the creation of some entirely new cabinet posts.

New cabinet members, if there are to be any, will not take up their posts until next week’s annual council meeting and will be expected to turn up as usual at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting. It could quite possibly be one of the shorter cabinet meetings of late.

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