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Vote2018: Brum’s big beasts leaving the House

Vote2018: Brum’s big beasts leaving the House

🕔02.May 2018

With the size of Birmingham city council being reduced from 120 to 101 councillors, it was always expected that some familiar names wouldn’t be re-elected tomorrow.

In fact, 20 of the current crop are not standing again in one of Birmingham’s biggest political reorganisations for years.

Chamberlain Files is grateful to our colleague, Birmingham Mail local government correspondent Neil Elkes who published the leavers list we reproduce at the foot of this post.

We have selected some names especially worthy of further comment:

Sue Anderson (Lib Dem, Sheldon)

A veteran politician and a former Lord Mayor with 30 years’ council service, Sue Anderson has the remarkable record of having hardly, if ever, made an enemy during her time at the Council House. Liked and respected by all parties, the former Birmingham maths teacher held the challenging social services portfolio from 2004 to 2012 under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

Her period in the cabinet was marked by hugely controversial issues, not least a decision to close down old people’s homes that were simply not fit for purpose and did not meet modern health and safety standards. Her determination and acute political antennae meant that she managed to push through the restructuring of the homes without any serious opposition either in the council or from the trade unions. A remarkable achievement.

Ian Cruise (Ind, Longbridge)

A councillor since May 2010, Cruise had been marked down for promotion and quickly became a scrutiny committee chair. But he fell out with his Labour colleagues and became an Independent. Describing himself as “shadow mental health champion” Cruise has been open on social media about his daily battle against depression and continuing search for post-council employment.

Barry Henley (Lab, Brandwood)

A stellar career in management did not quite translate into such a successful political career for Henley, who leaves the council after eight years’ service. Intelligent, outspoken and unwilling to suffer fools gladly, Barry Henley convinced himself he could reach the top and stood for council leader when Sir Albert Bore resigned in 2015. Unfortunately for Henley, his colleagues booted him out in the first round of voting. Henley will also be remembered as a combative and effective chair of the council’s Service Birmingham management committee.

Tony Kennedy (Lab, Sparkbrook)

Seemingly an unmovable fixture in the Labour group for 24 years, Kennedy failed to be selected for a winnable seat this time around. He was a key supporter of former council leader John Clancy and became an assistant council leader in 2016.

Ansar Ali Khan (Lab, Washwood Heath)

Khan has been a prominent Asian leader in Birmingham for many years, a city councillor since 2002 and an assistant council leader since 2016. He has long been tipped for a parliamentary seat but unsuccessful so far. His departure from the council will raise more questions than answers. Some people may think this is the end of his political career. Others believe he will make a comeback. Mariam Khan, Labour councillor for Washwood Heath, is his niece.

James McKay (Lab, Harborne)

In October 2015, McKay effectively lit the fuse that led to the end of Sir Albert Bore’s reign as council leader by resigning as cabinet member for social cohesion and community safety. McKay put into words what many of his colleagues were thinking privately – that Sir Albert “lacked the political vision” needed to take Birmingham forward and had become an increasingly remote figure. Three weeks later, Sir Albert announced his intention to stand down as leader. In happier times, McKay found himself a hero of his party by winning a seat in Tory heartland territory Harborne.

Claire Spencer (Lab, Moseley and Kings Heath)

Intelligent, hard-working and with plenty of ability, Spencer’s future seemed assured. But she is standing down after only three years, seemingly disillusioned with the entrenched positions taken by party machines and has been particularly outspoken at the failure of the Labour-dominated West Midlands Combined Authority and Tory regional mayor Andy Street to work together more effectively. Spencer was also an early and outspoken critic of former Labour council leader John Clancy, upsetting some of her colleagues by attempting to table a no confidence motion.

Stewart Stacey (Lab, Acocks Green)

Stacey has been on and off the council for 36 years, never managing to find an entirely safe seat. Currently the cabinet member for transport and roads, Stacey has a lifetime’s experience of the West Midlands transportation scene. Known as the ‘Butcher of Broad Street’ after attempting and failing to ban traffic from one of Birmingham’s main thoroughfares, he has also been a significant political fixer behind the scenes in the Labour group. He is a real heavyweight whose influence will be missed.

John Alden (Con Harborne)

Alden is standing again but is challenging Labour council leader In Ward in Shard End – a seat the Tories have zero chance of winning. Barring a miracle of unprecedented proportions, a veil will therefore be drawn over 33 years remarkable service by the head of the Alden dynasty – wife Deirdre and son Robert, the current Tory group leader, are standing again. John Alden, a former Lord Mayor and leisure services cabinet member, will be remembered as a passionate supporter of Birmingham with a great many friends on all sides of the council chamber.

Politics, at every level, seems to show up more divisions in the country and our city than ever before. We, and all parts of the modern media environment, are often critical and hold up politicians for robust scrutiny. At Birmingham city council, it is sometimes too easy to find policies and actions that deserve negative comment.

But, there are many politicians, at all forms of government and across all parties, who have provided dedicated public service over many years with precious few thanks or significant financial reward. They deserve our grateful thanks. We also hope that others like them will step forward for election, regardless of the brickbats that might follow, including from this small corner of the web.

The full list of known leavers is:

Uzma Ahmed
Nawaz Ali
Sue Anderson
Susan Barnett
Steve Booton
Alex Buchanan
Lyn Collin
Ian Cruise
Mick Finnegan
Barry Henley
Tony Kennedy
Ansar Ali Khan
James McKay
Eva Phillips
Habib Rehman
Claire Spencer
Stewart Stacey
Karen Trench
Anne Underwood
Margaret Waddington.

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