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Mike Whitby fights to remain Birmingham Tory leader

Mike Whitby fights to remain Birmingham Tory leader

🕔08.May 2012

Mike Whitby will fight to remain leader of Birmingham City Council’s Conservative group despite the drubbing the Tories’ received at the local authority elections on May 3.

Coun Whitby said he had been encouraged by messages of support from “a great many” of the remaining Conservative councillors and he would seek re-election on his record as leader since 2003.

The coalition he put together with the Liberal Democrats in 2004 to take control of the council was soundly beaten by Labour at the May 3 polls.

The Conservative group lost 11 councillors and the Lib Dems lost nine, giving Labour 77 councillors and a 34-seat majority in the council chamber.

At just 24 per cent, the Conservative share of the vote was the lowest for the party since the late 1990s. The Liberal Democrats managed to gain 14 per cent of the vote, and Labour 51 per cent.

Labour’s Sir Albert Bore will take over as council leader on May 22 at the annual meeting.

Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) said he believed the sharp swing against the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats was due mainly to national issues and the Government’s mid-term blues rather than any disquiet over Birmingham’s performance.

He will seek re-election as leader at the annual Conservative group meeting on May 14 and intends to campaign on his achievements as council leader.

Coun Whitby said: “I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of councillors contacting me and asking me to stay on as leader.

“We have left Birmingham in a far better state than was the case in 2004.

“Our eight-year legacy shows that we have transformed the city we inherited from Labour. Birmingham was an under-performing city and incapable of managing within its budget. We have improved service delivery and we certainly didn’t close libraries or swimming pools, in fact we invested in new facilities.

“The baton that we are now passing over to Labour is bright and shining. Let’s see how long it remains that way.”

There had been speculation that Coun Whitby would drop out of local politics when Birmingham rejected a move to switch to an elected mayor system of governance – a post that Coun Whitby would have hoped to contest.

Realistically, even with an unlikely surge of popular support for the Government, the Conservatives could not hope to regain control of Birmingham for at least eight years given the size of Labour’s majority.

No challengers have yet emerged to take on Coun Whitby for the group leadership but the most likely contenders are some of the younger Tory councillors including Robert Alden and Philip Parkin.

More seasoned campaigners including Edgbaston councillor Deirdre Alden and Randal Brew from Northfield may also throw their hat in the ring.

Coun Whitby promised a “smooth, democratic changeover of power” to Labour and said he would formally resign as council leader at the annual meeting.

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