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Secret Election Diary: Albert’s General MacArthur moment – ‘I shall return’

Secret Election Diary: Albert’s General MacArthur moment – ‘I shall return’

🕔18.Nov 2015

Sir Albert Bore’s parting shot at the end of his final cabinet meeting as council leader, that it might not have been his last cabinet meeting after all, reverberated around Birmingham very quickly.

What could The Great Survivor have meant?

The immediate interpretation was of a coded message that Sir Albert plans to return General MacArthur-like in the very near future as a member of the city council cabinet under the leadership of his “protégé” Penny Holbrook.

This, certainly, is the weighting being placed on the remark by supporters of leadership contender John Clancy. Sneaking in through the back door suits the Clancy narrative which is that Sir Albert will be pulling Holbrook’s strings were she to win the Labour leadership vote on November 23.

Personally, I doubt this would ever happen. The Labour group wouldn’t stand for it, for certain, and can anyone really imagine Sir Albert playing second fiddle, in public at least, to a new council leader?

When I asked Holbrook outright whether there would be a job for Sir Albert in her administration, she avoided answering the question. This leaves a chink of light, I suppose, that there might be something for the former council leader, but surely not a seat in the cabinet.

My view is Sir Albert’s cryptic remark has been misinterpreted, as he must have known it would be. Yes, he might return to cabinet meetings, but not to the Birmingham city council cabinet.

The timing of his comment may be significant, for Sir Albert had just returned from signing off the West Midlands devolution deal, which involves the region having a directly elected metro mayor in 2017. The mayor will chair the West Midlands Combined Authority cabinet.

And who might be in the running to be mayor of the West Midlands?

Sir Albert Bore, an outspoken supporter of mayors and devolution over many years, may feel he is in a good position to secure the Labour nomination to stand for metro mayor. After all, he will have plenty of time on his hands from December 1.

Here is a man, as we all know, who has never been anything other than super confident of his own abilities and it is unthinkable that he will not at the very least have a sniff at the chances of becoming the preferred Labour candidate for 2017. Watch out for the @Albert4Mayor Twitter account, if he can get someone to operate it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Birmingham council leadership race is looking like John Clancy’s to lose. The past few days have been marked by a steady stream of councillors, mostly of Asian heritage, taking to Twitter and Facebook to declare their undying loyalty to Clancy.

The declaration of the latest Clancyite, Lozells and East Handsworth councillor Mahmood Hussain, sent shock waves through the Labour group. Hussain has for years been a key supporter of Sir Albert Bore, so the fact that he has been “turned” amounts to a tectonic plate shifting moment.

I am advised there are 24 Labour councillors with an Asian background, making up 30.7 per cent of the total vote.  Although there are 78 Labour councillors it is believed illness and other reasons for non-attendance may reduce the figure to about 73, bringing the winning line down to 37 votes.

Of course, the health warning running through the entire series of secret election diaries, that absolutely no one can be trusted to be telling the truth, remains in place. There have been previous occasions in recent years when the Clancy camp thought they were likely to win, only for promised votes to disappear a few days or even hours before the ballot.

With five days to go it is certain that Holbrook and deputy council leader Ian Ward will throw the kitchen sink at the comrades. Both are campaigning on a ‘change but not too much change’ agenda and claiming that a vote for Clancy is a vote for Government commissioners to take over Birmingham, even though there is not the slightest shred of evidence to back this up.

Our latest odds:

John Clancy 1/10

Penny Holbrook 35/1

Ian Ward 35/1

Mike Leddy 110/1

Barry Henley 151/1

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