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Secret Election Diary: Ali backs Clancy, Ward on the ropes

Secret Election Diary: Ali backs Clancy, Ward on the ropes

🕔11.Nov 2015

John Clancy has become the first of the Birmingham council leadership candidates to win public backing from a cabinet member.

In what will be seen as a significant move, Tahir Ali, who holds the development, transport and economy portfolio, announced his decision on Twitter:

I’m supporting @johnclancy to become the next Leader. His fresh leadership, vision & ideas are needed in the tough decisions we have to make.

Cllr Ali has always made it clear privately he has no leadership ambitions of his own and was once regarded as an ally of council leader Sir Albert Bore, who is standing down on December 1.

His decision to come out for Clancy will be a blow to fellow cabinet members Penny Holbrook and Ian Ward, who are both candidates in the leadership race. For Ward, in particular, the failure to recruit Ali suggests his faltering campaign is going nowhere.

Ali is seen as a significant player among the 19-strong Asian councillor contingent in the Labour ranks, whose views are sought and respected by colleagues.

His message was swiftly retweeted by fellow cabinet member Shafique Shah and corporate resources scrutiny chair Waseem Zaffar. Both Zaffar and Shah are firmly in the Clancy camp, as of course is Hodge Hill councillor Majid Mahmood.

It should be clear even to the meanest intelligence, given that Asian councillors make up just under a quarter of the 78-strong Labour group, getting them on board is key to victory. No one knows this better than Sir Albert, who for years relied on the ‘Muslim vote’ to survive, until it finally dried up.

With 12 days to go until Labour councillors meet to elect a new leader, the job appears to be Clancy’s to lose, if of course you can believe canvassing returns. A last-minute decision to stand by Penny Holbrook, now regarded as the Boreite candidate, has served only to dent support for Ian Ward and Mike Leddy.

Holbrook stands with Ward in the ‘we need some change, but for goodness sake not too much change because we don’t want to scare anyone’ camp. A Birmingham Labour MP has been working away on her behalf phoning around warning people not to vote for Clancy and to support Holbrook instead.

The very real likelihood of Clancy winning the leadership has reached the ears of Labour party organisers in London, where anything to do with Birmingham is normally greeted by fingers in ears and the chanting very loudly of la-la-la. A senior Labour figure in Birmingham was surprised last week to take a call from a former high-ranking national party figure, now earning squillions in the private sector, naturally, who suggested lunch.

Lunch was duly taken and it transpired that this person had been deputed to find out everything he could about Clancy. His opening shot, even before the soup arrived, was “Clancy’s mad, isn’t he?”

Clearly, someone or some people from Birmingham have been briefing Labour in London. Watch your back, Clancy.

Meanwhile, in the also ran category, poor Ian Ward is looking desperate.

The deputy council leader’s campaign never really recovered from nine months of dithering over whether to challenge Sir Albert, and then when he did declare it was without a manifesto. Ward cheerleader Cllr Barry Bowles, aka the Camphillboiler, has been huffing and puffing but the general assumption is Ward will be doing well to get 15 votes.

Bowles has indicated that Ward’s position as deputy leader is safe if he fails to become leader. Nothing could be further from the truth, should Clancy win. It would, I am assured, be unthinkable for Ward to continue as deputy to Clancy when the two have so little in common.

Mike Leddy, he of the now infamous Food for Thought emails setting out plans for a brave new world in which the council appears to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources, tells me he is confident of winning “if the people who say they will vote for me actually do”. Ah, yes, Mike, that old one.

And finally, Dr Barry Henley, the only contender to openly and honestly say he thinks Sir Albert and Cllr Ward made a right old Horlicks of the leadership, has rather magnificently jetted off to America for an extended honeymoon.

It’s thought Henley, or Dr Who? as he has rather cruelly been dubbed by Labour wags, may end up with a single vote – his own.

Our latest odds:

John Clancy 1/8

Penny Holbrook 25/1

Ian Ward 30/1

Mike Leddy 100/1

Barry Henley 151/1

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