Silly season almost-true story puts Brum in the headlines

  1. So it all started with a bit of holiday season flammery in the Birmingham Mail. Former Black Sabbath manager Jim Simpson wanted Birmingham Airport renamed in honour of Ozzy Osbourne:
  2. Reading the piece carefully, I’d wager it was prompted by a letter from Jim in response to some previous articles in the Mail about plans for a Sabbath inspired music festival in the city.
  3. That’s pretty standard practice in a quiet newsroom in the dead zone between Christmas and New Year. Extract the choicest bits from Jim’s letter, phone a rentaquote councillor, and you’ve got more than enough for a tidy page lead (and the picture library’s full of old Sabbath pics, too.) It doesn’t hurt either that your interweb chappie always tells you how good Sabbath-related tales are for your Google-juice (whatever that is).

    But then the whole thing takes off (pun intended). And in the process, puts Birmingham, its airport, its status as the birthplace of the global heavy metal movement, its very name, and even that of a back bench councillor from Sutton Coldfield on the world map. Even Usain Bolt ‘s ‘big up’ Birmingham eulogy didn’t get this much airtime outside of the city.

    First, the nationals, as bored as their regional cousins, pick it up:

  4. Then it went, errr, mental:
  5. Notice how Jim is now ‘leading the charge’ (he only wrote a letter), and ‘council chiefs are in talks’ (no they’re not). Hey ho, since when have facts needed to get in the way of a good headline?

    And finally – you know a story’s really made it when the satire sites start having a go:

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moilyas

 

And that’s another year of trudging to the poll booths done with. And another demonstration of how as a nation we are truly pathetic. That is the only way to do justice to the apathy that demeans the local election process.

A coloured voting box

In Birmingham for example, alongside the traditional voting for local councillors, was a referendum to decide whether the city should be run by an elected mayor. It was one of 10 English cities holding such a ballot.

 

So when the populace gets its chance to vote for local representatives or use it as an opportunity to voice discontent at the national government, and at the same time is presented with an historic opportunity to change local governance, what happens?

 

Less than a third of those eligible can be bothered putting an x or a tick on a piece of paper. In secrecy. Without the need to…

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Elected mayors – it’s all about the city vision, stupid

Colmore Row, Birmingham

It seems any argument between supporters and opponents of elected mayors sooner or later reaches an impasse when each side declares their preferred model of local governance is ‘more democratic’ than the other.

For the ‘yes’ side, the principle of each and every voter having a direct say in who leads the city is seen as irrefutable proof that the democratic gods are on their side.

The nay-sayers dismiss this, pointing out that voters already elect the councillors who currently make that choice, and a democratic mandate therefore runs like a thread from the ballot box to the leader’s office.

What’s more, say those who object to mayors, local councillors are more in touch with the issues in their neighbourhoods, and therefore more closely represent the key concerns of the electorate than a distant mayor ever could. These individual ward-level local concerns together form Read the rest of this entry »


Labour senses historic city council election victory, while Tories and Lib Dems sulk in silence

Birmingham City Council House is in Victoria S...

Birmingham Council House

The Labour Party is continuing to ramp up its campaigning efforts in the run up to the Birmingham council elections on May 3, in stark contrast to the city’s ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition which has made no effort to seek publicity in recent weeks.

A flurry of policy announcements by Labour during April included a promise to give a wage rise to 2,743 low-paid council workers and a commitment to appoint a “Victims Champion” to make sure that the voices of those affected by crime are heard in all local authority departments.

Further details setting out how Labour would go about making sure that the council uses its £1 billion-a-year procurement powers to buy goods and services from local firms is expected before polling day.

Labour’s 16-page manifesto – A Vision for Birmingham – has been regarded as Read the rest of this entry »


Mirza Ahmad: ‘I can run Birmingham and be a barrister at the same time’

Mirza Ahmad

Mirza Ahmad has become the first of Birmingham’s mayoral candidates to suggest that he would be able to combine running the city with a second full time job.

Dr Ahmad, a lawyer, is promising to accept only a “fraction” of any recommended pay package for the mayor, but intends to continue to practice as a barrister from St Philip’s chambers.

The former Director of Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer at the city council also took a sideswipe at his former colleagues, describing them as working in “highly overpaid, inefficient and ineffective structures”.

He made it clear that he would abolish the post of Read the rest of this entry »


There’s another election going on, you know. Solihull’s Joe Tildesley tells Top of the Cops why he wants to be the Tory candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner


Birmingham’s appointment with history: the perils and pitfalls of an elected mayor

* Birmingham Skyline from the west Selfridges ...

The political scene in Birmingham could be transformed over the next six months as the city moves slowly but surely towards being governed by an elected mayor.

On the other hand, it could be a case of more of the same if voters reject the idea of having a mayor in a referendum.

Paul Dale examines the timetable, and the perils and pitfalls ahead.

May 3: One-third of Birmingham City Council seats will be contested at the local elections.

Voters will also be asked whether they wish to move from a council leader and cabinet system, which is the current arrangement, to a mayor who would be chosen once every four years directly by everyone in Birmingham who is registered to vote and bothers to do so.

May 4: At about 4am on Friday May 4, Read the rest of this entry »