To describe the imposition of a mayor on the Greater Birmingham area as undemocratic would be something of an understatement.
It’s a classic case of the political class ignoring a democratic decision that they don’t like, and sadly the Labour Party regionally are complicit in this too (as too many of us have our eyes on the prize ourselves or for a pal of ours).
In 2012 the people of Birmingham decisively rejected a directly elected mayor and yet here we are in 2016 discussing nominations for the West Midlands Mayoral election (just to reiterate as I don’t think it can be pointed out enough times, a large proportion of the electorate for said election will be those who by a clear majority rejected the idea) in 2017 as if the 2012 referendum hadn’t happened.
This scandalous decision has passed almost entirely without comment and is a depressing indication of the state of democratic politics in the UK. Or maybe in my childish naiveté I just expect a democratic decision to be respected at least until one is made reversing it.
I’m not aware of a single senior Labour politician locally who has questioned the decision by George Osborne, who in his attempts to shirk responsibility for and disguise the true extent of the cuts he wishes to impose has taken a sudden and obviously insincere interest in regionalism and decided to brazenly ignore the referendum outcomes all over the country just a few years ago. Why is he offering to devolve power to regions he knows will probably vote Labour when he is a partisan, scheming hack to his core who believes in genuine devolution as much as Nick Griffin believes in racial harmony?
The response I’ve heard is three-fold:
- “The area covered isn’t the same as 2012”. In which case exclude from it the people who have made their feelings clear and offer a referendum to the rest of the region to see if they want one, but I suspect they will vote against it too.
- “It’s happening anyway so we should make the best of it.” I heard the same arguments about ‘academisation’ too, and after sustained political pressure we saw a u-turn (something this government does more often than people realise when under pressure). If Labour locally stood on a clear platform of collective government and a promise to fight tooth and nail to oppose the imposition of a mayor on Birmingham, mightn’t that have had some impact?
- “Just because George Osborne is proposing it doesn’t make it a bad idea”. It really does.
Sadly, it seems like it’s happening regardless as too many people in power across the political divide locally and nationally have a vested interest in making it happen. Such is life. A few names have already shown interest and Labour will probably make a decision on our candidate in the coming months.
Outside the Labour Party, the latest name to (sort of) throw his hat in the ring is Digby “business is my constituency” Jones, who is apparently considering running as an independent.
“The mayor should be in London, Mumbai, New York and Dubai and Beijing more than they are in the West Midlands……It is, in my view, an ambassadorial role and a London ‘kick-ass with central government to write the cheques’ role.”
Leaving aside the fact that anyone using the phrase “kick-ass” should automatically be disqualified from holding elected office or being listened to an any subject, ever, it is a depressingly familiar refrain from a depressingly tedious apologist for the worst excesses of the free market who can’t get his head around the idea that he and his friends aren’t actually the “wealth-creators” in society, and by justifying it in these jet-setting terms he is giving himself free reign to travel the world largely ignoring the actual job he would have been elected to perform.
Jones sees the role as being non-political (which if true makes him singularly ill-suited…….) Leaving aside the fact that this is a logical impossibility it goes to the heart of the nature of mainstream political discourse in this country.
Jones is loudly pro-business, as if this is somehow apolitical. And when he denounces socialism and trade unions he is also being apolitical. When he argues that unions put their members first he ignores the fact that as Director General of CBI his job was to promote the interests of its…..members. And when he makes a speech at the Tory Party conference saluting George Osborne’s economic policies he is being…you guessed it, apolitical.
And yet he is never called out on this absurd nonsense. And many like him, who pretend that business is apolitical, are never called out on it either. Funny that.
Jones is positively apoplectic at the thought of an anti-capitalist “Corbynista” taking the reins. When I first read this for one moment I excitedly thought a member of South Birmingham Momentum had been building an unstoppable coalition of support within the party and was all set to win the nomination.
Then I realised the red-blooded business-hating socialist revolutionary who would use the role to continue his lifelong struggle against capitalist oppression was Siôn Simon.
If he wins the nomination naturally I will campaign for him. But to describe him as a Corbynista seems just a trifle far-fetched.
But I suppose in the great mind of Digby Jones, anyone to the left of him is a Marxist. God help us all if he ever won.