Monday, 20 June 2011

vote for the mayor

elected mayors are rather the thing these days it seems.  I have changed my mind on them, I used to think that concentration of that much power in one hand was a recipe for cronyism and corruption, but now that I have seen, as in Reading over the years of Labour control, that cronyism and corruption flourish very well without an elected mayor, it seems good for transparency.  Especially when there is no overall political control, in which case unelected officers run the show.  No, elected mayors are probably a good thing.  Sion Simon thinks so too.  He thinks there is a democratic case for them, and he is running for mayor of Birmingham to prove his point.  He and I were colleagues in Parliament, and while he was capable of making a dick of himself, and did so from time to time, he is an honest man.  There has been talk for some time of an elected mayor in Reading.  The coalition did not have enough time to do anything about it, so it will be the Labour administration that does it.  They have more incentive, as their candidate is Martin Salter (make no mistake about that, hopefuls), who is returning from Australia for the purpose, to ensure that Reading remains a pocket Labour fiefdom now that the party is in opposition for a generation.  There is already a promising independent candidate limbering up in the wings (calm down, it isn't me).

What fun we shall have.  Btw I am going to Australia myself in November, for a long-ish holiday, expecting (and hoping) that Mr S will be back in the UK by then.  Twas I who predicted that he would stand down before the 2010 election and go to Australia, and that prediction went so far and so fast that he was asked the question by a Reading taxi driver and had to issue a denial.

What larks.


Anonymous said...

No - of coruse you don't want to be a candidate for Reading mayor - though I have no doubt whatsoever that this hare will run and run until it contracts mixi. Or is that rabbits?
I have never been to Australia - largely because of the flight costs. But hey - you never know - not dead yet. And haven't been to the States either.

Anonymous said...

An independent mayor would be very interesting.

Augustus Carp said...

Well, there’s no easy way to put this: Jane, you are wrong. Very wrong. Elected Mayors in a UK context are an abomination. It’s bad enough having this farcical “Cabinet” system of local government we have at the moment, whereby all power is concentrated into the hands of a select few Councillors and the rest perform the function of Christmas tree decorations – giving all the power to one individual will be even worse. In order to be elected this said individual will have to display a degree of solipsistic narcissism, sanctimonious populism and petty vindictiveness that will make the current bunch in the Civic Centre look almost Periclean by comparison. Look at all the current crop of elected mayors in England – not just London – and you will see what I mean. A circus of grotesques has driven out the competent. Please – no more freak shows in local government!

Anonymous said...

Indeed, no freak shows, Augustus. So can we then get rid of Ed Miliband?

Was said...

Augustus. We already have power vested in the hands of one individual.

In a fit of pique because towns and cities were in the main ignoring efforts to force elected Mayors on them, Labour forced councils to choose either an elected mayor or the "strong leader" model.

Reading is no longer run by the Cabinet but by the Leader of the council. The cabinet are effectively relegated to the role of assistants.

Anonymous said...

'Strong leader' - well that's not Ed Miliband either, is it.

Anonymous said...

Reading's coalition did consult on an elected mayor. Only 8 people responded, mostly in favour, so the coalition rejected them.

There are enough issues in Reading (transport, drugs, education) for contests to be issue-based rather than personality-based. Perhaps the obsession with city status may have gone away by then.