There’s a new campaign springing up around here, mostly on twitter at the moment under the tag yes2brummayor, to promote the notion of a City Mayor for Birmingham in advance of next year’s referendum. No problem with that as far as I’m concerned. There are actually some folk I respect involved in the campaign, as well as some I disagree with intently who support the campaign to oppose the notion of an elected Mayor.
What I really struggle with is the near religious zealotry and moral self-righteousness of the ‘Vote Yes’ people. They can’t just say they prefer having a single person taking all the important decisions, because that in itself sounds so bloody ridiculous. So they dress it up in all sorts of moral arguments about democracy, combined with meaningless Blairite jargon around ‘modernisation’ and ‘efficient decision making’ which make my skin crawl. I always get visions of Mussolini making the trains run on time when I hear people talk like that.
I have absolutely no evidence to support this assertion… but I’m not going to let that stop me making it… but I get the feeling that most people arguing so passionately in favour of City Mayors now, are the same folk who argued so long and loudly for changes to the voting system. There’s just something about the downright sanctimonious way they put their argument, as if anyone opposing them must be against the very notion of democracy itself. What’s more, and I doubt you’ll get many of them to admit it these days, I wouldn’t mind betting they were telling us not so long ago that we simply had to join the Euro to guarantee our economic salvation.
Well, don’t believe a word of it. Concentrating power in fewer and fewer hands is not about increasing democracy. It was the Blairite argument for the Cabinet system, and then for transferring executive powers in Council leaders, (does anyone seriously argue that these were democratic advances?) and then for switching powers to a single Mayor.
For Birmingham we hear the spurious argument that we should have a Mayor “because London has got one”. A total irrelevance, of course, because London is comprised of a whole series of local authorities and Birmingham is a single Council.
The other argument we hear is around giving the City a face, a charismatic leader. Given the fact that neither of the two main party leaders in Brum would be considered charismatic, even by their nearest and dearest, this could almost be convincing. But be careful what you wish for. If ever one of the numerous ‘celebrity’ candidates got elected in Birmingham, the City would inevitably be run by the unaccountable and unelected council officers who would ‘advise’ the Mayor. Very bloody democratic.
So, good folk of our major cities, give Blair, Clegg, Cameron and all the other ‘modernisers’ a good swift kick in the privates next year and tell them to stuff their Mayor. Vote No!