I was one of the co-Chairs of the All Party ‘No campaign’ which was campaigning against the Referendum on whether Birmingham should have an ‘elected Mayor’. The Referendum was imposed by the Coalition Government on the people of Birmingham.
I welcome the fact that the people of Birmingham voted overwhelmingly (58% to 42%) against the proposal for an elected Mayor. As I said on numerous occasions at various meetings during the campaign the concept of concentrating power in the hands of one individual was dangerous.
The No campaign set out the ten clear reasons why we asked the people of Birmingham to vote against the proposal whereas the ‘Yes campaign’ – supported by elements within the Chamber of Commerce; the Birmingham Post and Mail; Lord Heseltine and Lord Adonis; and assorted individuals who wanted to be Mayor – took it for granted that there would be a ‘Yes’ majority and hardly bothered to advance any coherent reasons why the people of Birmingham should support such a proposal.
The Coalition Government were very keen to get a ‘Yes’ vote and the Electoral Commission, to their shame, devised a ballot paper which did not ask a simple question of ‘Do you want to change the current system to have an elected Mayor in Birmingham – please vote yes or no’ but instead devised two bland options which caused considerable confusion for many people. Over 5,000 ballot papers were rejected (2.5% of votes cast). However those ballot papers that had ‘yes’ written on it were counted as being in favour of having an elected Mayor but those ballot papers that had ‘No’ written on it were disallowed. This was flagrantly biased but, thankfully, made no difference to the massive rejection of the proposal.
I very much welcome the 20 Labour gains made throughout Birmingham and the change of control in Birmingham. The Council has many challenges and difficult tasks facing it but the new intake of Councillors, including Barry Bowles, Lisa Trickett and Mohammed Azim from the Hall Green constituency will, I hope, assist with bringing changes to the way that Council is run and I wish them all well for their period of office.