Ruth Kelly has become the latest blairite clone to decide that the solution to all of our problems relies on the election of a media star, someone dressed in a monkey suit, or a megalomaniac politician to take all the important strategic decisions. This really does sum up the New Labour project. 20 years ago we had a democratically elected tier of local government operating at a strategic level across our metropolitan local government areas. In this region it was the West Midlands County Council and it had a cross borough resposibility for issues such as regeneration, transport, and economic development. Thatcher hated Ken Livingstone and in a piece stupid vindictiveness, she dismantled the GLC and the Metropolitan County Councils.
Clearly that has not helped matters, and as the regions have stuttered and spluttered to provide any strategic lead role through a series of quangos. New Labour (or should we say Tony Blair, because it doesn't matter if Miliband is replaced by Kelly, it is the Leader and his 'advisers' who dictate the policy, the Minister simply has to 'do it' and fall on their sword if it goes tits up) has decided that the solution to all of this is not to reinstate a democratically elected and accountable body, but to impose an Elected Mayor on the regions. The notion of Elected Mayors having been rejected almost universally by Councils up and down the country, the solution therefore is to ignore them and create a new tier of government led by.... someone like Tony. A thrusting, determined demagogue (defined in my dictionary as: A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace... sounds about right). It will be a test for the Leaders of these Councils throughout the country to see if they stand up to the Government... or whether, Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat to a man and woman, they roll over and allow the Government to tickle their tummy... whist drawing back the foot to kick them in their private parts. LOCAL government, my arse.
UKPoliticalHack has some interesting observations on the latest piece of dithering by Birmingham City Council's truly hopeless coalition which would seem to justify Ruth Kelly's point about "strong leadership".... but if that is what the people of Birmingham have voted for, that is what they get. There is nothing to say the electorate in a 'Greater Birmingham (God, how they detest that name outside of Birmingham) Region' wouldn't elect an incompetent bloody Mayor, then we would all be in the brown stuff.