Last night (14/2/2007) Ray Mallon aka Robocop, aka Elected Mayor of Middlesbrough,came to say what a good job he was doing as mayor. He was a salesman he said without the self interest of “two-bit” politicians so he was able to put Middlebrough’s case without fear or favour. Corruption had been the name of the game before he came on the scene and he was there to see it stamped out. Opposing the idea of the elected mayor, Khalid Mahmood asserted that a considerable number of elected mayors in the U.S. were either in jail or under investigation. Ray made it clear that he was above suspicion.
Just as a taste what life might be like if your are on the Cabinet under Ray, Stewart Stacey sitting next to me got a lashing from him. “It’s very rude to be reading the Evening Mail while I’m talking” he barked. Stewart pointed out that far from ignoring him he was writing notes about what was being said!
I asked how such matters as the Unicef’ report on the state of British children would be addressed by going further down the route of individualism. This has been one of the things cited as a reason for the state of affairs. I also ventured that I was glad he wasn’t Birmingham’s elected mayor. Mr Mallon pointed out that I didn’t know him and the the press had played up the idea of “zero tolerance” without looking at other aspects of his leadership. Chris Game, sitting next to Khalid Mahmood, so I thought he was opposing, thought my view “simplistic”. He pointed to elected mayors in places like Holland with the highest standard of child care in the report. To me the consequence of tackling crime head on had lead to overcrowded jails filled with people many of whom have a mental illness. There has been a high suicide rate not least among vulnerable women. Ray pointed out that he visited primary schools regularly.
It was a good thing that Sir Richard Knowles, former leader of Birmingham City Council was there. He was an on tap visual aid for Khalid and others to say that Birmingham had done very well thank you without an elected mayor. Sir Richard was in excellent form and responded to Mallon’s assertion that politicians don’t necessarily make good managers with “neither do members of the police force.”
In actuality things turned out a bit strangely with Ray Malon admitting that what was good for Middlesbrough was not necessarily so for Birmingham. In fact having a bad choice of mayor would bring a twon or city to its knees. Jerry Blackett, the fourth panel member next to Ray Mallon was I suppose for an elected mayor, but then again that wasn’t clear.
What was clear in a “fun” vote was that a clear majority weren’t impressed. However the coals of the previous debate we had in Birmingham were raked over. At that time two versions of an elected leader were put to the vote splitting those for the idea and allowing those against to hold the day. Although the Government was a proponent of the elected mayor they did nothing to refer the matter back. A majority voted in favour of a referendum to allow everyone to have a say, which muddied the waters still further. As someone said, weren’t there more important issues to discuss? We need to move on.
Evening Mail video.