Democracy dies in Birmingham – the technocracy is here

Democracy dies in Birmingham – the technocracy is here

Although there were no local elections held in Birmingham this year, thanks to a change in proceedings effective from 2018, which means that there only needs to be a ‘full’ election once every four years, there has been an unprecedented change of leadership at the Labour-controlled council this week.

Ordinarily, the councillors from the controlling majority party vote amongst themselves to decide who their ‘leader’ within the council should be, depending on who has put themselves forward for nomination of course. That person then effectively becomes the person in charge of the council, and thus in control of the city.

Since 2017 that person has been Cllr Ian Ward, representing the Shard End ward of the city, following the resignation of Cllr John Clancy during the infamous ‘bin strikes’ in 2017.

Local media has been reporting here about some internal party ‘report’ into failings within the city council – which let us not forget successfully organised and hosted the Commonwealth Games only last year.

In case you can’t predict the summary of the ‘findings’,

It described a ‘dysfunctional’ culture and working practices within the local group, alongside allegations of misogyny, racism and disunity between councillors and the wider Labour movement, including trade unions.

It sounds ‘familiar’ because it is the same kind of conclusions being drawn that lead to ‘regime change’ within most organisations these days.

Not being a Labour councillor myself, or a Birmingham councillor with any other party, I’m not aware of or privy to any shenaningans that might be going on within Birmingham Council House. So why do I say that ‘democracy has died here’?

A report citing allegations of misogyny, toxic division and infighting at the heart of Birmingham Labour has caused disarray – after the party’s national leadership ruled it was so damning they would now step in and decide the city’s next leader.

It means the party’s national executive has effectively seized control of the city council after deciding the ‘status quo’ is not an option. In a move that has caused shockwaves, they have said they will appoint the next leader and deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, with local members not getting a say.

It’s left the local party and council in disarray, just as it is facing multiple challenges over the cost of living crisis, its finances and the state of its multi million pound IT system. The report also emerged on the day the council officially launched a vision of the Birmingham of the future.

Council leader Ian Ward and deputy Brigid Jones, elected for four years last May, have been told their roles are now up for grabs. They and any other candidates who choose to stand will face interview by a panel of Labour National Executive Committee members and regional executive members from outside the area, who will have the final say.

“Birmingham Labour in disarray as party ‘forces out’ council leaders” – Birmingham Mail, 16th May 2023

Basically the Labour party’s NEC (National Executive Committee) will decide for themselves who the next council leader and their deputy will be, and the Labour councillors will have no say in the matter, apart from putting themselves forward for nomination.

It all reminds me of how Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister without a vote on party leadership being put to Conservative members.

To be honest, I don’t know why the Labour party saw Cllr Ward as a ‘problem’, after all he’s been overseeing the following of the ‘agendas’ (UN Agenda 21 / 2030) as well as presenting the blueprints for Birmingham to become a 15-minute “smart” city, it’s not like he’s been doing anything wrong really.

But it would seem that the national Labour party have had other ideas, and have decided that they want “their man” to lead the Labour group within Birmingham City Council, and are not even going to bother with the pretence of a ‘democratic election’ even amongst their own members.

John Cotton has been chosen as the new leader of Birmingham’s Labour group, with Sharon Thompson his deputy. That means, subject to ratification, they will become leader and deputy leader of the country’s biggest local authority, overseeing a £3 billion budget.

The decision on the new leadership duo was made after interviews yesterday of shortlisted candidates by a panel of Labour’s National Executive Committee, supplemented by regional executives from outside the Midlands. Despite telling Birmingham Labour councillors they would get the final say from a ‘shortlist’ if enough ‘suitable’ candidates were agreed, the panel opted to discount every other candidate and make the decision without further consulting with local councillors.

“New leader for Birmingham City Council decided by Labour HQ” – Birmingham Mail, 21st May 2023

It’s pretty much the same way Rishi Sunak became Tory leader and thus Prime Minister; an elite group of Tory MPs decided who the leader should be, because the wider membership made the ‘wrong choice’ in electing Liz Truss, who was hounded out of office.

The irony is that it was Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who led the calls for a ‘general election’ following Truss’ resignation, but is happy to do the same here in Birmingham without a ‘full’ local election being called to let voters decide.

This is ‘technocracy’ in action right here: there are no longer any democratic votes, but persons are simply ‘appointed’ into roles, decided by a higher-up hierarchy. ‘Ordinary people’ can no longer be trusted to vote “the right way” but neither can party members internally it seems.

The status quo remains in place until 2026 which is the next opportunity residents of Birmingham get to vote in a local election. And the sad likelihood is that they will vote Labour in even greater numbers.

If you want to see change, sometimes you have to be the change. Please consider standing as an independent candidate, and give other people in your community something different to vote for.