Friday, February 15, 2008

The "big" debate one year on

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Evening Mail's "big debate" on an elected mayor for Birmingham.
Much has changed in a year. This year I was celebrating valentines day with my other half. But some things haven't changed.

Despite the Evening Mail throwing their mighty organ behind this campaign along with the Birmingham new labour party, there has been little sign of a mayoral revolution with the masses joining the campaign.

The aim has been to find 36k signatures calling for a referendum. But noises I'm hearing have suggested that only about 10k have signed. The higher figure represents 5% of the registered electorate, yet 10k signatures doesn't even break 1.5%.

There has been some complaints that the council is in some way breaking the rules in campaigning against the petition/referendum. The law is fairly clear in that the Council can't spend money campaigning for or against such thing. But the complaints have been about the Council not allowing the campaigners access to the electoral registers to check their mountain of petition forms against.

As has been made clear here before the law gives the campaign no right to these documents at all. They could go to their local library, or register themselves as a political party to gain access, but d'law is d'law.

Likewise they have been complaining that the Council wont check the signatures for them. Again, if they were to submit their bulging petition bags then that check would have to be carried out within a statutory timeframe. No ifs, no buts. But no sight of the petition has been seen. Could it be that someone is embarrased about its size, and that as soon as its submitted for public scrutiny we'll all know how small it is?

Of course there are a couple of weeks left until the petition has been going for a year. But those who signed it 12 months ago will soon find that their signatures have become void, so the petition will soon begin dwindling in size.

The killer for me is that at no time has anyone come up to me at a public meeting, or at our regular surgeries, or while talking with constituents on the doorstep to say: "you know what, Birmingham needs an elected mayor".