Thursday, October 27, 2005

Jeremiah was right.

Whitby - Livid (Official).

Today's Birmingham Post saw Mike Whitby, the Leader of Birmingham Council (for the time being) come out fighting - and trying to claim responsibility for New Conservatism. I guess we can now use the adjective 'embattled' to describe the poor man.

In a fringe speech at the Tory conference (ouch) Sir Digby Jones accused the Tory/Liberal Democrat council of talking too much and achieving too little and was followed up by a letter to the Post from the chairman of Birmingham Business Focus, Neil Maybury, which described Whitless's clowns as 'a mess.' They've also come under attack from Andrew Sparrow of Birmingham Forward, who has claimed that there is now an ingrained culture of indecision at the top. I've noted before that if a Tory administration has lost the faith of the CBI, then they are really in trouble. This bunch are in deep.

Predictably, Mickey's response was to say that he'd had lots of letters of support from other chief executives. Curiously, none of them are prepared to put their names above the parapet. In a long interview in the Post, curiously reminiscent of another puff-piece only a few months ago, Whitby got to spout his usual stream of moronity.

Apparently, this administration comprises
businessmen who would bring private sector know-how to the fore and unleash the forces of entrepreneurialism

If this is how they run their companies, I'm amazed any of them are still trading. If I'd wasted £300,000 on two studies into a patently impossible plan, I'd be looking for a new job, but the chief know-how that Whitless brings to bear is the knowledge of how to hang on to the top job in the face of sustained attack by the shareholders.

He meanders on:
The things that really matter to people, and I am not decrying projects like New Street and the library, are whether the dustbins are collected on time, whether the streets are clean and the housing decent... If some local Jeremiahs who are vaguely associated with the commercial community want to speak as individuals then they must make clear they are doing so. They are little more than self-appointed publicity seekers.

Well, we wouldn't any of those involved with the council, would we? To describe those three people as 'vaguely associated' with business is insulting and shows how out of touch Whitby has got in just 18 months. Let's hear from some of the business leaders who support this lot. Come on, let's be 'avin you! (C) Delia Smith.

Again, he's missed the point. Yes, people want the basic functions of the council carried out, but those are relatively straightforward - they worked under Labour and they continue to work under the Tories. Actually, it is questionable that the streets are cleaner than they were after the big clean-up started in 2004 and the scrapping of the planned wheelie-bin trial has left Birmingham's streets strewn with ripped black bin bags, spewing their rubbish across the pavements and feeding our resident rats.

What people also want and need is to see that those leading their city have a vision - that they are able to set a direction. Birmingham has changed massively since I first visited the City in the 1980s and I've seen further change since moving here more than a decade ago - as noted by David Cameron at the weekend. We've done great things in our city, but now I see us drifting, rudderless, with a captain just sunbathing and enjoying the voyage, rather than taking responsibility for the ship's course. We were on the way to being a global city, but Whitby and Tilsley (let's not forget the Liberal Democrats' unforgivable culpability) seem to have frozen in the spotlight. They didn't expect to be in power and counted on the honeymoon period to see them through. Well, it hasn't. The people of the city deserve action and progress - our motto isn't 'Forward' for nothing.

Mike closes with a heartfelt plea to his critics
'A period of silence on their part would be welcome.'
I'm sure it would, Whitless, but it isn't going to happen. A period of unemployment on your part would be even more welcome.

Oh, and Mike? Remember that Jeremiah may have been ignored, that didn't stop him being right.

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