Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Whitless strikes again

One step forward and two steps back.

Cllr Mike Whitby, allegedly the leader of Birmingham City Council, but currently doing a passable impression of a circus clown, continues to show the way when it comes to sensitive issues.

He's finally apologised - sort of - to Cllr Salma Yaqoob, for his intemperate outburst in the council chamber last week. Well, it is almost an apology, because if she took offence, it was her fault anyway, probably because she's a woman, or something.

Dear Councillor Yaqoob,

Thank you for your letter of 9th June and the comments you raise. I am sorry that you have chosen to wrongly interpret my response to your oral question made at last Tuesday's Council Meeting. You asked me about diversity in Birmingham, and I was pleased to highlight the Government's praise of the excellent work being done to maintain and improve community relations in the light of past difficulties. This contrasts with the failings and problems experienced in other parts of the country.

You must be aware that the city council you are now a member of has been rightly commended for the way it handles relations with all of its diverse communities. I feel aggrieved this good work was put at risk by your attack on the composition of the Cabinet and Scrutiny portfolio holders. Such divisive political tactics do not have a place here, especially when we are working so hard to bring people together.

If you want to understand the Progressive Partnership's approach to Equality and Diversity in our City then we are very happy to meet with you and outline what we are doing and why the Government have praised our approach. I have copied this to my colleague, Cllr Alan Rudge, who has taken the lead in this matter. You will no doubt be aware that the Partnership will be nominating at the July Council meeting Cllr Ayoub Khan as lead member on the Police Authority and Cllr Tanveer Choudhry as Chairman of the Task and Finish Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Local Area Agreements. We will always continue to strive towards inclusivity. On a personal basis, I am sorry if you have been offended by my remarks, something which was never my intention. It is sad if people have interpreted what I said in a way which was not meant. We celebrate our cultural diversity in Birmingham and as Leader of the City I constantly do all I can to promote it. I hope I can count on your support to build on our success in the future.

He had to turn up on BBC local radio as well and one of my correspondents provides the edited highlights (sadly I was out of the area at the time, so didn't here Whitless' mumblings)

Whitby gave a typical performance on the Doolan Show yesterday, flapping around all over the place. He must have been asked three or more times to read a transcript of what he said.When he finally did, the words 'If the Councillor wants to represent Burnley or Oldham she can do.' apparently didn't mean 'why don't you go to Burnley or Oldham'.Disingenuous or stupid? You decide.Lamely, Salma Yacoob accepted an apology that would have done a 10 year old proud:
1. You chose to misunderstand me.
2. I was right.
3. If by misunderstanding what I was saying you have got upset then I am sorry you have got upset.
4. By the way I have got my fingers crossed, so it doesn't count.
OK, I made the last bit up. In other parties or on other Councils, Whitby wouldn't still be in the leaders office.
But Iron Mike Whitby hasn't finished yet. As you note, he is putting Ayoub Khan into place on the WM Police Authority, replacing the Labour councillor Yvonne Mosquito. Brilliant. Replace the only Afro-Caribbean woman on the authority with an Asian man. Diversity in action, there Mike. Needless to say, Albert Bore is kicking off about this one, questioning Whitless' authority to do this. [UPDATE - According to the Birmingham Post, Whitless has managed to lever an extra spot on the police authority for a Birmingham councillor, so Yvonne is safe in her place. Why this wasn't made clear from the start is unclear.]

Andrew Sparrow, a persistent thorn in Whitless' side over recent months and recently deposed from Birmingham Forward, threw in his fourpennorth in a letter to the Birmingham Post yesterday, in which he wrote:
Coun Whitby holds a key office. He leads Birmingham and by a host of political actions carries the ambitions of a community. However, for the city to achieve economic vantage and social cohesion requires more than a personal ambition which outstrips ability.

Dave Radcliffe reckons I've had a go at him for being white, male and middle-class. I didn't - I come from the same demographic. I was merely pointing out that another senior LD post had gone to a white man. I don't want quotas or positive discrimination (an oxymoron, if ever I heard one), just a reasonable representation of all our residents on the council. He points out that Labour has had a run of white, middle-class deputy leaders and I'd ask him to note that Labour also had a record of appointing black and Asian councillors to leadership roles within the city council, a record that outstrips the combined efforts of the current 'Progressive Partnership' by a country mile.

Incidentally, I apologise for my error in calculating the number of black LD councillors - entirely my fault, but it doesn't make it look any better for the LDs, as not one of their ethnic minority group is good enough to make it to a leadership position on the council.

1 comment:

john said...

I still make it two Asians and one Afro Caribbean in SRA type posts.