A little while back, the Iron Angle column in The Birmingham Post mentioned a Lib Dem plan to rerun their group elections - deciding which of those clowns get to make a mess of my city - in the autumn. Ostensibly, this is because cabinet responsibilities are being reshuffled and this would be an ideal opportunity to review the situation. Actually, this is a symptom of the acute embarrassment in LD circles that the Cabinet and scrutiny committee chairs overwhelmingly represent the white, male side of the city and entirely ignore the ethnic minority groups that make up a large chunk of the population. As none of the existing members seem prepared to do the decent thing and give up their paypackets, the back seat driver of the Lib Dem group on the council, one J Hemming, has decided that the issue will be forced. John points out that if the seven Asian councillors all voted en bloc, then one of them should secure a seat at the top table - although he fails to explain why these councillors couldn't also rely on the votes of their white and black colleagues. Poor old Dave Radcliffe could find himself the shortest-lived deputy group leader ever if he's summarily ejected in the autumn. That's democracy for you.
However, Hugh McCallion, a venerable old stalwart of the Labour team in Birmingham, had an excellent letter published, which uncovered some of the hidden fault lines in the Asian 'party-within-a-party'
Ayoub Khan makes no secret of the fact that feels he should be rewarded for the work he did in the Aston postal vote trial.... Shaukat Ali Khan was desperate for a position and certainly let it be known that he thinks his claims are stronger that those of Ayoub Khan. The departing Deputy Leader [only because he knew he couldn't win (PolH)] Tariq Khan... thinks his claims are stronger than either of the other two... because he was one of the first to defect from the Labour Party. Abdul Aziz presses his claims to anyone who will listen.
Does Hemming really think that such a diverse group could ever unite behind one of their number? The more sensible of the Lib Dems - if that isn't a contradiction in terms - realise that this group and those who identify with certain individuals in it, have the capacity to wreck the party and indeed the coalition.
It isn't possible to satisfy all their aspirations and any movement in that direction can only cause dissention and chaos. It's all very well going round collecting dissenters and mavericks when you're in opposition, but it's a very different matter when you are in goverment and expected to deliver...
Speaking of the destructive ability of certain former PJP councillors, don't forget that there is a scandal bubbling under in Bordesley Green where there have been accusations that a council scheme to provide rubbish skips to domestic users may have been used to lever votes in the recent council elections. It seems that the two Liberal Democrat councillors managed to overspend their budget quite impressively - each councillor was effectively allocated 120 skips from a central budget of around £39,000. The Labour councillor handed out 161, but was outstripped by the generosity of his Liberal Democrat opponents, who managed to sort out 615 of them and then had the nerve to ask for another £80,000 on top of the already massive overspend. And one of them wants to be a Cabinet member?
There are also questions over the shining performance of Paul Tilsley as Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Deputy Leader of the Council, Insulter of the Welsh and Brownnoser in Chief to Mike Whitless. Remember, he only won the leadership by a single vote last year and a slight shift in the dynamics, along with a change to the STV voting system could see him unseated. That would be highly entertaining.
Speaking of Whitless, I note that he's started a royal visit to China. Well, it keeps him from doing any more damage at home.