Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Secret Life of Mike Whitby

Judging from Whitless' essay in the Birmingham Post - which reads more like a primary pupil's 'What I Did On My Holidays' work than something purporting to come from a leading politician - it is clear that Mike has single-handedly led the work to regenerate Longbridge.

You wouldn't have thought that the crisis brought the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to Birmingham the day after the company failed and an announcement of a £40 million aid package for suppliers, nor that redundancy payments were accelerated after government intervention. Let alone that regional, national and local resources were mobilised to respond - many of them outside the control of the city council.

Mike leapt into action. He knew that somebody had to jump into the limelight, so his first response was to dash to the BBC and beg someone to let him in so that he could be interviewed, then he rushed to Longbridge having picked up a passing TV crew. That's characterised much of his performance since - he's always been at the front of the queue when the media are around to film the Great Leader in action at one of the regular relaunches of car production at Longbridge.

Sadly, there are always those with more negative views. Take Richard Burden, MP for Northfield. He's less sympathetic to Whitless' self-penned hagiography, accusing him of a
triumph of ego over memory
and pointing out that

many people who were involved will not recognise Mike’s claim to have been the personal inspiration behind pretty well everything that was achieved in the hours, days and weeks which followed the collapse of the company.

Richard writes a much more thoughtful article, pointing out the effectiveness of the response and accepting that Whitless did have a part to play, but that many others were involved at a national and local level and for any one person to claim a leadership role is rather insulting to what was a team effort.

Whitless has the nerve to quote a genuinely inspirational leader in Churchill, perhaps imagining himself as the saviour of Birmingham. There are similarities - this article is certainly sticking two fingers up to the others involved with the disaster management of the Rover collapse.

Mind you, Mike was always closely involved with Rover. He even managed for a while to hang onto his £60,000 sports car loaned to him as an 'ambassador' (sic) for the company, as it suited the administrators. He was also involved in providing employment opportunities for some of the Rover people - in particular hiring Alastair Morton fresh from the wreckage of Rover as his PR supremo, who promptly returned the favour by penning a stream of pro-Whitby bilge that would shame even the most on-message Chinese journalist.

It might also be helpful if Whitless could break off from self-aggrandising his role in Anglo-Chinese relations to talk to the developers involved in regenerating the Longbridge site and to make sure that they are getting the level of support they need to make the project happen.

1 comment:

Fergus said...

You surely mean "You wouldn't have thought that this would bring a panic-striken Prime Minister and Chancellor to Birmingham in the middle of an election campaign, in order to save their bacon".

The only thing embarrasing about this article is your take on it. Labour nationally panicked, and Labour locally carped. But then, this collapse was always likely, given the way that Alchemy's much more hard-headed approach had been kicked into touch 4 years earlier. If the Labour government had bitten the bullet then, anything up to 5,000 people would have had steady, on-going employment ever since.

As for Cllr Whitby's article, yes, he uses the 'I' word, when he met people, or caused something to happen. He also uses the 'we' word, much more, actually. To me, that indicates a team (unless you're going to spin beyond the outer reaches of sanity and argue that he has delusions of royalty). Several other organisations and people are named and praised.

Take off your blinkers, Hack, and try reading it objectively, rather than as a Tory-hating drone.