Saturday, May 30, 2009

Martin Mullaney - meet the new boss, same as the old boss

A few weeks back, Cllr Martin Mullaney removed veteran Ray Hassall from the much-desired cabinet seat for leisure and culture through a vote of the Liberal Democrat group meeting.

From this murky process has emerged a document detailing the campaign pledges that delivered the votes for Martin and it makes interesting reading. (Top marks to PragueTory for getting his fingers on it and publishing it for the world to gaze upon it in awe and reverence).

He says that he has not been happy with how this Cabinet portfolio has been run, echoing a complaint of the Tory backbenches that their political group has not been consulted on a number of decisions. He lists the Library of Birmingham, the Olympic pool, Artsfest and the £20 million loan/gift to Warwickshire Cricket Club. I'm not sure that this is entirely fair to the defeated Ray Hassall - reports suggests that he was hardly involved over the Edgbaston giveaway and hasn't been allowed anywhere near the iconic Library of Birmingham project. This isn't political - Tory Cllr and regeneration Cabinet Member Neville Summerfield isn't allowed control over major regeneration projects either. The big stuff all sits with Whitless.

Martin has a bit of a reputation amongst the political set for self-promotion in the local media and he promises to be more sensitive than he has in the past. Quite how that tallies with his performance this week in hurling unsupported allegations at Respect Cllr Salma Yaqoob, which resulted in a Tory candidate looking like a fool, isn't entirely clear. He promises to be a 'team player, acutely aware of how the statements I make will significantly impact upon the group, other members and in turn the City.' Well, this week's performance showed him falling at the first chance to jump that fence.

Seasoned observers of the Liberals in Birmingham may remember their 2004 manifesto where they promised to "halt the culture of spin" and "less secrecy than currently." It seems that they have failed to manage either of these achievements even within their own group, let alone with the public at large, but Martin promises to change all that, for it will be

"my mission to lift the veil of secrecy that currently dominates this portfolio"
He also adds that Liberal Democrat councillors can be assured of being

"forewarned of any contentious issues that might be lurking round the corner"
However, for the rest of us, he makes an interesting promise to bury bad news - in a tug of the forelock to his sponsor, John Hemming, and with an eye on his mate Jerry Evans, Martin promises

that I will always be mindful of Parliamentary campaigns and will ensure that any bad news that could affect these campaigns will be nipped in the bud.

The piece is actually a considered kicking to Cllr Hassall, with references to secrecy, lack of consulation and consistency - Martin won't say one thing this week and something else the next, clearly suggesting that Ray has failed in all of those areas, otherwise why would there be a need for change? He says that the vision has become 'blurred' - without ever explaining precisely what that vision is, but accepts that the Lib Dem Group now have 'lesser expectations.'
For all the promises, I suspect that the only change will be the face. Martin will still fall in line with Tory policy, despite his promises to put the Liberal Democrat group and management team first (no mention of the Birmingham residents at all there).


charlie said...

Bit soon to be calling the new library 'iconic', especially as it seems a lot of people will hate it.

PoliticalHack said...

It is one of Whitby's icons. As I've written before, I don't think that this is the right place for the library and I'm not clear on where the funding is coming from.

Anonymous said...

It certainly appears that Labour's Yardley Constituency Library campaign has got under the skin of the Fib Dems. In Stechford & Yardley North, they are delivering a leaflet where they claim they support the Library of Birmingham.

There is a quote too from On the Buses' Olive, I mean Carol Jones, stating that:

"this superb facility will compliment (sp) the excellent, expanding local library provision available in Stechford & the wider Yardley constituency"

Funny then that the Libs voted onto the Cabinet a man (Mullaney) who is against the project.

Me thinks that Yardley Lib Dems are using the Library of Birmingham as a smokescreen for cuts they intend to make on local library services.

My advice to Labour, is keep fighting to save Yardley's libraries.