Really rotten boroughs – the case of Robin Wales

Newham's one party stateby Robin’s ‘Hood

Many of us have had concerns about the executive mayoral model, especially in unitary councils run as one party states with no effective opposition. Recent events in Newham, East London, illustrate what can go wrong. Three councillors (5% of the total) have currently been placed in administrative suspension by the national Labour Party, including one who is known as being a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and who recently helped launch Momentum in Newham. Perhaps not a great career move if your local party leader was a well-known supporter of Liz Kendall!

It might turn out that the allegations against these Councillors are justified. However, it makes you wonder exactly what these three backbench Asian councillors have done when you consider that recent findings against leading Newham Labour political figures, who were not at any stage suspended by the party during investigations, resulted in no action being taken against them whatsoever by the group or the Labour Party – despite serious misconduct being established. Continue reading

Agreeing with Harry Phibbs on accountability in local governemnt

Joe Quimby, Mayor of Springfield, from the Simpsons by Matt GroeningFar be it for me to agree with Harry Phibbs (and possibly even Eric Pickles), but it seems that, on this one issue at least, I do. Harry Phibbs was the man who got the Federation of Conservative Students shut down for being too right-wing but is now the local government editor of ConservativeHome and a right-wing Tory councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham. His column today reports the decision by Eric Pickles to consult on whether the Cabinet system on Rotherham Council should be completely abolished, and the council return to the Committee system.

The current structure of local government today is a legacy of Tony Blair similar to the legacy he left of a remodelled New Labour party – authoritarian and devoid of accountability. You might describe the relationship that evolved in his reign between Parliament and the Executive in the same way. Continue reading

Why are the most powerful Labour politicians also the least accountable?

Directly elected Mayors in England are, without doubt, the most powerful English politicians around, with the exception of the Prime Minister. They have unparalleled executive powers, sufficient powers of patronage to ensure they are untroubled by dissenters in their own parties, and the comfort of knowing that it requires a two-thirds majority to overturn their budget or policy. And there is no limit to the number of terms they can serve.

So why does the Labour Party – which has never tampered with the manadatory reselection of local councillors – fail to build in any real mechanisms for ensuring their accountability? Continue reading

Of directly elected mayors, democracy and the large gap in between

The people have spoken but will the commentariat listen? Every large city that was asked whether it wanted a directly mayor this week rejected the idea bar one. Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Wakefield, all said no by majorities between 6% and 30%. The people of Liverpool, quite disgracefully, weren’t consulted. The people of Bristol said yes, very narrowly (53% to 47%), with only about one in eight of Bristol’s voters actually backing it in a low turnout. But that’s not all. Continue reading

Six minimum reforms for making directly elected mayors more accountable

Appearing on Newsnight to oppose directly elected mayors (catch it here for another few days though the format was not so great), I reflected on the fact that regardless of the strong arguments against elected mayors (mine are here), at the next election there will nevertheless be a number of elected mayors — mostly as a result of a local referendum — including in London, probably Birmingham, and a number of other cities. Some of them at least will still enjoy local support and the powers will still exist for more to be created. Continue reading