Hello, and welcome. Here is the news for May 2013. BONG.....former Central TV anchorman Bob Warman has become Birmingham’s first elected mayor. BONG....his ‘I’m just an ordinary bloke’ campaign delivers a landslide victory. BONG.....Warman’s first cabinet contains six local business leaders and only two councillors.
An unlikely outcome, certainly, but the closeness of April Fool’s Day should not be used as an excuse to dismiss entirely this week’s extraordinary turn of events with regard to the race to become mayor of Birmingham.
Many people will be tempted to chuckle, or perhaps laugh uncontrollably, at the prospect of Bob Warman pitching his reporter’s hat into the mayoral ring.
The avuncular face of regional news programmes, much-loved Uncle Bob, the man who has brought the good, bad and downright bizarre news items into our front rooms for the past 30-odd years, is thinking about swapping his comfortable sofa for an altogether harder berth at the Council House.
Warman’s mayoral bid almost certainly won’t happen, of course, but it is worth considering what makes a man on the verge of collecting his bus pass consider rejecting mowing the lawns in comfortable retirement at his splendid Worcestershire home in favour of a late-blossoming political career.
It turns out that Warman is being influenced by a group of local business leaders who are fed up with the way the council is being run at the moment and are demanding revolution rather than evolution. This group prefers to remain anonymous, naturally.
He is far too much of a journalist pro to reveal his sources, but I strongly suspect that the “influential people” egging on Mr Warman are the same people who since 2004 have been happy to snipe behind the scenes at Tory council leader Mike Whitby, but sycophantically cosy up to him in public.
In other words, their influence extends to a cowardly failure to place their own heads above the parapet, preferring to find a convenient front man instead.
This is the very turn of events that opponents of the mayoral system have both feared and predicted. The emergence of a populist figure who, with the right team behind him, might just strike a chord with the electors of Birmingham particularly in a climate where representatives from the main political parties are viewed with weary cynicism.
It had been thought that the most likely man-of-the-people candidate would be professional Brummie Carl Chinn, the Villa-loving local history professor who a decade ago helped front a campaign to save the Rover car company.
Surely, though, Chinn’s good-old-days act has come and gone and it is questionable whether his fame and popularity is as great today as it once was.