I’d have liked to have been at the debate held by Birmingham Labour Party activists on the merits of having an elected city mayor.
But given the choice of sipping a cold beer by a swimming pool in sun-kissed Crete or listening to the comrades chunter on, the soiree did not appeal.
Of course, if I had been there the attendance would have been boosted to 36 people, which rather says it all about Birmingham’s non-engagement with the mayoral issue.
My Labour friends insist that the meeting “wasn’t very well advertised”, but even if the venue and time had been fly-posted across the city I doubt whether many more people would have turned up.
Sir Albert Bore, one of two Labour politicians to state that they want to run for mayor, told the meeting that it was essential for the successful candidate to have council experience.
This was such an Albert-thing to say, subtly sticking the knife into colleague Sion Simon, the former Erdington MP, who is his main rival for the mayoral candidacy, without stating to his face that he thinks he is not up to the job.
Naturally, if Mr Simon doesn’t have the council experience, nor Edgbaston Labour MP Gisela Stuart, who is rumoured to be planning a mayoral bid, then Birmingham will just have to turn to a veteran with 31 years as a city councillor behind him.
Who on earth could that be? Oh, yes, Sir Albert Bore.
My view is the exact opposite of Sir Albert’s. What Birmingham needs is a dynamic fresh face unencumbered by past council baggage, someone who can bring an exciting fresh approach from day one and has no need to spend time settling old scores or rewarding local government cronies with jobs.
With the mayoral referendum now less than eight months away it is not surprising that Labour is the only political party appearing to take any real interest in the issue since the candidate it puts forward must be odds-on favourite to win, although Lord Digby Jones might upset the apple cart if he decides to stand as an independent.
History suggests that a poll involving Birmingham’s 750,000 electors voting for one candidate is likely to favour Labour most of the time.
A Conservative might win if the Tory party was very popular, but the likelihood of this does not appear great by the time of the mayoral election in November 2012.
The strangest thing about the mayoral “debate” so far is the absence of a vigorous ‘no’ campaign, in contrast to 2001 when councillors from all political parties got together to run a vociferous and highly effective opposition movement based on scare tactics about the mayor being an elected dictator.
Yardley Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who helped drive the 2001 no campaign, has offered to team up with Labour MP Roger Godsiff to do the same again, but there is as yet no sign of anything much happening.
This may be because the tide has begun to turn at the Council House, if not enthusiastically in favour of a mayor at least to a position where many more Labour councillors are beginning to grasp that this is their best bet of running Birmingham in the long term.
Will the referendum in May deliver a yes vote? This is a difficult question to answer and may well depend on the character of the candidates who have put their names forward by the time that the poll takes place.
It seems highly likely that rather more politicians, and non-politicians, will have declared themselves by May than is the case now.