Former CBI chief Digby Jones has hinted that he would love to be mayor of one of Britain’s major cities – but not Birmingham.
Instead, Lord Jones of Birmingham has set his sights on replacing Boris Johnson as mayor of London.
He confirmed reports that he had considered standing as the Conservative candidate in London’s mayoral elections in 2007, but turned the job down when Tories insisted he had to join the party if he wanted to be their candidate.
But Lord Jones said it might be easier for him to stand today, because the political culture was changing to make it easier for independents to succeed.
His comments will come as a disappointment to campaigners who want to see a directly-elected mayor created for Birmingham, and hoped that Lord Jones would be a candidate.
The Government is committed to holding referenda on creating a mayor in England’s 12 largest cities, including Birmingham.
One of the arguments used in support of reform is that a directly-elected mayor would allow a high-profile figure such as Lord Jones to step forward as the city’s leader and raise its profile nationally and globally.
Lord Jones was born in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, and educated in Bromsgrove. He spent much of his career at a Birmingham law firm before joining KPMG and becoming Director General of the CBI.
He was later recruited by Gordon Brown to join his government as a trade minister, with a seat in the House of Lords.
But Lord Jones angered some Labour MPs by refusing to join the party, insisting he was in the government to help British business rather than to take sides in the battle between the parties.
In an interview with The House magazine, which is distributed to MPs and Peers, he said: “I have been offered jobs with parties before, but I would never join them.
‘‘I would have put my name forward to stand as mayor of London in 2007 as long as I didn’t have to belong to any party.
“The Conservatives told me that I couldn’t stand for them unless I joined the party, so I said no. It would be the same if anyone else asked me to do another job in government. I’m happily non-aligned.”
And he added: “I think I probably have one more big job in me, though I’m not sure what.
“Would I stand to be Mayor of London? In a way I have disqualified myself – for many jobs – because I won’t do party politics, but if this changing face of constitutional Britain has its way, then maybe there will be a greater room for independence.”
Lord Jones said he found some aspects of life as a Minister “staggeringly frustrating”, such as the pressure to turn up and vote for the Government.
He said: “That wasn’t my job. My job was to sell my country overseas.
‘‘The government wasn’t going to fall if I didn’t walk through a lobby on a Wednesday night when I’ve not even listened to the debate.
“That’s not a system of government to which I subscribe, but people who had been in for a long time, and would love a ministerial job, thought that I was this Johnny-come-lately.”
And he hit back at critics who have suggested he should have given up his peerage when he quit the Government in 2008, saying that he was still busy promoting British business across the globe.
“If you are going to promote Britain around the world, then you need a title that can give you purchase in an overseas market. ‘It’s no good just saying ‘hello, I’m Digby’, and it helps that I am Lord Digby Jones.”