Just as the excitement of local elections and leadership tussles dies down Birmingham’s Labour party members throughout the city have now found themselves looking ahead to 2015 with a series of meetings select their candidates.

While most of us are glued to the World Cup or Wimbledon and looking forward to a summer break, several councillors are sweating over their selections.

Particularly in the inner-city wards which Labour dominates, this is a more crucial vote than the election itself – basically getting the party nomination makes you a shoo-in next May. These are modern day rotten boroughs.

In Handsworth Wood, Councillor Paulette Hamilton, who has been estranged from her two Labour colleagues Gurdial Singh Atwal and Narinder Kooner for many years, has found herself bumped out. The Labour Party is now investigating the selection row.

Similar things are being whispered in Springfield where I understand Coun Habib Rehman, last year implicated (falsely, he claimed) in a plot to remove MP Roger Godsiff, has tied a vote of no-confidence and is considering his future.

Similar things were said in neighbouring Lozells and East Handworth when former Lord Mayor Mahmood Hussain was de-selected in 2011, then selected the following year – it went to court before everything was settled amicably behind the scenes.

Other parties are not immune. There was bad blood in South Yardley last year when former Lib Dem councillor David Willis was removed, and the Tories had troubles where bitter rows blew up in the Sutton Vesey ward – where veteran Alan Rudge was replaced – and in Sutton New Hall.

While the parties robustly defend their processes, it is true that, with some branches’ active memberships numbering a few dozen, it is easy to tip a balance in someone’s favour by signing up a few family and friends as members, re-arranging meetings at inconvenient times and so on.

It is difficult for those on the outside to get any detail on the rights and wrongs of these affairs – we just hear about the mud-slinging.

It could be argued that selections are internal affairs for the parties and the rest of us need only get involved in the election itself. But when that selection effectively chooses the councillor, there is a problem. So surely now it is time, in wards which have been dominated by a single party for so long, for the main parties to consider open primary elections.

The Tories tried it for their West Midlands PCC candidate and, although they kept the size of vote under wraps, there were no protests over the legitimacy of the vote.

It could take the power to choose a councillor from a select few and hand it back to the people they represent.


The council’s planning committee always begins with a blurb about how it is a quasi-judicial meeting – its purpose to interpret and apply planning policy.

The inference being that it is above the unseemly nitty-gritty of party politics, its members serving a higher purpose. So it always seems odd that the committee members divide themselves along party lines and sit on opposite sides of the committee table.

But, as Labour’s dominance of the council chamber has grown, there is now a severe imbalance with 10 Labour members facing down five Tories and Lib Dems.

It also left the newest member, Hall Green Labour councillor Kerry Jenkins, perched on a cramped corner at the end of the table.

So confused was Tory Peter Douglas Osborn he assumed she was a council flunky, until she surprised him by raising a hand to vote.

It would seem sensible, especially as party politics play no part in the deliberations (honest!), to mix it up a bit and allow a couple of Labour members the joy of elbow room on a clear table at the end of the ‘opposition’ bench.


Plenty has already been said about the sudden death of police commissioner Bob Jones. I always found him courteous, approachable, knowledgeable and generous with his time. He also appeared completely unaffected by the trappings of high office and genuinely interested in doing a good job for people who elected him.