In the words of a Birmingham Labour councillor who probably did not vote for him, John Clancy “has not put a foot wrong” since becoming leader of Birmingham City Council.
A charm offensive, his open approach to leadership and the fact that there is unlikely to be any further political bloodshed this side of the May elections seems to have won over a few doubters.
The first question answered, when he attended his first full council meeting as leader, was whether Clancy would get the seat on the end of the middle row occupied by his predecessor Sir Albert Bore for the past 16 years.
The answer was yes.
Coun Clancy has always been a good speaker and from the backbenches would often grandstand on the state of the economy, austerity and industry. But facing cross-examination as leader is a very different proposal.
So, dressed in a new blue suit, complete with waistcoat and stripy tie, the nervous Clancy, clutching a pile of papers like a safety blanket, braced himself for the firing line.
But he would face little hostility, certainly nothing compared to the fierce and forceful lines of inquiry faced by cabinet member for bins Lisa Trickett over missed recycling collections moments earlier.
The first question, on the Boundary Commission changes was predictable as the member of the public had to submit it in advance of the meeting.
And the prepared answer – that he will be adding to the objections – was duly delivered to a warm welcome. Coun Clancy accused the boundary commission of making a dog’s breakfast of the proposed council ward changes – something all sides of the chamber agree on.
His second question was a friendly one from his sidekick Coun Waseem Zaffar (Lab, Lozells and East Handsworth) and was on the future council project – very important to the organisation, but of little interest beyond.
This was going to be easy. But then Tory Peter Douglas Osborn (Weoley), who is fond of a quip, stood up: “May I offer my congratulations on being elected by nearly half your group.
“An immense achievement in comparison to Corbyn’s 13 per cent.”
He also managed to crowbar in a Bowie-inspired line about “ground control to Major John”.
The pair are old pals after years together on the planning committee and the question was again a gentle one on Birmingham’s efforts to get off the Government hit list.
Clancy confidently replied that one of the most important lines in politics is 50 per cent plus one – the margin of his election victory last November.
Coun Majid Mahmood (Lab, Hodge Hill), another Clancy acolyte, then offered the new leader the opportunity to reveal his new free school meals trust policy .
This was where Clancy came to life, highlighting his teaching background and commitment to children and schools.
The policy is one he has promoted for a long while and the argument delivered with confidence.
He did go on a bit, leaving time for just two more questions – from the opposition leaders Paul Tilsley and Robert Alden.
Clancy has made great virtue of his willingness to work in a “cross-party” way and they did again offer him questions on safe ground – his thoughts on the futility of the monthly council meeting where much is said but little of substance happens and the need to get behind the city’s attempts to woo Aston Martin – the “great James Bond car brand”.
Paraphrasing comments by Coun Alden senior during his term as Lord Mayor a decade ago, Clancy referred to Birmingham City Council as the country’s most important political debating chamber after Westminster,
As such he promised to bring back debates on big issues – like the economy and skills – and allow more time for them, complaining that too often speakers are guillotined or votes rushed.
Certainly his answers were not rushed and he faced only five questions during the 25 minutes, growing in confidence as the session wore on.
The verdict backstage that, given the soft line of questioning, including a couple of easy ones from friends, Coun Clancy handled his debut well – indeed, he has not put a foot wrong.
But he will only truly be tested once the honeymoon is over, the spring election campaign is in full swing and the insults start flying.
While some in the Birmingham Labour group of councillors are warming to their new leader, there is still much resentment and enmity between the rival camps bubbling beneath the surface following last year’s bitter leadership election .
But one of the backbenchers has found the answer to get them through this difficult spell – counselling.
“What the group needs is some therapy,” the politician suggested. “It’s the only way I see through this.”
Do Relate offer services to political parties? And, who knows, if its successful, perhaps its a service they could offer Mr Corbyn and his MPs.