Every discussion about whether or not this region or city should have an elected mayor inevitably arrives at the debate on who might possibly fill that position.
The question of who will be Greater Birmingham’s version of Boris Johnson is certainly compelling for those of us in the popular press and politicians love to gossip about these thing.
Some say that this discussion is irrelevant – that the debate should be about the role and whether or not it is preferable to the alternatives.
But having the right individuals – the types who could inspire the city region to greater things – could make all the difference in securing public support.
That is why the lists produced so far have been so disappointing.
Not only does it have the strong whiff of the 2012 Birmingham mayoral referendum , these are generally people who arguably peaked during the last decade – there’s a lot of ‘formers’ there.
A further problem is that we are generally defined by geography – being born and bred here is a selling point for candidates.
There is an argument that the best person should get the job whether or not they have a regional link – eg, a former Prime Minister like Tony Blair should not be ruled out on geography alone.
Perhaps voters should be more sophisticated in order to secure the best person for the job, but again in a presidential-style election I suspect the voters need that emotional pull of a local link to get behind a candidate.
Some, such as Euro MP Sion Simon and Police Commissioner David Jamieson , who were Government ministers a decade ago, would argue they still hold positions of significant regional influence and have won elections at this level – even if PPC and Euro elections are very much a minority activity.
But their exits from Government have been far from happy ones – Mr Mitchell will forever be associated with Plebgate and Mr Byrne recently had to apologise for his ‘no money left’ letter which is regularly held up as a sign of Labour’s profligacy.
There has also been little speculation over those beyond Birmingham.
Dudley’s Ian Austin who was for a brief spell the minister for the West Midlands could fancy a go – although he may retain national ambitions.
Business Secretary and Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid was singled out by Chancellor George Osborne in last week’s budget as being heavily involved in the ‘Midlands Engine for Growth’ project – again he may be too focused on national politics to worry about being mayor.
And since a maverick Conservative with charisma and shocking blond hair has proved such a success in London, here we have our own version with Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant (and although not a full member Lichfield district) is involved in the combined authority project.
Several council leaders may fancy their chances – Sir Albert and Lord Whitby previously flirted with the idea and Sandwell’s Darren Cooper appears to be the current combined authority’s unofficial spokesman.
However, council leaders have proved adept at winning small votes within their political groups, playing the selection panels, branches and committees to earn their position – if tested in a Presidential style election, as the mayor of Greater Birmingham would be, they could easily be found wanting.
The Greater Birmingham mayor, like the London Mayor or New York mayor, should be job with not only national, but international, profile and influence for that reason the people should accept nothing but the best.
Forget the recent General Election, for a group of Birmingham politicians, the hottest contest of the year will be on the cricket pitch next week.
For the match, which pitches the ruling Labour group against their Conservative and Lib Dem opposition, we have been promised more sledging than an Ashes Test – and that’s just in the Labour dressing room.
The Tories have also pulled out a secret weapon – former Warwickshire County second XI cricketer Dan Dalton – now a Euro MP – to lead the batting, while Labour is leading the fight for gender equality by selecting none other than councillor Victoria Quinn, otherwise known as Lady Bore.
Her husband, council leader Sir Albert, obviously has little grasp of cricket, being a Scot, and will not be appearing.
Rumours are there could be more interest in the match, at Holford Drive, Perry Barr next Wednesday afternoon, than the majority of council meetings.