Sunday, April 17, 2016

Leicester's Mayor sacks the man supposed to scrutinise him - again

The Leicester Mercury reports:
A number of Labour councillors who have clashed with Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby have lost key posts within the city council's ruling Labour group. 
The party has held its annual general meeting and elections for a series of positions this week including those heading committees that scrutinise the policies of Sir Peter and his team of assistant mayors. 
Former city council leader Ross Willmott is one of the casualties.
This story has a familiar ring. Sure enough, when searching the archives of this blog I find that much the same thing happened in 2012.

So let me repeat what I wrote then:
And who did the ousting? Step forward the dominant figure in the Leicester Labour Party, Sir Peter Soulsby. 
If an elected mayor can remove the chair of the committee meant to keep an eye on him, then the mayoral system become farcical. 
The enjoyable personal animosity between Willmott and Soulsby has been just about the only thing keeping democracy alive in a city with a Labour elected Mayor and 52 out of 54 Labour councillors. As a Labour insider quoted by the Mercury says: 
"Ross has been a thorn in the side of the city's leadership for the past year. His efforts were partly fuelled by their mutual dislike and the fact that Ross really wanted the mayor's job. Nonetheless, his efforts were good for democracy." 
Quite. And his removal is bad for democracy. 
As I have long argued, the situation in Leicester shows that if we are to have elected city mayors then the councils must be elected by a proportional system to prevented their being dominated by the mayor's own party. 
At the very least councils must be barred from holding the mayoral and all-out elections at the same time, as happened in Leicester last May.
The last time I made this argument, Sir Peter Soulsby's deputy told me on Twitter that is was absurd even to think of changing the electoral system.

But I stand by what I wrote in 2012.

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