A Mayor for Nottingham? It’s nothing to do with the Lord Mayor.

The Lord Mayor of Nottingham is an historic and important civic and ceremonial role, but one that comes without powers beyond choosing the order of business and speakers whilst chairing meetings of the Council. By constitutional definition it is not an important political role.

To become Lord Mayor (one of Leicester’s is pictured here) you must already be a councillor and even if by convention there is rarely a contest, the Lord Mayor is at least elected in public, by all councillors from all political parties and any independents.

The Leader of the Council on the other hand is chosen and elected, in private, only by the councillors who form the majority group on the Council.

It’s the Leader of the Council that a directly elected mayor would replace.

It’s nothing to do with the Lord Mayor.

To become Leader of Nottingham City Council you first need to be elected as a councillor, which most of the time is very difficult unless you join one of the mainstream political parties and are then selected as one of their candidates in a particular City ward.

Once a party member it is not actually as hard as you might think to be selected as a party candidate because the big parties do not actually have as many members as you might think and even fewer who turn up to meetings and vote. In many wards you need only secure fewer than a dozen votes from your fellow party members to become a candidate.

Turnout at Local Elections in Nottingham hovers just above 30% so come the election, in many wards, a couple of thousand votes can easily be enough to get you onto the Council.

If the political wind is blowing your party’s way and it has secured twenty-six or more seats on the Council then you will be a member of the majority group and you have the opportunity to become Leader of the Council. All you now need is just fourteen (or just more than half of the total) of those twenty-six (or more) councillors to vote for you in a behind-closed-doors party meeting.

The referendum on May 3rd provides an opportunity to replace this system where a relative handful of people, all active members of a single mainstream political party, choose – from amongst their number – as Leader of the Council, and therefore as primary representative of the city, someone who has only ever had to seek votes in one small part of the city and who has only ever won the backing of only a bit more than one per cent of the electorate.

Factor in the political realities of Nottingham and this system means that if you live in some parts of the city, or if you support particular political parties or no party at all, then there is absolutely no chance of the person for whom you vote, whatever their personal qualities or skills, becoming Leader of the Council.

So the referendum is not about a small change; it’s about a really very different way of choosing who runs and represents Nottingham.

A directly elected mayor would need to secure a majority of all votes cast in an election across the whole of the City of Nottingham.

Anyone (you maybe?) would be eligible to stand in this election, with an equal chance of success, without having to become a member of a political party or needing to curry favour amongst other members of that party.

Every voter in the City would have the opportunity to express their preference in an election where every vote would really count.

It’s arguably more transparent and accountable than the current system, it certainly opens the door to a wider range of candidates including, but not limited to, current politicians and it leaves no voter standing on the sidelines with a wasted vote because they live in the ‘wrong’ part of the city or support the ‘wrong’ party or no party at all.

Debate on this possible change should focus on issues of democratic principle.

By whom do you want the person who runs the council and leads the city to be chosen? By them? Or by you?

It’s your choice.

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