The No to a Mayor for Nottingham campaign is based on repeating over and over again the phrase “£1 Million Tory Extra Mayor”.
I was not intending to comment on this, it being so facile, but since landing back in Nottingham this week a few people have asked me about it, and asked me to write about it, so in the absence of anything more constructive coming out of the No campaign … here goes.
I’ve been asked how they get to the claimed cost of £1 Million. This is how it’s done.
1. Start with government figures for the cost of a referendum (£300k) and later an election (£400k). (Keep quiet about the fact that the election cost should really be half that (at most) because we will already be electing a Police Commissioner on the same day.)
2. Dream up an office cost that is greater than the current cost of the office of the Leader of the council even though the chairs, desks, computers and support staff are all ready and waiting in Loxley House**.
3. Pick from thin air a salary – over four years – for the mayor that’s way above the allowances currently being paid to the Leader and Deputy Leader (both of which will be saved of course) and almost 50% more than is currently being paid to mayors elsewhere (except in London).
4. Add it all up and then round it up to £1 Million (because that’s a big, scary number and scaring people is the name of this game).
I’ve been asked what they mean by Extra. Extra to what?
1. Extra to the Leader of the Council? No. The post of Leader will go if we have a mayor.
2. Extra to the Lord Mayor? It’s nothing to do with the – not directly elected, purely ceremonial – Lord Mayor.
I’ve been asked why the mayor has to be a Tory (really, I have, by a doctor) and I’ve been asked why Labour doesn’t support it.
1. Of course it doesn’t have to be a Tory (remember they are trying to scare you) and anyway it probably wouldn’t be in Labour-stronghold Nottingham.
2. Opposition to elected mayors is not national Labour Party policy, it’s Nottingham Labour policy. In other cities (Birmingham, Liverpool) the Labour Party is saying Yes to a Mayor.
3. Elected mayors were introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour government. The Tories are now running with a Labour idea at faster speed and to greater effect. What next? Pretending that Academies were not created by Labour? That it wasn’t a Labour government that peddled lies to take us to war in Iraq? Come on.
“£1 Million Tory Extra Mayor” has a better ring to it, is indeed scarier than “Maybe about £700,000 (lots of which is a one-off cost) probably Labour, not really extra Mayor” but it’s just a little disingenuous, a phrase more suited to propaganda than to debate. It’s spin (and I should know).
Running such a trite campaign suggests the Nottingham Labour Party (and their trade union allies pushing the same message) are either insulting the intelligence of Nottingham voters or don’t credit Nottingham voters with having much intelligence. This week I’ve heard the No campaign materials described as “pathetic” and of an activist embarrassed by them.
I’ve also been asked – more times than is funny – if I’m going to run for Mayor of Nottingham myself.
1. The Leader of the Council on Radio Nottingham last Thursday refused to rule himself out, even though he’s saying No to a Mayor for Nottingham.
2. So neither will I.
** Loxley House is Nottingham City Council’s HQ building where No campaign materials have been placed on desks this week. I’ve been told of former colleagues who nevertheless support moving to an elected mayor but are reluctant to say so out loud.
I was also on Radio Nottingham talking about a Mayor for Nottingham last week. You can listen to that here if you like. I come in about 1hr 48 minutes into the show. Update – sorry the BBC have taken this link down now.
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