Diary: Simon says Brum mayor rivals should stump up
Siôn Simon, the former Labour MP who wants to be Birmingham's first directly elected mayor, has made what seems like a generous gesture – until you reach the sting in the tail.
He says that the two sitting Birmingham MPs, Liam Byrne and Gisela Stuart, who also want to be Mayor of Birmingham, should not be barred from competing with him for the Labour nomination. But Simon has added a novel suggestion that if either wins, he or she should pay a forfeit that could come to around £200,000.
In November, 41 police commissioners will be directly elected in England and Wales for the first time, and up to 10 new cities will elect mayors, depending on the outcomes of 10 referendums held on 3 May. In May, Labour's national executive is expected to consider a proposal to prevent any sitting Labour MPs from running.
Rumour has it that the shadow cabinet fixer, Tom Watson, is behind this, because he is a friend of Siôn Simon who resigned his seat in Birmingham Erdington in 2010 to run for mayor of Birmingham, when no such job existed. His chance of success would be greatly increased if Byrne and Stuart were out of the running.
There is, however, a more prosaic explanation, which is that the Labour Party is broke. While they were in government, Labour raised the legal limit on what one party can spend on one by-election to £100,000, a move they must now regret.
Tony Lloyd, MP for Manchester Central, wants to be Manchester's Police Commissioner. Alun Michael, MP for Cardiff South, has the same ambition in south Wales. Bob Ainsworth, MP for Coventry North East, has his eyes on being Coventry's elected mayor, if it decides to have one. Even if no more MPs get itchy feet, Labour is facing the nightmare possibility of having to scrape together £400,000 to fight four simultaneous by-elections, with no guarantee, post Bradford West, that they could win any. Each would also cost the taxpayer an unquantified sum that could be close to £100,000. Hence Siôn Simon's sneaky suggestion, in an article for the Birmingham Post, that "sitting Labour MPs should be allowed to stand [but] they should perhaps also repay the Labour party and the Exchequer the cost of their by elections."
A strange recipe for Ukip launch
The UK Independence Party chose Porters Restaurant in Covent Garden, London WC1, for their campaign launch yesterday, which is understandable because its founder and owner is Richard Bridgeman, the 7th Earl of Bradford, a Ukip activist who is running for a seat on Westminster Council.
A more unexpected development is that the Earl's backers include the nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow, who has given thousands of pounds to the Tory party in the past. The Earl also claims the backing of the Salvation Army. They and Stringfellow are a rare combination, he suggested.
BoJo's tirade gave Jenny a lift
Jenny Jones, Green candidate for the London mayoralty, has described that famous moment when Boris Johnson blew a gasket in a lift after a phone-in on LBC and directed a sequence of expletives at Ken Livingstone.
"The lift was absolutely tiny," she told a hustings meeting. "All four of us [the four main candidates] were crammed in there. Between us is a journalist who studiously ignores everything that is going on the whole time – and leaks it afterwards. It was the highlight of my political life."
Rock 'n' roll 'n' all guns blazing
One of the great rock feuds rolls on. Axl Rose, front man of Gun'n'Roses, has refused to join former fellow band members in an induction ceremony at the Rock and Roll hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, this weekend.
In an open letter, he did not deign to mention the band's former guitarist, Slash. It is said they have not spoken since 1996. Compared with these two, Lennon and McCartney were buddies.
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