John Duckers reports on a speech by Lord Digby Jones on whether he intends to stand for Birmingham mayor. LORD Jones of Birmingham says an elected mayor for the city is not enough – we need an elected mayor for the West Midlands.
Speaking to Birmingham Business Breakfast Club at the Botanical Gardens, he insisted he had not yet decided whether he would stand because of the lack of clarity over the powers available.
"I am not too sure an elected mayor for Birmingham is what we should be campaigning about," he told the 120-strong gathering.
"We should be campaigning about an elected mayor for the West Midlands. The issues are about the region; not just Birmingham."
An elected mayor should govern for Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, with each of the constituent cities able to elect a representative to the mayor's cabinet.
What would the powers of an elected mayor be, he asked?
Would a mayor be able to go into schools and say 'This is how it is going to be' in a bid to address poor literacy and numeracy standards?
Controversially, Lord Jones would stop the benefits of parents whose children failed to reach basic levels, offering them only food coupons so they wouldn't go hungry.
Would an elected mayor be able to implement an integrated transport system to reflect expansion of the airport, HS2 and possibly a Crossrail for Birmingham? Or would elected mayors be mere "glorified council leaders"?
"They should have the same powers as Boris Johnson in London and Alex Salmond in Scotland. There are 5.3 million people in the West Midlands, the same size as Scotland.
"I want these questions answered before I make a decision on whether to stand. I genuinely don't know. I have not made up my mind."
But he quipped: "I would make a lousy politician.....because I tell the truth."
He said he was in favour of HS2 but only if the route was changed to go through the existing "pollution corridor" along the M40 and Chiltern rail line.
And if that meant spending a bit more to sort out bends and inclines, then it should be done.
But he was cautious on how many jobs would come to the region as a result.
"It will create jobs here but it won't create long term sustainable jobs. Birmingham, and particularly south Birmingham, will become the northernmost suburb of London. A lot of work will go down south."
Lord Jones was one of the four founders of the BBBC in 1983 and was quickly bantering with old legal mate John James.
To get the club running, it was decided the four would all bring a chum to the next get-together and Digby invited John.
"It was a case of either JJ got up and came to the breakfast or he got up and went home."
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To hear the full speech, please listen to the recording below.