Sunday, 19 October 2008


The politics show today did a piece on our referendum on Thursday. To start with, Mark Meredith, Mike Wolfe and Mick Salih were interviewed.
Mark Meredith said his focus was on regeneration, jobs, stability, visibility and accountability. Typical political spiel I thought.
Mike Wolfe stated he preferred the mayor system because everyone gets to vote for who to have as mayor.
Mick Salih, ex-labour currently unaligned councillor, said the leader system was better because it allowed decisions to be made by the full council.

Following that the leaders of the YES and NO campaigns were interviewed. This is where feelings ran high as both Mike Barnes and Paul Breeze were clearly very passionate about their causes.

Mike Barnes was miffed that Mark Meredith was not going to be interviewed with him. It looked like we maybe missed the chance to see an interesting confrontation there. But to be fair to Mark Meredith he was not the one to avoid this, the interviewer said she had decided Mike Barnes and Paul Breeze should appear together. I can see that makes sense as they are the campaign leaders. Mike Barnes did a good job of explaining how the leader system ends up being more democratic although it doesn’t seem so on the face of it. In the leader system, ward councillors have more influence, so people can have their issues better dealt with through them, rather than having all decisions made by one person. He highlighted the governance commissions findings that SOT is leaderless, fragmented and directionless. He was asked why he supports the leader system as labour are meant to support the mayor system. He pointed out that there are 400 local authorities but only 12 elected mayors so their popularity is not widespread. He drew attention to the unpopular decisions that a mayor can force through, such as the schools reorganisation and said that under the mayor system there was a danger of any maverick becoming mayor.

Paul Breeze had a simple point to make, that in 2002 the people voted to have a mayor and he was clearly furious that the mayor system chosen then could be taken away. I am glad he was interviewed because he quite obviously has such enormous strength of feeling about this and it is good that he got to express this. It wasn’t mentioned that we are not allowed to keep the particular mayor and non-elected executive system, which has made the current choice necessary. Paul Breeze said the issue was not about Meredith or Wolfe, it was about the availability of a vote for the people on who their city head should be. He was hugely annoyed with the council for voting for leader and annoyed that this meant we have what he considers an unnecessary referendum. Although I suspect most of us, on both sides, do want the referendum. Paul Breeze likes the regeneration that is being done but agreed that the schools reorganisation issue is a problem. He said if people did not like that they should get rid of Meredith, not the mayor system itself.

What was missing for me was one of the most crucial points which differentiates the two systems - how to get rid of a leader/mayor if the need arises:

In the leader system if councillors are unhappy with the leader they can have a vote of no confidence at any time to remove him/her. If the people are unhappy with the leader they need to lobby councillors and ask them to remove the leader.

In the mayor system the councillors have no way to remove him/her. The people can remove him/her, but only after the 4 year term is up, by voting someone else in the next time.

I’m glad we are having the referendum as that makes it easier to accept whatever result that brings because it is a democratic decision. I plan to vote YES for leader.

What about you?

Or are you so bored of this by now that you will be glad when Thursday is over?

I think it will get quite interesting either way by Friday, when we will start to see either how the leader is going to be sorted out and who we will end up with or who the candidates for mayor are going to be and what their policies are.


Partisan said...

lets just say i think Mr Merediths days are numbered..


Tony said...

A very accurate account of the debate,
I like you, will be voting YES for a leader and cabinet model. Time to get out of the closet (so to speak!)

Partisan said...

does a quick head count and agrees with Tony

Gary Elsby said...

I particularly liked the interview with the Mayor supporter, a student, who did not wish to see a return to the old days of mismanagement! A student?

Wolfe championed the role of Elected Mayor by informing us of how the position allowed him to knock a building down!!!!
A woman also informed the wider audience that 'her local park would never have been upgraded if it wasn't for the Mayoral system'!!!!!!!!!
At this point it should be noted that Paul Breeze's patch(Northwood) has a park that recently celebrated 100 years in existence.

Am I supposed to take this form of politics seriously?

Collectively, this lot have alienated a public into near hatred. Thankfully, it is a hatred of the Mayoral sysytem and hopefuly, not of local politics.

Frank Fuller said...

Fair comment Gary, but surely even you have to admit that the administration led by Barry Stockley was a disaster and made a series of serious blunders (eg. Cultural Quarter, Worldgate, Britannia Stadium etc.) and to top it all the city was voted the worse place to live in England.

If we do go back to Leader & Cabinet there will be a heavy responsibility on councillors to ensure that we have a more capable set of individuals in office than we had previously. Certainly we never want the likes of Tinsley, Jones, Wallace, Shaw, Dimmock and Hathaway back on the council after the mess they made of things.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the leadership of barry stockley was a complete joke for this city. i have voted labour all of my life and will continue to do so but if stockley comes back i will vote bnp and i know most other people will do so as well.change yes, but not back to the old days please. i will use my vote as a protest to stockley in any and every election.

Mike Barnes said...

I don't think its just Barry Stockley thats made an error over Britannia Stadium. Have you read today Sentinel?

An inquiry by the audit commission? Here we go again?

Coates backs Mayor following £4.5m deal?

Incidentally, did you know that SERCO and Keir, recently awarded multi-million pound contract by Stoke City Council, are corporate partners to an organisation called "New Local Government Network." NLGN campaigns to have more Elected Mayors and that more services should be privatised.

Mark Meredith even invited Chris Leslie, the head of NLGN, to Stoke to a debate supporting Elected Mayors.

Anonymous said...

What will you do Mike Barnes if the result goes for an Elected Mayor?

You will have lost the argument again and will have to go up a corner and cry!

Anonymous said...

Do you think the Elected Mayor is a joke? A rip off? A waste of time? A waste of space?

If the answer is YES, then vote YES.


Shaun Bennett said...

Unfortunately, I missed that debate, but it does sound like it went into some of the real issues surrounding the referendum rather than just the personal and policy discussion s that we have been used to in this camapign-most of which are actually irrelevant.

I too will be voting YES on Thursday, and whilst I think that the vote is going to be very close, I am actually quietly confident that the Yes camapign will succeed (always dangerous to nail your colour to the mast so close to the result being known, but lets have a guess anytway, just between us).

The council consultation showing the large majority for the Leader and Cabinet system contrasted noticeably with the result of the MORI poll showing a fair lead for the Mayoral system. Now of course, that balance may well have changed in unpredictable ways during the course of the campaign, but in the absense of more recent information we have to work on those figures.

What was shown very strongly is that the younger voters on balance preferred the mayoral system while the older voters on balance preferred the leader system. I really do think that that age differential is going to be absolutely crucial when the final results become known.

The liklihood is that the higher turnout will come from the older population of the city, with many younger people either disinterested entirely or else too busy to get round to actually going out and voting when there isn't an actual candidate to choose from. I predict that turnout will most likley favour the YES result.

Then there is the question of the question itself. We have all had much discussion on the question, and we all know that it is not what any of us would have chosen if we'd had the choice; but my feeling is that the question is actually loaded in some ways to the YES result.

Floating voters who go in to the polling station will be faced with a question that asks them to agree with the city council that the city should be run in a new way. Those who have not, or cannot make up their minds will most likely be influenced towards voting YES on the grounds that given the state of the city and the economy (and that may also have an effect) who on earth would not want to introduce a change? And of course, there is always the subliminal bias in many peoples minds that change will usually be for the better (even if its not necessarily the case) That was a crucial factor back in 2002 when the change option was on the side of the pro-mayor camapign. Given that some people who may actually want to retain the mayor may well vote YES without understanding the question properly, I predict that the question is also likely to produce a YES result.

The only negative factor that could be loaded towards the NO campaign, would be if sufficient numbers of voters once more become confused about the psotion of the Lord Mayor in the referendum arrangements.

Of course, the office of Lord Mayor is one which the electorate almost universally wish to retain. As the question makes no mention of the mayor, or the elected mayor; it is possible that someone who has heard half-stories and rumours about what the referendum is about way well vote NO as a means of retaining the Lord Mayor, not realising that the abolition of the Lord Mayor is not on the table WHICHEVER way they vote. Once again, that was an important factor in the success of the pro-mayor lobby back in 2002.

Fortunately, I do feel that on balance, the weight of argument-as well as the weight of the procedure-is on the side of the YES campaign, and I expect a win on Thursday. Now the question is, does anyone feel much braver than me and wish to actually predict the numbers???

nita said...

What is concerning me, is the fact, that we are hearing, how many elderly people, are returning their postal votes, with a cross in the NO box, thinking they are getting rid of the Mayoral System.

Frank, the Councillors we have now, are far better than the last lot, before the Mayoral System came into place.

I for one, think, we the people can trust them enough to do their best for the people who elected them.

I have a few in mind, who I think would make a good Leader, and hopefully, it will be one of them.

Looks like I have finally seen the light, and I will be voting YES.

The rest of the bloggers were getting worried about me, but they must have known I would see sense eventually.

Shaun Bennett said...

I haven't heard anything about the state of postal votes returned so far, and I would urge great caution before taking such rumours seriously. Also, I can't believe that anyone else could have heard any facts about it, since it would be a criminal offence for the early postal vote results to become public knowledge. Therefore, any assertions concerning the postal votes returned so far can be nothing more than rumour and idle speculation.

That said, if it were true, then it would be concerning. Perhaps it introduces a third group of important voters to note: those who clearly don't understand the system that we have at the moment and are voting NO as a means of preventing the mayoral system from coming in. Surely it can't be too large a group though???

nicky said...

Mike Barnes,

Yes that relates to that question that Terry Follows asked Mark Meredith at the council meeting (not that it's minuted of course).
Were you the one who passed him the note to ask it?

The one where the lawyer had to advise When Roger Ibbs jumped in as if he didn't want Terry to ask it (almost as if he thought Terry was about to say something about him - but surely not). And where Terry said Roger could sue him if he wanted, he didn't care. But actually he just wanted to ask Mark about that SERCO/NLGN link. But didn't Mark deny all knowledge of SERCO being part of a pro-mayoral organisation?

I had an email today from Mark Fisher (surely not, he's not my MP, I can assure you for his own protection it was concerning a general issue and not to do with SOT South). He passionately wants rid of the mayoral system.

Shaun Bennett,

That is an impressive and complex analysis of all the possibilities and pitfalls of the mayoral vote! I trust the consultation result over the MORI poll because of the 10 times bigger sample size. However time has passed and people may have changed their minds. Nita you certainly have! Now as a matter of principle (and contrary to the beliefs of some I do have them) I don't do gambling. ... But anyway lets say ... 54% Leader, 44% Mayor, 2% spoilt ballot papers. But I'm not really that confident and wonder if it may swing the other way (and no I'm not referring to anyone).

Now what else can I do to put off the thought of emailing Rob Flello... it's on the TAG action list but nobody's volunteering... how long do I leave it before I conclude it has to be me.

nita said...

Shaun Bennett. It's not rumours. People are stating what their elderly neighbours, have told them they have put in the box.

For some, the question is too complicated.

My mum for example, who does not live in the Stoke on Trent area, asked why were they having a vote to get rid of the Mayor. Every City should have one. She meant the Ceremonial Mayor of course.

Nicky, what do you mean, when you say, Ive certainly changed my mind? That is an understatement. I change it every day, so by the time Thursday comes, it will be, shut my eyes, and hope I put it in the right box, ha ha.

warren said...

Its all simpel if you think about it.

YES... You want to change
NO.... You dont whant to change

I'll vote No, I like what the mayor system, just not this mayor, and we will soon have a chance to show him the door. I think it might be better to vote in the Lord Mayor Of Trumpton, then just think of some of the backroom bods whe could have. Chipey Minton could head Kire, Captin Flack could run the fire and rescue, PC MacGarry(no. 452) could be in charge of policeing and Mrs. Honeymoons husband ( for thouse to young to remember Candelwick Green, he ran the cemmist shop) could run North Staffs PCT. We could even find something for Windy Miller to do, maybe in the planing office.

Shaun Bennett said...


I wasn't trying to attack you personally. My point was that as there is no official information on how the postal votes have gone so far, such evidence can only be anecdotal, and therefore not necessarily representative. Nevertheless, I do agree with you that it is a worry.


I agree with you that the MORI poll has to be the most tursted source thus far because of the methods used and the sample taken. I do believe though that due to the differential turnout there is not necessarily any great contradiction between the MORI poll and the council consultation results. The consultation results probably more accurately reflect the views of those that will be most likely to vote in the referendum, whilst the MORI poll probably reflect the city as a whole.

I have to say, as a YES voter, if there had been a compulsary postal vote for the referendum, instead of making people go out to the polling stations, I'd be a bit more worried about the result.

nita said...

Shaun. No, I didn't think you were personally attacking me at all.

I just think some elderly people, are putting X's, in the box, and want something completely the opposite.

As you say, there is no official evidence to say, how the postal vote will go, so it should all be very interesting come Friday.