No sign of RoboCop, the monkey or a member of the Board: Welcome to the NLGN’s sanitized MayorSpeak
Last month, there was a report on the international website CityMayors.com declaring how England’s few elected mayors “score highly on accountability”. Ray Mallon, Stuart Drummond and our very own Steve Bullock, Mayors of Middlesborough, Hartlepool and Lewisham respectively, got very nice write-ups with not even a hint of their, ahem, interesting backgrounds. Too cynical a view you might say, until it’s revealed that the NLGN wrote the piece. Who?
The New Local Government Network (NLGN) was founded in 1996 by a group of senior local government figures whose aim was to make local government more relevant and credible to local people. It would be distracting to perhaps mention that Ray Mallon was once known as `RoboCop’ a no-nonsense ex-policeman with an eventful career in law enforcement or that pretending to be a monkey elected Stuart Drummond. And Mr. Bullock? He just happens to be on the board of NLGN. As does Barry Quirk, Chief Executive of Lewisham Council. None of this is mentioned in the story, of course. Would it change the perception of the reader? Perhaps not. To their credit, the website’s political editor wrote a more realistic account of this country’s Mayoral experiment on the same page in the sidebar.
It seems to me that any local effort to drum up support for a referendum to get rid of executive Mayoralty in Lewisham will have to contend with the significant resources of the NLGN: They commissioned MORI polls from as long ago as 1998 to bolster support for executive Mayors. But in their zeal, they can also throw up gems like this: In Lewisham, Mayor Steve Bullock, believes that as Mayor he has the freedom to act independently of the council as a service provider; he is Mayor of Lewisham not just Leader of the Council. And as this he is widely accepted amongst the local partners in his area. Independent of the Council? Widely accepted among local partners? That will go down well with some 28 (and more?) of our Councillors. Not to mention supporters of Save Ladywell Pool and critics of the future Lewisham Gateway. You have all been warned…