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Sir Digby states his non-party manifesto as possible elected mayor.

Byline: By Jonathan Walker Political Editor

Former CBI chief Sir Digby Jones will consider standing as Birmingham's first elected mayor, he has revealed.

But the Birmingham lawyer, who stood down as director general of the CBI this year, wants to take party politics out of the way the city is run.

He said: "It's not about me. I think there would be loads of people who would step forward if we removed the destructiveness of party politics, and loads might be a more suitable candidate.

"What matters is Birmingham and how we get a city which is going to fight and win in a world where India wants our lunch and China wants our dinner.

"Party politics is not suited to this. It is about what happens at a national level, and at a local level it is destructive. It takes the drive, the impetus, the energy out of it.

"People spend their time looking out for their party and trying to destroy the opposing parties.

"In the 21st century, that is not good enough. Party politics and city leadership don't mix."

It follows Tony Blair's comments this month Birmingham would benefit from a directly-elected mayor.

Mike Whitby, the city council leader, is firmly opposed to introducing a mayor and the council's opposition Labour group has also rejected the idea, although it is backed by Sir Albert Bore, the Labour group leader.

But Ministers have made no secret of their desire to see mayors running Britain's major cities, and have announced legislation which would remove the need for a referendum to create a mayoral system.

Sir Digby is one of a number of independent city figures who has been linked with the role. Others include popular local historian Carl Chinn and Blues boss Karren Brady, but Sir Digby is the first to declare an interest.

If he were to stand he would undoubtedly face competition from candidates representing the major parties.

Coun Whitby said Birmingham had nothing to gain from a mayor.

"It simply changes council leadership arrangements without devolving more power from London and increasing local autonomy," he said.

Ministers insist they will not force cities to adopt mayors, but critics point out that councillors are unlikely to vote for changes which reduce their own powers voluntarily.

The Local Government White Paper, published in October, also offers authorities such as Birmingham the option of continuing with a council leader but with a guaranteed four-year term.

jon_walker@mrn.co.uk

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 9, 2006
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