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Tories would order Brum referendum; CAMPAIGN: Mail editor puts case for voters to pick city's most powerful figure.

Byline: Neil Elkes

THE Conservative Party Conference has this week reignited discussions about an elected mayor for Birmingham.

And the Birmingham Mail's campaign for a referendum to decide the controversial issue is featured in a special BBC Politics Show report tomorrow.

Between March 2007 and March 2008, more than 10,000 Brummie voters signed a petition calling for the right to decide how their city is run, but this was not enough to convince the city council to hold a poll or legally trigger one.

But if David Cameron is handed the keys to Number 10 Downing Street next year he will order a compulsary referendum in Birmingham and 11 other major UK cities, including Coventry.

The policy was confirmed by shadow local government minister and Meriden MP Caroline Spelman at the Tory party conference in Manchester this week.

In an interview with the Politics Show reporter Susana Mendona, Mail editor Steve Dyson outlined the reason for the newspaper's campaign for a referendum. He explained that an official referendum in 2001 was a fudge and that despite 54 per cent of voters choosing an elected mayor, because this was split into two options, the current system won.

He said: "We believe there should be a simple question; do you want an elected mayor to run Birmingham, yes or no?" He added that the council's ruling Conservative group was locally at odds with the party's national policy.

The council leader, Mike Whitby, does not believe in elected mayors and does not want a referendum as we revealed when David Cameron visited my office during the campaign" he said.

The Politics Show report will also investigate the campaign in Coventry and talk to politicians there. Earlier this week Mrs Spelman said that Tories would hold referenda across the country on the same day as soon as possible after coming to power.

This could be as soon as May 2011, a year after a general election, with voting coinciding with local council elections.

Mrs Spelman said a powerful city "figurehead" could provide strong leadership, following in the footsteps of Boris Johnson in London. The Politics Show West *Midlands is on BBC1 at noon tomorrow.


Simple question: Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson is interviewed by the BBC. Our front page when David Cameron agreed that a referendum should be held to decide the matter.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 10, 2009
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