The results of the consultation for a Birmingham Mayor clearly indicate that this great city; of ours need powerful, inspiring leadership. The paltry turnout of 30% on a much spinned and much analysed issue has demonstrated -once again- that our local democracy is unnecessarily hobbled by apathy, by mistrust of the system and resultingly continuing disenfranchisement.
I am not in the finger pointing game. I believe that every political leader in the city wants what I want: to reach out and motivate each and every Brummie to exercise their political right - on voting day, on every day.
To all of us, this hard won privilege is sacrosanct. Yet the most cherished things could easily be taken for granted – and frustratingly, polling day for the majority of eligible voters is still viewed seen as some kind of inconvenience.
If last week’s NO vote was the result of a failure to inspire and explain, as has been communicated to me by hundreds, that failure was institutional. Many I spoke too felt that the driving concerns of the referendum, the core arguments, were not communicated effectively to all communities. There were other gripes, touching on operational matters on the day. Issues were raised with me about the relocation of polling stations, also the clarity - or lack thereof- of questions on the ballot paper.
This campaign has however highlighted for me the urgent need for fresh faces to lead and speak for our city. Young people of all backgrounds care deeply about Birmingham, yet ironically they represent a high percentage of the disaffected. The reason for this regrettable malaise are several – an abject failure of political leadership being one. Time and again, out on the stump, what many have been quick to tell me is that they are fed up with grey and good - the Fathers and Vaguely Familiar Faces who stubbornly occupy the seat of political power.
Clearly its time to make way, for the passionate and the visionary.
My entry into active politics has been quite recent. However the warm reception I have received, from almost every quarter, convinces me of the urgent need for change. There is certainly a pressing need to tackle at grass roots the real issues that affect ordinary people. Rising unemployment, youth disaffection, the continuing economic and, yes, social segregation of Birmingham - all must be dealt with. The need to tackle gun crime, and the wider drug issues, is another priority for us - as I know it is for all right thinking people.
So while last week’s result has gone against our hopes for a Mayor, the city’s complex bundle of challenges remain. We still need to make Birmingham the leading city of the UK, one to invest in, a city for entrepreneurs, a city of educational achievement and regeneration, a safer and greener city where the voices of real people are heard. I want a city which empowers young people and gives them a key role of governance through a structured forum. I want a city where all communities work together to promote cohesion and restore pride. I have a personal determination to address those challenges. To this end, I will be seeking dialogue with the City’s new leadership in order to pursue those aims.