Category Archives: Politics

16 Feb

#BINSgate > a few thoughts

An interesting spat broke on Twitter this morning.

At the centre of it all, wannabe Birmingham mayor (yes, Birmingham is in the process of deciding if it wants an elected mayor not not)  Gisela Stuart (@giselastuart) took an open pot shot at the local website, Birmingham: It’s Not Shit

Note: in the spirit of transparency and all-that, I must now insert some form of disclaimer here that I know the chap behind BINS – @bounder, and my better half  (@probablydrunk) often pens articles for the site. However, I have been aware of the site for years, often interviewing Bounds as a response to the yearly poundings of Birmingham in various travel guides.  

Get a Grip

I’m not even a Brummie (I am originally from Wolverhampton) but even I feel incredibly proud of this city. Yes, it has it’s issues (which urban area doesn’t?), and the city is constantly on the back foot defending itself from it’s industrial, grubby past but anyone who’s stepped foot in the city (especially after a long absence) is genuinely surprised at it’s transformation. Which Brummie hasn’t puffed their chest a little when someone from “out of town” nods their head approvingly at the Bullring or Brindley Place?

What makes us different from the host of other rejuvenated cities such as Newcastle, Manchester and Belfast, is that we don’t shout Birmingham’s name from the rooftops. Instead we take the knocks on the chin and wait patiently until someone notices our new hairdo.

For years Birmingham, and in fact most of the West Midlands, has been seen as the dirty, noisy, arguing folk living next door to the glamorous south. It’s something people in this city have grown to accept with a huge dose of grace and humour.

Close it Down??

Which brings me to Birmingham: It’s Not Shit – and Stuart’s call to for it to be closed down.

For starters, it is a website run by a fiercely proud Brummie who uses a tongue-in-cheek style to draw attention to the good things happening in this city. Accusing @bounder (and his writers) of a lack of pride is an enormous insult to the people actually doing something to change perception, both inside and outside of the city.

Secondly, she called for the site to be “closed down” (then “renamed” in a later tweet), revealing a lack of understanding. I can’t work out if she’s misread the title, didn’t visit the site before commenting, or simply has no sense of humour – either way, it was pretty badly handled.

ADD: Gisela Stuart has now apologized to BINS (“Apologies to @BirminghamiNS and thanks all for putting me right!”) and the matter is now put to bed.

04 Feb

Pre-election Question Time comes to Birmingham

(live blog of event here)

Last night saw the first in a series of pre-Election Question Time specials, hosted by Total Politics magazine, and City Inn hotels, first in Birmingham then onto Manchester, Leeds and London for the next three consecutive Thursdays.

Chaired by Conservative activist and blogger, and founder of Total Politics magazine, Iain Dale (@iaindale) (who proved to be an entertaining and forceful chair), the panel consisted of MP for Redditch Jacqui Smith, MP for Birmingham Yardley John Hemming, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and Marc Reeves, former Editor of The Birmingham Post, who has made the headlines himself recently with the launch of a new venture, called The Business Desk.

This evening’s debate started with everyones favourite topic: MP’s expenses. Apart from, perhaps, Jacqui Smith who, as Iain Dale put it, has become something of a “whipping girl” after some of her husbands very private video viewing habits went public after ending up on an expenses claim.  The general concensus, however, was that the expenses system is flawed and needs adressing, whilst their pay SHOULD be dealt with by an external body. There was also concern that the expenses scandal has not only damaged MP’s reputations as a whole, but could threaten future democracy if good people are put off from standing as an MP.

However the Birmingham faithful were out in force, and the discussion soon turned to more local issues, namely, Sion Simons decision to stand down as MP for Birmingham Erdington and go for the as yet non-existent Mayor of Birmingham position. This was met with some derision from John Hemming, who called him “mad” to give up everything for a job that does not exist. He did, however, say he’d happily go for it himself when it does!

A lengthy debate started over red tape and beurocracy for businesses in the region, and how Health and Safety legislation, for example, was not helping in these tough times, whilst proportional representation, hunting and public services got a good airing too.

There was banter (unsuprisingly between Jacqui Smith and Andrew Mitchell), telling-offs (Jacqui Smith for using climate change deniers, which Dale felt was too close to Holocaust Deniers for comfort) and uncharacteristic coyness from all 3 MPs (when asked to name their favourite MP from the other side).

Another question, odd yet interesting, asked the panel which bus they were going home on that night, I’m guessing a test as to their local knowledge and green thinking. Marc Reeves, ever the down to early local boy, rattled off several bus routes he takes, Jacqui Smith said the train, whilst Andrew Mitchell justified his use of a car to get home by saying it was locally produced.

He drives a Jag.

(live blog of event here)

Next stop, Manchester with Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd, Graham Brady (Altringham and Sale West MP), Mark Hunter (MP for Cheadle) and David Ottewell  from the Manchester Evening News.

Get your tickets here

04 Feb

Election Question Time Special in Birmingham: live blogging tonight from 7pm

As part of a series of pre-election session around the UK, Birmingham will tonight host a Question Time special at the City Inn.

On the panel:

Andrew Mitchell – Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Jacqui Smith – MP for Redditch and former Home Secretary
John Hemming – MP for Birmingham Yardley
Mark Reeves – Former Editor of the Birmingham Post
Iain Dale (Chair)

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020