Secretive Whitby v Brew tussle makes the case for Birmingham to have an elected mayor
The fight between Mike Whitby and Randal Brew for the leadership of Birmingham City Council, which is being conducted entirely behind closed doors, demonstrates brilliantly the democratic argument in favour of directly elected mayors.
Next Monday, 49 Tory councillors, mostly middle-aged men, all white, will gather in a private meeting to decide who should be their group leader and therefore run the second largest city in the United Kingdom for the next year at least.
Ultimate power, therefore, lies in the hands of the 25 councillors required to either re-elect Whitby, or appoint Brew to replace him.
Not much involvement there for the 750,000 people in Birmingham registered to vote in council elections.
In fact, there aren't any council elections in 2009 since Birmingham re-elects one-third of its 120 city councillors each year and has a rest on the fourth year.
You couldn't even really argue that Whitby and Brew have much of a democratic mandate to be where they are.
Whitby secured 3,200 votes when he last contested his Harborne ward in 2006, but that was just under half the total votes cast.
Brew managed 2,674 votes in Northfield, only 38 per cent of the total votes cast.
How different this would all be if Birmingham, like London, elected a mayor to serve for a four-year period.
Such an election might actually stir up some interest, since those taking part would realise their vote really counted for something.
As things stand we have a fair idea how a Whitby-led administration would continue to run Birmingham, but what about mystery man Randal Brew?
The Northfield councillor has made no public comment about policy issues should he wake up on May 19 to find himself leader of the city council.
Indeed, both candidates seem content to rely on the claim that this is simply an internal party matter and that they are precluded from campaigning in public.
One senior Tory councillor backed this vow of silence, suggesting his party did not want to do its dirty washing in public.
How sad when the election of a man to oversee a total budget of some ÃÂ£3 billion and deliver services for 1 million people is regarded as an embarrassment.