Yesterday the Leader of Manchester City Council, who has been there since 1996, was re-elected again. What made the whole thing hilarious was that the presiding official, the Lord Mayor, forgot to ask how many people were opposed. I wrote to the City Solicitor. She has written back saying everything is fine, nothing to see here…
Because that is this City, where the rules are for suckers, and sometimes (often) they forget to pretend.
There’s that over-used expression “you couldn’t make it up.” Well, you could, but nobody would think it was either funny or plausible. They’d just think it was tawdry and demeaning…
Here’s my letter, and below it, the City Solicitor’s reply.
Dear Ms Ledden,
I am sure it did not escape your razor-sharp legal eye that there was a procedural error today at Annual Council.
There was only one nomination for Leader of the Council, so there did not have to be a formal tally of votes, it’s true.
However, the Lord Mayor, perhaps overcome with surprise at getting a second term, when conducting the election of the Leader, merely asked for an acclamation of the ayes. That is to say, he did not ALSO ask for those opposed to get the chance to give voice to their opposition.
This seems like
a) a bracingly honest demonstration of how things actually work in this City, where democratic norms, conventions and rules are (dis)honoured in the breach.
b) one of those unfortunate “the curtain has slipped and everyone can see” moments
c) a senior moment
d) all of the above.
My question is this – what is the legal standing of the Leader of the Council, given that the Westminster-style procedural norms have not been adhered to at Annual Council on Weds 19th May?
Assuming that the Annual Council is not going to be reconvened to address this (and I have taken out a second mortgage to bet on this NOT happening), and that your reply will be along the lines of
“The Leader was elected in the usual manner as he has been these last 25 times”,
then does this now establish a legal precedent that future votes for Leader of the Council will proceed simply on a few people saying “aye” and there being no opportunity for those saying “no” to even speak? Are we moving into the truly post-political world that so many academics have told us about?
What an interesting precedent that will be!
Dr Marc Hudson
Ms Ledden’s reply
Thank you for your email, of yesterday, I note your concerns.
I can confirm the election of the leader conformed with the necessary requirements.
There was, as pointed out by you no other nominations before the Council and the affirmative response from the chamber confirmed the election following both a nomination and a seconder.
You are not correct to say no opportunity of those with opposing comments or those wishing to express dissent to be heard indeed Councillor Leech made a speech in respect of nominations to Committees and the microphones were set up to enable that to take place.
Thank you for your continued interest in these matters.
So, the precedent is now there, with the stamp of approval of the City’s chief law bod. At any given election, the Lord Mayor can say all those in favour say “aye”. Then, no matter if only a few people say “aye”, as long as there were no other nominations, it’s a done deal. Happy times.