Update: A couple of hours after posting this blog, the council backed down and decided to hold the meeting in public. I’m not saying that’ s because of this blog (I’ll leave claiming credit for things which can’t be proven to the Tories!) but that’s the chronology.
This time last week, it was shaping up just to be another normal week in Birmingham.
Seven days later and the city – along with Manchester, Liverpool, Salford and London – is edging back to normality.
Given everything that’s happened, it’s probably not a surprise to hear that Birmingham City Council councillors have been recalled – all 120 of them – for an emergency meeting to discuss the riots. It takes place today.
Putting aside the fact that if parliament could pull back its 650 MPs at two days notice for a special sitting last Thursday, it shouldn’t take a council until the following week to do the same, it’s right that councillors get to speak out on the riots.
After all, they are supposed to be the people on the ground, the people with the contacts, the people who can help restore calm and help communities go forward. I saw similar when I covered the aftermath of the Burnley riots in 2001, where councillors played an important role in knocking rumours on the head.
But what’s particularly worrying at Birmingham is the fact this meeting won’t be open to the public. It’ll be held in secret. And the reason for doing so is even more worrying:
In a bid to stop party political grandstanding, the Council’s Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders have decided that the meeting will be held behind closed doors.
Council Deputy leader Paul Tilsley (Lib Dem, Sheldon) said: “We took the joint decision that we will have a more honest and constructive meeting if it was held in private.”
If Birmingham councillors really can’t be trusted to debate the riots in public without resorting to party politics, the problem surely isn’t the presence of the public, it’s the quality of the councillors.