Another week, another party leadership election result

  • 21 September 2016
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Diane James told the Prime Minister: 'We're the opposition-in-waiting now."

"It's so hard to keep up with all these leadership elections, isn't it?"

Not exactly the most profound observation I've ever come up with, but it did seem the most appropriate way of filling the final couple of seconds before the 'hand back' to Andrew Neil at the end of the Midlands part of last weekend's Sunday Politics on BBC One.

I had just just been explaining that our programme next Sunday would be reporting live from the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool following their leadership election result, and that I was also hoping to talk to the newly-elected UKIP leader.

It reminds me of the old joke about buses: you spend ages waiting for a leadership election and then two come along at once.

And then I realise that this coincidence of timing is not the only thing they have in common.

Read full article Another week, another party leadership election result

High-profile candidates lining up for Midlands mayor

  • 14 September 2016
  • From the section England
Andy Street Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Becoming the Conservative candidate would mean Andy Street having to step down from one of the biggest jobs in British retailing to embark on a political campaign

Suddenly my email inbox was working overtime.

First came a brief, Delphic, statement from the Conservative Party.

Read full article High-profile candidates lining up for Midlands mayor

Immigration challenge Brexit inquiry chair Gisela Stuart faces

  • 17 August 2016
  • From the section England
Gisela Stuart Image copyright PA
Image caption Gisela Stuart, Labour MP for Edgbaston, is to chair an inquiry into the rights of EU migrants living in the UK

"We will protect EU citizens' rights and then expect the same for UK citizens in the rest of the EU."

That's how the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston Gisela Stuart thinks the government should open its Brexit negotiations with the EU on the thorny question of the rights of EU migrants over here, and those of Brits currently living over there.

Read full article Immigration challenge Brexit inquiry chair Gisela Stuart faces

Brexit: A regional insurrection one month after EU referendum

  • 15 July 2016
  • From the section England
Jigsaw with UK flag piece removed Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The West Midlands has a long history of making things work. Just as the new prime minister wants Brexit to work

Nearly one month on from that epic referendum result, I've been sounding out opinions in the part of Britain which voted more enthusiastically than anywhere else for the UK to leave the EU.

It was the ultimate example of what looks increasingly like a regional insurrection in defiance of majority opinion, and no little advice, from the nation's capital.

Read full article Brexit: A regional insurrection one month after EU referendum

Midlands business leaders expect the unexpected

  • 30 June 2016
  • From the section England
Europe House Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brexit: Will it be the disaster Lord Heseltine thinks? Or will Britain become more attractive to foreign investors

"If you want to hear the sound of God laughing, just tell Him about your five-year plan."

Those were the words with which I opened a conference of nearly 400 business leaders in the impressive Vox Conference Centre at the new Resorts World complex adjoining the National Exhibition Centre.

Read full article Midlands business leaders expect the unexpected

EU Referendum war of words becomes a numbers game

  • 1 June 2016
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption UK voters will decide whether we remain in the EU in the referendum on 23 June

"83% of all statistics are invariably wrong."

Whoever came up with that quip was clearly on to something. They could have been talking about the EU Referendum campaign.

Read full article EU Referendum war of words becomes a numbers game

When can too much democracy be bad for your health?

  • 18 May 2016
  • From the section England

Should health be taken out of politics?

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Every year the NHS accounts for nearly £120bn

It's a question I find myself asking more and more often.

Followed by a second one: As a lifelong "politics anorak", doesn't it ill behove me of all people to ask it at all?

Read full article When can too much democracy be bad for your health?

Why Midlanders are narrowing their referendum options

  • 11 May 2016
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images

"Can you give us the facts?"

Wherever I go and whoever I bump into these days, that's what people are asking me during the countdown to the referendum on Thursday 23 June 2016.

The decision itself may be a binary one: To Remain in or to Leave the EU. But the answer to that question on the streets is anything but. I always reply that it's all about opinions, judgement calls and, yes, gut feelings play their part as well.

Read full article Why Midlanders are narrowing their referendum options

Police commissioners: a choice of party hats or indies

  • 27 April 2016
  • From the section England

Party-time or independence day?

Image caption Conservative candidate to be re-elected as Staffordshire PCC, Matthew Ellis, won on an overall turnout of 11.6% in 2012 - the lowest anywhere in England

Anyone who wanted to demonstrate a triumph of apathy over democracy couldn't have done much better than to hold an election in the middle of November for a role which most people knew next-to-nothing about and cared even less.

And to no-one's great surprise, that's exactly what happened in 2012's elections for the new police and crime commissioners. There are five of them in our part of the country, one for each of our police force areas. Gloucestershire's turnout of just 16% was the highest here. Staffordshire's 11.6% was the lowest anywhere in England. This reinforced the irony that an innovation trumpeted by ministers as an exercise in high-profile accountability, replacing the "invisible" police authorities, had left six in every seven voters completely unmoved.

Read full article Police commissioners: a choice of party hats or indies

Never mind the B'lox - street politics is in rude health

  • 20 April 2016
  • From the section England
Abbreviated road signs in Walsall Image copyright Karl Rogman
Image caption The abbreviated road signs in Bloxwich

For anyone who thinks these local elections are dull and boring, I have this challenge - come to Walsall.

The writing, if not on the wall, is clear enough on the roads themselves. Street level democracy is in the rudest of rude health here. Which here in Walsall, really is quite rude!

Read full article Never mind the B'lox - street politics is in rude health