WEEK END­ING

Yorkshire Post - - FEATURES & COMMENT -

YORK­SHIRE’S DE­BAT­ING cham­bers have echoed of late with ar­gu­ments for and against a sys­tem of elected may­ors, caus­ing many out­side the Town Hall bub­ble to ques­tion what the dif­fer­ence would be be­tween one who had been voted into of­fice, and the com­mon-or­gar­den va­ri­ety.

The an­swer ought to be easy: the role of elected mayor is a po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion which be­stows on the holder con­sid­er­able power and fi­nan­cial control.

Sur­pris­ingly, the is­sue of what a reg­u­lar mayor should and should not be is prov­ing more dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate.

With few or no du­ties at­tached to the of­fice, the may­oralty is lit­tle more than a perk of the job for long-serv­ing coun­cil mem­bers. The in­cum­bent waits out his or her turn by raising money for good causes and dis­pens­ing bon­homie at var­i­ous com­mu­nity events, prefer­ably those with cater­ing.

The cus­tom has be­come so in­grained that in Sh­effield this week, the coun­cil has found it­self in the ex­tra­or­di­nary po­si­tion of hav­ing to vote on de­fend­ing the right of the mayor to do noth­ing.

It has hap­pened be­cause the present postholder has, as they say in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles, gone rogue.

Magid Magid is cut from a dif­fer­ent cloth to that of most of his col­leagues in City Hall, by which I mean that he is un­der 30 and not a card-car­ry­ing Labour Party mem­ber.

His in­au­gu­ra­tion ear­lier this year, at which he was piped in to the strains of the Im­pe­rial March from

gained him na­tional at­ten­tion, as did the of­fi­cial pho­to­graph of him squat­ting im­prob­a­bly, in Dr Marten boots, on an or­nate mar­ble ban­nis­ter.

Later, he pro­claimed Don­ald Trump to be banned from Sh­effield, un­veiled a list of ‘‘Ten Com­mand­ments’’, one of which was ‘‘Don’t kiss a Tory’’, and ap­pointed a hip-hop artist to the nonex­is­tent role of the city’s poet lau­re­ate.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, he de­cided at last month’s cen­te­nary com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Ar­mistice to wear a white poppy.

None of the above ap­pears on the tra­di­tional may­oral job spec­i­fi­ca­tion, which con­sists mainly of the re­quire­ment to turn up when told to.

For that rea­son, Magid’s fel­low coun­cil­lors have spent the week de­bat­ing whether to rein him in by mak­ing him the sub­ject of a Code of Con­duct that would com­pel him to “re­spect tra­di­tion” and “re­main non­po­lit­i­cal”. Laugh­ably, a pro­ce­dural snafu meant they couldn’t even agree on that.

It raises the ques­tion: why bother hav­ing a mayor at all? If we don’t want them to do any­thing, we might as well take the silly hats and cloaks back to the fancy dress shop in time for the pan­tomime sea­son.

You may won­der how Magid Magid got the job in the first place, es­pe­cially since he has held his seat only since 2016. But he is one of six Green Party coun­cil­lors in Sh­effield, and un­der the perks sys­tem, it was the Greens’ turn to nom­i­nate some­one. He ap­pears to have seen it as a more sig­nif­i­cant hon­our than it ac­tu­ally was.

Sh­effield is among 23 English cities to have a Lord Mayor – Leeds, Brad­ford, Hull and York are also among them – and nearly ev­ery smaller city and town has a mayor not en­ti­tled to the pre­fix.

They are all drawn from the ranks of their lo­cal coun­cil benches and thus versed in the ap­pro­pri­ate eti­quette. They are also, with some ex­cep­tions, rather dis­tant fig­ures. Un­less you know him or her per­son­ally, I doubt if you can name your own civic head, with­out look­ing it up.

That is not the case in Sh­effield where Magid Magid’s be­hav­iour has put a spot­light on the city – some­times help­fully, more of­ten not. He has not ex­er­cised ma­tu­rity in his choice of agenda. He should have re­alised that his choice of a white poppy at the war me­mo­rial would be seen as an in­sult by many who had gone there out of choice, not duty.

Nor is his sense of pri­or­ity sound. Sh­effield has a sig­nif­i­cant gang crime prob­lem, and some­one of his age could help to ad­dress it – but not by ar­bi­trar­ily ap­point­ing a hip-hop­ping poet lau­re­ate. Jobs for the boys – even boys who speak in rhyming cou­plets – are sup­posed to be a no-no in pub­lic life.

So, rein him in by all means. But the more we ex­am­ine the de­tail of what a Lord Mayor is or is not sup­posed to be, the harder it be­comes to jus­tify their ex­is­tence.

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