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Thanks, but no thanks!
Coventry council's Labour leader John Mutton invited Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist to become the city's deputy Lord Mayor in May, which would normally lead on to the position of Lord Mayor in 2013. In this letter Dave explains why he said: "Thanks but no thanks."
I have taken soundings from a number of local people, and other Socialist Party supporters, and I don't feel, at this time, able to accept.
I appreciate the honour of the ceremonial role and the greater contact over two years, with people young and old, in the city. I would enjoy mayoral visits to everyone from schools to care homes, celebrating with local people. I would take seriously being the voice of sympathy for the city in commiserating with those who have suffered loss.
Some of your colleagues urged me to accept, saying I could bring a radical edge... to the job of Lord Mayor. And I have been tempted.
The first thing I thought I could have done, for example, would have been to invite all those in the queue for food parcels on a Sunday morning by the Swanswell to eat at the expense of the Lord Mayor's hospitality budget that day (and pay for it by cancelling all the normal municipal dinners and attendances at other Lord Mayor's dos across the region).
You see, I think we urgently need to review the council's role and responsibility in the matter of dealing with growing austerity, not leave it to the generosity of individuals or of faith organisations.
But... it's the limitations that worry me, and tip the balance. Since Labour changed Coventry council's constitution ten years ago the Lord Mayor is required, when votes in council meetings are tied, to exercise their casting vote for the majority party (which at the moment would require me to support your programme, and could mean me being obliged to vote for cuts).
The terms of the posts of deputy Lord Mayor and Lord Mayor require political neutrality, and would force me (at the moment the only consistent critic in the chamber against the adoption of the government's austerity plan) to be silent for two years whilst those cuts are inflicted. I could not in all conscience do that.
For that overriding reason I have decided to decline your offer to propose me as deputy Lord Mayor for 2012/13 [...] Once again, thank you for the invitation.
Councillor Dave Nellist
PS. The Coventry Telegraph commented: "It is not the first time Councillor Nellist has chosen principle over personal privilege. As an MP he refused to accept more than the average worker's wage - considerably less than the salary to which he was entitled."