Just weeks before elite athletes line up on a newly laid track in Perry Barr, Ian Ward pipped Waseem Zaffar to take the tape and retain leadership of the Labour Group on Birmingham City Council.
In a contest which apparently emerged as a surprise to Councillor Ward, Waseem Zaffar came within three votes of the incumbent in the first round of voting. Cllr Liz Clements notched up six votes. Her supporters then gave two votes to Ward and three to Zaffar (with one spoilt) meaning Cllr Ward won the contest 33-31.
Returned to the top seat, Cllr Ward has appointed a new Cabinet at the start of a new four-year term. Out goes Cllr Zaffar, in comes Cllr Clements to the transport brief vacated by her fellow beaten leadership contender.
Birmingham’s new Cabinet features more women than men for the first time. Brigid Jones remains deputy leader. When she first sat at Cabinet eight years ago, she was the only woman.
Back at the Cabinet table is Majid Mahmood. He previously stood down over the council’s bins dispute and was one of the loudest champions for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in the city. He takes up the Environment portfolio in the re-organisation, the other half of the brief that Cllr Zaffar led.
Meanwhile, Bobby Alden has been re-elected unanimously as leader of Birmingham’s Tories.
Cllr Ward will now focus on bringing about a ‘golden decade’ for the city, bookended by the Commonwealth Games starting in July and the arrival of HS2 at the end of the decade. The audacious challenge from Cllr Zaffar and the close result will have given the council leader more than pause for thought.
The political developments are a mere side show in civic terms though. The Floozie in the Jacuzzi has been turned back on outside the Council House.
Cllr Ward switched on The River Fountain in Victoria Square nearly seven years after it had been replaced with a flower bed due to persistent leaks. The water feature trickled back into life a few seconds after the council leader pressed a huge red button.
Civic order has been restored.