Cllr Mike Whitby has beaten off a challenge from Cllr Randal Brew, a fellow Conservative councillor, for the leadership of Birmingham Council. The decision at the annual meeting of the 49-strong Conservative Group was understood to have returned Cllr Whitby by a clear margin.
Cllr Brew had offered a change of direction. For instance he noted that the Council's 60,000 workforce has actually grown since the Conservatives took over in 2004. He proposed to reduce the number of Town Hall staff by 3,000 over two years. He proposed greater efficiency, more outsourcing, lower spending on consultancies.
In part the challenge had been prompted by such grand schemes as opening a municipal ban and lending Warwickshire County Cricket Club £20 million. Backbenchers complained about not being consulted. Cllr Whitby has promised to listen more in future and to be less autocratic. Ousting an incumbent leader will always seem rather a drastic option. But the important part of the contest was about substance more than style. Will Conservative councils deliver Conservative policies? Cllr Brew may have lost the election but I hope he will win the battle of ideas.