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'We need to have change'

HOPE: Desmond Jadoo

IT’S NOT certain that Birmingham will have an elected mayor in 2013, but a campaign to hold a referendum on the issue next May is steadily gaining ground.

If the people of Birmingham say ‘yes’ next year to a mayoral campaign with a clear majority, Desmond Jaddoo is ready to throw his hat in the ring.

Jaddoo, a community worker and entrepreneur, is so far the only black potential candidate. He will be up against some tough opposition, as many of the other people considering the role are either professional politicians or household names in Birmingham.

But he’s not fazed by that, and sees it as an advantage. For every potential candidate, public enemy number one – irrespective of colour or politics – is apathy among voters. If the public do not vote on the referendum, there will be no elected mayor.

Those who are for it see it as a key moment for Birmingham, where a mayor with a direct mandate from the people would be able to appoint Cabinet members who are not councillors, opening up the possibility of successful business figures playing key roles in running schools, housing and transport.

HURDLE

“We have to get over this huge hurdle of disenfranchisement,” explains father-of-four Jaddoo, 45, who grew up in Aston and went to Broadway School. “Around 55 percent of people do not bother to vote because they feel powerless – they don’t feel they can make a difference.

“I keep saying that the citizens of Birmingham must be the voice of the second city. We have to get back a sense of belonging and a sense of community. We have to keep Birmingham local for its people, and that means local jobs and local contracts.”

AWARE

He’s well aware of the importance of the black vote and getting the African-Caribbean community behind him.

“I go to many meetings when people say ‘we must work together’ but then they forget they’ve actually said that an hour later,” adds, Jaddoo, who works with young people at Perry Beeches Baptist Church.

“Young people need to be listened to these days. You can’t just say to them ‘go and get a job’ because there’s so much redundancy. You have to look at what their needs are and try to work with them.”

Jaddoo, whose parents are from St Catherine, Jamaica, has had struggles of his own. After working for Birmingham City Council’s housing department for more than 17 years he took them to a racial discrimination tribunal and won.

“I can honestly say I’ve experienced life at the top and life at the bottom,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be stigmatised and stereotyped, but I want to bring justice and fairness back and champion equal rights for all.”

But in the meantime, Desmond Jaddoo, like the other candidates, must wait to see if the public will vote for a mayor, finally abandoning the old tradition of a ceremonial lord mayor that is elected annually within the council.

“The message is simple: we need to have change and Birmingham people must use their voices.”

To follow Desmond Jaddoo’s progress visit the website of Birmingham Empowerment Forum, www.b-e-f.org.uk, or email birminghamef@gmail.com.

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