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DIARY - TOULMIN SMITH

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The rumour mill has been working overtime in the run-up to Super Thursday, and speculation has been rife over the s...
The rumour mill has been working overtime in the run-up to Super Thursday, and speculation has been rife over the successor to Local Government Association chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe.

Speculation that has, if not the ring of immediate truth about it, an impressive long-term plausibility.

Some have been asking if Kent CC chief executive Mike Pitt might be a successor to Sir Brian. If Kent CC leader Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart (Con) is confirmed as chair, would it not be desirable to continue that famous partnership at national level on behalf of all local government?

It would also be an intriguing contrast with Sir Brian's tough approach - the quantity of iron in Mr Pitt's fists is unknown but they are certainly gloved in velvet. He is known within his senior management team as 'Mother Teresa'.

Unfortunately, this captivating rumour falls down on several fronts. First, it is understood Sir Brian will stay on until after the next general election, so there may not be a vacancy if Sir Sandy takes over.

More importantly, the LGA is a cross-party organisation. As such, Mr Pitt's close association with Sir Sandy is the very thing that would work against him.

I noticed that the first item on Redbridge LBC's website is 'Alice Through the Looking Glass'.

Thinking this must refer to the bizarre installation of a Labour and Liberal Democrat cabinet, despite the council having a large overall Conservative majority, I clicked on it.

However, it turns out to concern an open-air theatrical performance of Lewis Carroll's work.

Surely even he could not have imagined the predicament of the Redbridge Tories?

High-fliers who read LGC may be impervious to the lure of the grey box in the corner of their living-room.

But museum staff employed by Birmingham City Council suffered a lapse in concentration when a 'BBC big screen' was erected next to their office.

Conscientious employees said the volume could not be adjusted and was

too loud.

The council quickly sought to fix this, as well it might. Its only alternative would be to lay on couches, with microwave dinners and a remote control.

Of all the obscure connections that bind our political system together, few can be more arcane than the family of Brenda Beecham, wife of Sir Jeremy, originating from the same Romanian village as Tory leader Michael Howard. The two families apparently knew each other well.

I note that Cheltenham BC has drawn up a climate change strategy to reduce 1990 greenhouse gas emissions in the town by 20% by 2010.

If ever a council needed a change of climate it is, surely, Cheltenham.

Leader Andrew Mackinlay (Lib Dem) and managing director Christine Laird have been locked in mortal combat for a year, culminating in her attempt to have a court order ban him from a floor of the town hall.

Ms Laird dropped the legal action but I gather the atmosphere remains tense.

A pity, then, that the strategy merely commits Cheltenham to ridding itself of carbon . . . rather than sulphur.

I looked forward to seeing votes cast in Walsall amid cooling palm fronds and to the strains of Hawaiian guitars .

A press release informs me that elections officer Peter Allsop has the 'new grass-skirt vote counting system'.

This involves: 'Layering votes to form a 'grass skirt' effect so they are easier to count.'

I was unable to grasp how this could be used in elections for three-member wards, where people might split their vote between different slates and, in vain, sought an explanation.

I wonder if there is a voting system in Polynesia named after anything commonly worn in Walsall?

And finally New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged to limit dogs to 10 minutes of barking in the daytime and five minutes at night, in a bid to combat noise. But are these dog minutes or the human variety?

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