FORMER council finance chief John Mills gained a bit of respect from local journalists during his many years at the Town Hall for …and this might sound quite other-worldly and beyond crazy… having an opinion and telling us, when asked, what it was.
There was no checking with the party leader. There was no consulting with the council press office about what he should say. He had done the homework and knew what he wanted to say. This openness, whether you agreed with what he was saying or not, largely meant he got a good crack of the whip. He didn’t even slam the phone down when I had to ring him about his brother’s trial in Italy. It sounds like a simple quality but you’d be surprised how many senior councillors get other people to write opinion pieces and letters to local newspapers for them.
If you speak to the boss of JML in Kentish Town these days, he can sound like he’s missing the Town Hall and his donations to the Labour Party suggest he is still keeping a close eye on local and national politics.
This morning, that willingness to have opinions and talk about them when asked finds him on page two of the Independent as he warns that Ed Miliband needs to find a dynamo for the British economy. He warns that in a policy void across Westminster, the Labour Party leader risks appearing like a ‘Pygmy’, a word not often used since inking out of Arthur Conan Doyle’s quills.
He goes on: “The whole political spectrum is policy-light and this includes the Labour Party. I’m not sure anybody has a compelling message.”
There may be a few crunching organisers in the Miliband team who will think such an assessment is terribly unhelpful. In reality, you wonder whether they should probably be glad that their party’s ranks still contain the odd soul willing to offer an opinion. The word pygmy may ruffle Ed, but this is Mills just trying to be friendly.