Page last updated at 07:06 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Birmingham MP to quit Commons in bid to be first mayor

Sion Simon MP
Sion Simon MP said he was initially sceptical about the need for mayors

Birmingham Erdington MP Sion Simon is to step down from Parliament and as a minister to campaign to become the city's first elected mayor.

He will give up his seat at the next election to lobby for the city to adopt the elected mayor system.

Mr Simon, 41, told the BBC: "The answer to Birmingham's problems simply don't lie in London.

"I'm certainly committed to putting myself forward and becoming the Labour candidate."

Mr Simon, who has been an MP for nine years and is a junior culture minister, said he was initially sceptical about the need for mayors, until he saw the difference it made to London.

He is to quit the safe Labour seat, which at the last election returned a lead of 9,575, sealing 53% of the vote.

He is expected to run for the city council and use the platform to campaign for the mayoralty.

He said: "The current electoral system is aimed at running the country, and not specifically aimed at what's best for Birmingham.

Mark D'Arcy
Having seen the dash cut by first Ken, then Boris, as Mayor of London, I suspect a number of MPs on all sides will be sorely tempted by the lure of municipal power
Mark D'Arcy, Democracy Live blog

"What we have is out of date 19th Century municipal structures."

Under local government legislation, a council may choose to hold a referendum of its citizens, asking them if they want an elected mayor.

A 2001 poll asking if the people of Birmingham wanted "super mayors" did not show majority support for either of the two choices giving that option.

But a 2006 report by the Centre for Cities think tank suggested a Greater Birmingham Authority under a tax-raising mayor could deliver ambitious infrastructure projects.

In December, Mr Simon was forced to apologise after it emerged he rented a second home from his sister, in contravention of Commons rules.

He promised to repay a sum, thought to run to about £20,000, saying it had been an oversight.

And his spoof webcast mocking David Cameron's video blog was derided by Conservative rivals and members of his own party.

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