Cllr Paul Tilsley
With David Laws sudden departure from frontline government, Richard Lutz tries to meet up with Birmingham’s Lib Dem deputy council leader Paul Tilsley. He fails.
For a week I’ve been trying to sit down with Cllr Paul Tilsley – the leader of Birmingham’s Lib Dems for the last five years since John Hemming headed off for parliament.
Just a year earlier his party bedded down with the Tories to run the city after Labour handed it to them on a plate.
Rumour, always a venomous fog, had told me this politician hated The Stirrer. He saw it as a Labour mouthpiece and he wouldn’t touch it…and therefore me.
Of course, if true, this meant one of 3 things:

  • He reads it and hates it
  • He never reads it and based his belief on ..well, the venomous fog of rumour
  • He doesn’t hate it

I was mulling over this Great Thought when I realised you hear little of him.
His chief, Mike Whitby, is usually in the headlines doing this or that but Mr Tilsley is pretty absent. Of course, maybe he wants it that way. After all, he is the man, according to press reports four years ago, who demanded that an online tv interview be binned because he didn’t like its tone.
Amazingly (and sadly), the organisation, Biztv, buckled under his moaning and scrapped it.
So, time to get in touch with the man who described himself as a ‘crinkly old so and so’ as I’m fascinated by people who willingly take a number two job just to get a sniff at power.
He’ll be OK, I think, despite the rumours. After all, he is a tub thumper for Digital Birmingham. After all, he wants to tell Birmingham what he’s done.
I called his office.
I asked Cllr Tilsley for an interview for this week. It is a small but relevant bid to show how a coalition works with the national partnership in place in Westminster.
He won’t do it. His staff says he is too busy and then on holiday. It is not possible.
Now, I accept that. Not everyone fits into everyone else’s diary.
Here is his secretary’s response:

Dear Richard,
Further to your earlier e-mail, unfortunately the Deputy Leader will not be available for an interview with you either tomorrow or Thursday morning.
As you will appreciate the Deputy Leader’s diary is immensely busy and completely booked; particularly in view of him being on annual leave from Thursday afternoon.
Kind Regards

I email him again

Dear Councillor Tilsley,
Thank you for your quick response regarding my request for an interview and I understand from your colleague that you are not available this week due to diary pressure.
I would like to re-arrange the interview date to accommodate you and would be open to sit down for an interview with you up until the first of September. The actual duration that you would be committed to would be 15 minutes and can be arranged to meet your needs.
As the deputy leader of this city and an elected member, I think the people of Birmingham would be greatly interested in your perception of politics and the policies of this city. I understand how busy you are but I assume a quarter of an hour could be found sometime.
If you feel an interview would not be appropriate, please let me know.
Thank you and hope that my request can be met and look forward to a response.

Richard Lutz

Again a response. Still, not from the man himself. But this time from another member of his secretarial staff:

Dear Richard – thank you for e-mail to Councillor Tilsley.
The Deputy Leader will be going on annual leave shortly and when he returns to the UK he will then be travelling oversea’s (sic) on business. Unfortunately as you can appreciate the Deputy Leader’s diary is completely congested and I would be struggling to fit a 15 minute slot.
Kind regards

So, it looks as if Cllr Tilsley doesn’t have fifteen minutes (yes, I can turn around an interview in a quarter of an hour) for the city’s leading online news website.
Or being less disingenuous, he is avoiding the site. I know when I’m not wanted.
But there’s a crucial point here: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Tweedy (aka Cole) or Beckham can turn their backs on chat.
They’re commercial entities. But Cllr Tilsley – or any other elected person – is responsible to the people that he represents.
The Stirrer TV interviews (on the right hand side of the front page linked to the written feature) has talked to people sitting firmly in the Labour, Tory and Respect camps. It’s also talked to the city’s Bishop and leading artists. They’ve put their heads above the parapet.
But the Lib Dem voice is missing. And that’s down to the arrogance or silliness of one man.
By being, let’s say, inflexible with his diary, he is not knocking me back. But slapping the electorate in the face.
His staff and he have my contact numbers. I’m waiting.
See: www.thestirrer.co.uk

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