Isn’t is funny that we all, as adults, need to know about politics but as children we’re hardly taught a thing? We’ve always talked about politics with Eleanor and Phoebe: they’ve been with us to vote many times, we’ve discussed our opinions on Brexit and we even took them to a rally before the last general election. Politics are a huge part of all of our everyday lives and I believe our children should grow up with an understanding of how things work. So, of course, I jumped at the chance for us to visit the Lord Mayor of Birmingham with a Home Education group.
The Council House is an impressive building and the girls were excited to go inside; Andy hasn’t been in there before either but I’ve done a similar tour with some kids when I was teaching. We had a guide, Julie, who showed us the pictures of all of the Lord Mayors of Birmingham and told us about the chain and robes that are worn.
Originally the chain was made longer each year to incorporate the Lord Mayor’s initials, but then it started to get too heavy and so that tradition ended. The pendant has a large diamond in, which we were told was the first to come from the Jewellery Quarter and is called the Spencer Diamond. In actual fact the current diamond is an imposter!
After a brief history lesson, we went to look at the Lord Mayor’s office. Julie showed us the visitor’s book and a couple of signatures, including Hillary Clinton and Queen Elizabeth II. We also saw the robes that the Lord Mayor wears for very special occasions; the original set cost £9000 as they were made from Damask silk and real gold!
Want To Become A Councillor?
Then it was onto the debating chamber. This is where the City councillors meet to discuss issues and vote. We found out that anyone who lives or works in Birmingham can become a councillor for their area.
To become a councillor, a person does not need any special qualifications, they simply must get ten signatures to support their application. Then they will have the opportunity to be voted in by local people at the next election. This is an easier process if a member of a political party (help with canvassing, etc.) but people can stand as Independents if they wish.
Please Be Upstanding…
The current Lord Mayor of Birmingham is Councillor Mohammed Azim. Originally from Pakistan, he moved to Birmingham and became a Labour councillor for Sparkbrook after years of working in a metal engineering firm. He has four children and his daughter, Bushra, serves as his Lady Mayoress.
It was a pleasure to meet the Lord Mayor. He invited all of us to take turns sitting in his chair and then took the time to talk to us about his background and to answer some questions from the children. I really liked him, he is obviously so passionate about Birmingham and its people. He told us of the importance of community, particularly in relation to the questions asked about homelessness in the city and the role of food banks.
More than once he told the children of the importance of getting a good education. He cited his own experiences telling us that when he started his job he didn’t know how to use the machines. He dedicated his time to learning everything about his job and, before long, was training others and moving to better positions.
I’m with him there, education (however that looks for your family) really is the most important thing we can do for our children.
What Does A Lord Mayor Do Anyway?
The role of Lord Mayor is ceremonial and not political. The duties of the Lord Mayor include meeting dignitaries, raising money for charity and overseeing meetings of Birmingham City Council. In case you didn’t know, the Lord part of the title is because Birmingham is a city; otherwise it would just be Mayor.