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Ed Balls boosts Simon’s mayoral bid

Ed Balls boosts Simon’s mayoral bid

🕔14.Jan 2012

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls stopped just short of giving mayoral candidate Sion Simon an all-out endorsement at a lunchtime Labour Party shindig in Birmingham today.

But his presence at an event hosted by Mr Simon and his supporter, MP Tom Watson, lent significant weight to the former Erdington MP’s oft-repeated claims that he has the backing of the leadership of the Labour Party.

Mr Balls had a busy day, starting with perhaps the biggest announcement of his shadow chancellorship so far, saying Labour wouldn’t promise to overturn any of the coalition’s spending cuts. This – together with his call for restraint in public sector pay – dominated Saturday’s national news agenda, but he broke into his day to speak at the event at Birmingham’s new Marco Pierre White Restaurant.

Mr Balls said elected mayors wouldn’t work everywhere – in his Wakefield constituency for example – but, “It is for the people of Birmingham to decide in the referendum. In my view Birmingham is more like London and one of those places where an elected mayor can make a real difference. It looks to me that an elected mayor would work for Birmingham.”

Mr Balls was initially cautious in his choice of words, but nevertheless heaped praise on Sion Simon.

“It’s not for me as a Labour figure before the vote has even happened to say ‘here’s the right candidate or the wrong candidate’ but I’m pleased Sion’s standing and I think he’ll be a brilliant candidate.”

Mr Balls didn’t mention the other Labour candidates by name, and neither Gisela Stuart MP or council Labour leader Sir Albert Bore were there.

“This is a great opportunity for voters to elect a strong Birmingham voice,” said Balls.

“I can see how Sion or whoever comes through this process can play a very important role.”

He indicated that Labour would expect their mayoral candidate in Birmingham to be influential across the wider region.

He said: “A strong effective partnership between government and business is the only way forward. That is hard to achieve nationally but we have a great opportunity to do that in Birmingham and across the West Midlands.

“I hope once we get a Labour council in Birmingham and once we get a decision made on the mayor, whoever is a candidate – and especially if it’s Sion – part of the pitch will be to say let’s work across the West Midlands with other local authorities and with the business community universities to win the investment and the jobs.”

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