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Mayoral campaigns and offices take shape

Mayoral campaigns and offices take shape

🕔13.Oct 2016

Another week, another endorsement from the Prime Minister for Andy Street, Conservative Party candidate for West Midlands Metro Mayor. Kevin Johnson looks at the latest developments in the metro mayor campaign. 

Last week, it was at the party conference in our own backyard. Yesterday, Theresa May took the opportunity of an early question from Michael Fabricant (Con, Lichfield) at PMQs just to make sure the Commons Chamber knew she was not underselling Andy Street.

So far, we’ve not heard Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn taking major moments in the national spotlight to laud Siôn Simon. But that may come as a relief to the Labour candidate who will draw on the support of close friend and deputy party leader Tom Watson to back the campaign where it matters – on the phones, on the streets and online.

Meanwhile, the campaigns and mayoral offices are beginning to take shape. Mr Simon has secured the services of PwC’s devolution guru, Richard Parker, as Chief of Staff in the event of winning the election. Mr Parker has been a pivotal figure in the establishment of the West Midland Combined Authority and its early days. Anyone who has managed to bash the heads together of the region’s council leaders and push along devolution deals with government is a man worth having in your mayoral office corner.

Parker says he will not form part of the campaign, but will provide assistance on stakeholder engagement, policy development and Mr Simon’s programme for office after he steps down from PwC at the end of this year. He had been lined up to take a similar role for Darren Cooper, the late leader of Sandwell Council, if he was elected. Cllr Cooper died just days after their discussion.

As well as Richard Parker, Siôn Simon has policy, communications and campaign personnel in place, in part benefitting from the surge in membership income at the Labour Party.

Andy Street has been busy signing up supporters to his campaign website. At the last count he had over 130 people “backing Andy” whilst “Team Siôn” is just a handful behind (although he has had his band running for longer). Both candidates feature their party leader as supporters.

Mr Street has also developed a hitherto unseen addiction to Twitter (@andy4wm, if you are asking, with 1751 followers). You can hardly move for pictures of the candidate in training for this weekend’s Birmingham Half Marathon where the former GBSLEP chair is raising funds for Acorn’s Hospice.  On Twitter, he has some catching up to do with around 5,500 followers to attract before matching the Labour candidate (@sionsimon).

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat candidate Beverley Nielsen has not been left behind in the campaign stakes. Very much in evidence at last week’s Conservative Party Conference, Ms Nielsen has been making herself even better known around the region.

The Lib Dems have revealed that a “senior Black Country businessman” has joined the campaign team of their candidate. Paul Cadman, former MD of the Futura Group, who includes Black Country Chamber of Commerce Manufacturer of the Year 2015 among a string of accolades, says he’s “not content to just debate issues – as suggested by the Conservative candidate.”

Mr Cadman said:

He presents a party that consistently puts politics over economics and the needs of foreign-owned multinationals over the needs of our SME businesses. They may brag about levels of employment but I know first hand the reality of our employment and skills situation and the results of years of neglect the manufacturing heart of the UK.

Eventually managing to name the “Conservative candidate” he continued:

We have a great team of advisers from business, from communities and from public services all of whom are irritated by the ideological rhetoric of the other parties. The West Midlands needs someone who understands the reality of what most of us are experiencing and someone with real experience of creating solutions.

Beverley has my vote and my support so Mr. Street (the Conservative candidate), we are ready to tackle all the serious issues that face the region. Are you?

Beverley Nielsen has some way to go on the Twitter stakes, with just 365 followers for @BeverleyNielsen and 13 followers for @metromayorWMLibDem. Go on, give her a follow.

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