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Metro Mayor: Is there a Donald in their midst?

Metro Mayor: Is there a Donald in their midst?

🕔29.Mar 2017

I’m typing this on Tuesday March 28th, which means we’re into the ‘regulated period’ of the Mayoral election campaign, in which candidates and their agents have to start keeping a serious record of the cost of the flash newspapers and 12-page glossies I’ve been receiving from one candidate on a near-weekly basis. It’s not exactly ‘personal oversharing’, as it’s not that personal, but definitely TMI, types Chris Game

We’re also approaching next Tuesday’s other multi-purpose deadline – for delivering candidates’ nomination papers, appointing agents, and, most excitingly, objecting to nominations. If you suspect, for example, that that kerbside yurt, currently occupied by one of the candidates for the purposes of residential qualification, may not meet the definition of ‘premises’, now’s the time to put the boot in.

Anyhow, the point is that certainly all major candidates are now known, and we’re also at the midpoint of the four West Mids Elects Public Debates. An apt moment, therefore, in a mixed sporting metaphor, for a round-the-grounds run-down of the leading (sorry, space isn’t unlimited) runners and riders – in the same order and referring to the same data as my earlier blog on the parties’ electoral prospects.

GREATER MANCHESTER – Very strong Labour prospect

Andy Burnham (Lab – Ladbrokes 6/1 on): born on Merseyside, MP for Leigh (Greater Manchester) since 2001; Minister at Home Office and Health under Blair; Cabinet minister at Treasury, Culture, Media & Sport, and Health under Brown. 4th out of 5 in 2010 Lab leadership election; distant 2nd to Corbyn in 2015; resigned as Shadow Health Secretary, October 2016. Will resign as MP if elected mayor.

Sean Anstee (Cons – 10/1): left school at 16, from Barclays apprenticeship to V-Pres, NY Mellon Bank in Manchester; Trafford councillor at 20, only Cons. leader in Greater Manchester by 2014, aged 26; Deputy Chair, Local Government Assn; thinks mayoralty “shouldn’t be a home for disillusioned MPs”.

Jane Brophy (LD – 10/1): NHS worker in dietetics, public health & nutrition; Trafford councillor for 16 years; finished poor 4th in 2015 Oldham West by-election.

Also: Marcus Farmer (Indep), Stephen Morris (Eng. Democrats), Shneur Odze (UKIP), Will Patterson (Green Party)

LIVERPOOL CITY REGION – even stronger Labour

Steve Rotheram (Lab – 10/1 on): born on Merseyside, son of Lab councillor; left school at 15, became bricklayer, and set up own company aged 22; completed u/grad and p/grad degrees as mature student; Liverpool city councillor (9 years), then MP for Liverpool Walton since 2010; played key role in release of government papers relating to Hillsborough disaster; Parliamentary Private Secy to Jeremy Corbyn.

Carl Cashman (LD – 16/1): 24-year old Liverpool University M Phil student; leader of 3-member LD group who broke Knowsley Council’s Labour monopoly last May; represents “youth and innovation against Jeremy’s bag-carrier”.

Also: Tony Caldeira (Cons), Tom Crone (Green Party), Tabitha Morton (Women’s Equality Party).

PETERBOROUGH & CAMBRIDGESHIRE – Conservatives definite favourites

James Palmer (Cons – 9/4 on): that still comparative rarity, a bewhiskered Tory businessman, director of companies developing building projects and connecting freelance journos to commissioning editors (I note with interest); more relevantly, member and since 2013 Leader of E Cambs DC and also Cambs County Councillor, with key role in recent devo negotiations; defeated MP Heidi Allen for candidacy.

Rod Cantrill (LD – 9/4): born in Notts mining community and studied architecture at Cambridge, where he’s been a city councillor since 2004 and is currently its Cycling Champion (I think that means promoting it, rather than rivalling Bradley Wiggins); MD, financial advisory company, and trustee of homeless charity.

Also: Paul Bullen (UKIP), Peter Dawe (Indep), Stephen Goldspink (Eng. Democrats), Julie Howell (Green Party), Kevin Price (Labour).

TEES VALLEY – Labour definite favourites

Sue Jeffrey (Lab – Ladbrokes not quoting): housing professional – non-exec director and chair, Tees Valley Housing (15 years); Redcar & Cleveland councillor on and off since 1997, Leader since 2015 and Chair of shadow Tees Valley CA.

Ben Houchen (Cons): nephew of Keith, immortal scorer of Sky Blues’ 1987 Cup Final winner; own possibly pro rugby career ended by injury; more pertinently, Stockton councillor, and leader since 2014 (aged 27); solicitor turned CE of sporting goods company, BLK – Beyond Limits Known – which could either a prediction or challenge.

Also: Chris Foote Wood (Lib Dem), John Tait (North East Party), John Tennant (UKIP)

WEST OF ENGLAND – serious Lib Dem possible

STEPHEN Williams (LD – 11/10): late (February) selection, but possible game-changer; capitalised first name to avoid confusion with (now Sir) Steve Webb, also a West Country LD MP and Coalition Minister, defeated in 2015; Williams has been a financial consultant, Avon County and Bristol City councillor, Treasury spokesperson and junior Local Government minister; pro – smoking bans, votes at 16; anti – breaking manifesto pledges on tuition fees; homophobic bullying.

Tim Bowles (Cons – 11/10): early favourite, but in a region that voted 57% ‘Remain’, could now lose out to LDs’ modest revival; businessman in sales and marketing; manager for a global events co.; S Glos councillor since 2011, and runs dementia charity.

Lesley Mansell (Lab – 6/1): an ‘interesting’ selection, as in controversial; an NHS equality and diversity manager, proud Corbynista, and parish councillor, who defeated, inter alia, Bath & NE Somerset Labour leader, Robin Moss.

Also: Aaron Foot (UKIP), Darren Hall (Green Party).

WEST MIDLANDS – everything to play for, in all senses

Andy Street (Cons – 7/4 on): born in Banbury, educated Birmingham and Oxford U; turned down as social worker by Birmingham City Council (also by M&S), so opted for John Lewis, the department store chain with the strikingly different – maximisation of staff happiness – business model, where in 2007 he became MD. From 2011 chaired the GB&S Local Enterprise Partnership, overseeing creation of almost all the 2020 target of 119,000 private sector jobs.

Siôn Simon (Lab – 6/4): now on final lap of longest mayoral campaign in UK history, having stood down from safe Erdington seat in 2010 to complete repayment of parliamentary expenses and, hopefully, run for the mayoralty of Birmingham. Pre-parliamentary career working for Diageo alcoholic beverages company, and as journalist. Under PM Brown was junior minister successively for Further Education and Creative Industries. Member of the European Parliament since 2014.

Beverley Nielsen (LD – 33/1): born Malvern, educated in Ireland, studying law and fashion marketing; career equally eclectic and unsummarisable, but includes spells with CBI, learning more about EU tariff barriers than the average Brexit negotiator; then New York Vogue, equity dealing, back to CBI as its West Midlands Director, launching the charity and social enterprise, Midlands Excellence Ltd., and much, much else – including a 4-year stint on Worcestershire CC.

Also: James Burn (Green), Pete Durnell (UKIP) and Graham Stevenson (Communist).

I deliberately ended Nielsen’s few lines at that point, because the reference to standing for and winning public election, and in Nielsen’s case having then to work with and win the support of politicians from other parties in order to get anything done at all, is what for us voters this mayoral campaign is ultimately about – electing someone who will do party politics effectively on behalf of us and our city region.

And it’s impossible not to be struck by the fact that, for all his indisputable business achievements, Andy Street, the currently leading runner in our West Midlands race, is having to do something he’s never done before – at which he has less experience even than the West of England’s Lesley Mansell – namely, asking ordinary people to vote for him.

The other five Combined Authorities and their regions are almost certainly going to be led by mayors with a long and mostly high-level knowledge of national, local, and in the case of Street’s main challenger, Siôn Simon, European government – mayors whose political lives have been spent working and negotiating with rivals and opponents whose views may differ significantly, even profoundly, from their own.

It’s easy to see Street as our Donald Trump candidate, especially after the rich businessman’s humiliating failure last week to achieve his keynote campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare, and the belated acknowledgement that “doing big things is hard”.

There’s hardly a personality trait the two men have in common, and besides, Trump had no pre-Presidential record of holding any public office at all, while Street, as noted above, had an effective period of service as appointed Local Enterprise Partnership Chair.

But if there is any similarity, it’s the readiness to slag off political opponents and their records. Personal insults, like “failed career-politician”, seem inappropriate from someone who’s yet to try the career. And repeated attacks on “decades of Labour mismanagement” seem unlikely to be forgotten by the council leaders at whom they’re apparently addressed and who will just happen to constitute the new mayor’s cabinet.

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