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More metro mayor candidates prepare for take off

More metro mayor candidates prepare for take off

🕔16.Jul 2015

Chamberlain Files’ list of potential candidates for elected metro mayor of the West Midlands sparked plenty of comment. So far, no one we named has come forward to say they must be removed as there are no circumstances in which they would allow their name to go forward.

Chief blogger Paul Dale peers into his crystal ball to identify a few more names that might be hankering after a job that doesn’t feature in current plans for a Combined Authority – but will.

Far from being a matter of rounding up the usual suspects, the list of potential candidates for West Midlands mayor includes some serious and heavyweight business names.

We suggested last week that Andy Street, chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP and MD of John Lewis might be in the frame. Mr Street or his representatives haven’t exactly been beating a path to our door to issue any form of denial.

So, here’s another name being whispered about for mayor – Paul Kehoe, the straight-talking chief executive of Birmingham Airport.

Kehoe’s star has been rising at pace since he took over at the airport six years ago.

He’s overseen the long-awaited runway extension, boosted passenger numbers beyond expectations and presided over huge improvements to the infrastructure with a new passenger terminal and control tower.

Never one afraid to speak his mind Kehoe infuriated the green lobby by attempting to position Birmingham as “Heathrow’s third runway” – as in why bother to build another runway at Heathrow when Birmingham’s just up the road and will be even closer when HS2 arrives?

That didn’t exactly work out according to plan, but never mind.

Kehoe, already chair of Marketing Birmingham, will have the perfect platform to launch a political career, should he so wish, when he becomes President of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce later this year.

Kehoe is already one of four key strategic players in Birmingham and the West Midlands, often to be seen teaming up with Birmingham city council chief executive Mark Rogers, Marketing Birmingham chief executive Neil Rami and NEC chief executive Paul Thandi, the four musketeers standing together to make the case for Birmingham.

There must, though, be a question as to whether Kehoe could afford to run for mayor.

He would have to leave the airport as soon as his intentions became known and that would mean giving up a hefty salary which amounted to £386,000 last year, including bonuses.

The mayor of the West Midlands will be well rewarded, for sure. But Kehoe could expect at least a 50 per cent pay cut, which may mean his campaign never gets to the runway.

Other possible mayoral candidates:

Waheed Saleem

The never knowingly under-quoted chair of the Lunar Society and serial non-executive portfolio holder may have been disappointed at being left off last week’s list.

Saleem, who retires from the Lunar Society chairmanship in the next few days, is promising to make an important statement about his future. This may be an intention to get back into politics – he is a Labour party member and a former councillor in Walsall.

He certainly has enough on his plate to keep busy.

He’s a non-exec director at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Paycare, and the Metropolitian Housing Association, as well as being owner of WS Associates (Midlands) Ltd, a specialist NHS consultancy service.

And on the subject of challenges, Saleem took over as chair of the board of directors and governors at Park View School and Academy in Birmingham – now the Rock Academy and Core Educational Trust – with a remit to mend the reputational damage caused by the Trojan Horse affair.

In his Linked In CV he claims to have “strong board experience in non-executive roles, in a range of national, regional and local boards” as well as “strong analytical and communication skills”, which may be just the talents required for the mayoral job.

Could he secure the Labour nomination though? Must be viewed as an outsider.

Waseem Zaffar

Supporters of the ever-ambitious Birmingham city councillor were astonished that their man could have been left off the Chamberlain Files list of potential mayoral candidates. So, we are immediately putting him where he should have been all along.

Zaffar did well in the annual Labour group elections and emerged as chair of the corporate resources scrutiny committee, which has a remit to delve into the council’s dire financial situation. We can expect a lively year.

Whether Zaffar has the experience or the clout to stand any chance of securing the Labour nomination to run for West Midlands mayor is open to question.

Gossips say he is planning a bid to become the next West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, challenging David Jamieson on a joint ticket with current deputy PCC Yvonne Mosquito. Of course, if the West Midlands did move down the full devolution road, the job of metro mayor and PCC could be combined into a single role.

Gisela Stuart

The Labour MP for Edgbaston since 1997 put herself forward as a candidate for directly elected mayor of Birmingham in 2011, but her hopes were dashed when Brummies voted decisively against having a mayor in a referendum.

She has a knack for generating headlines. Last year she told the House of Commons that Birmingham city council could go bankrupt in 18 months. It hasn’t, yet.

During the General Election campaign she suggested a neck-and-neck result could force Labour to join the Conservatives in a Grand Coalition of the type last seen in the Second World War. Madness, of course, but a lot of crazy stuff went on in the run-up to May 7.

Could she get Labour’s nomination to run for West Midlands mayor? She has the profile and cannot be dismissed out of hand.

*Breaking News: Lord Digby Jones, tipped by Chamberlain Files as a possible mayoral candidate, has issued an important statement. Speaking about the Greek financial crisis on Twitter this week (we are sure by his own hand…), Lord Jones said: “If you base your economy on exporting olives and importing BMWs you will eventually go bust.”

Wise words indeed.

So, our revised list of runners and riders for a job that doesn’t exist in absolutely no particular order is:

  • Andy Street
  • Paul Kehoe
  • Sajid Javid
  • Sion Simon
  • David Jamieson
  • Gisela Stuart
  • Darren Cooper
  • Liam Byrne
  • Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham
  • Sir Albert Bore
  • Caroline Spelman
  • Khalid Mahmood
  • Salma Yaqoob
  • Waseem Zaffar
  • John Hemming
  • Waheed Saleem
  • Baron Whitby
  • Mike Olley

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