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Sion Simon fires starting gun in race to become West Midlands’ metro mayor

Sion Simon fires starting gun in race to become West Midlands’ metro mayor

🕔06.Jun 2016

The worst kept secret in Birmingham politics is a secret no longer – Siôn Simon has confirmed he is seeking the Labour party selection to run for West Midlands’ metro mayor.

Mr Simon, an MEP for the region and a former MP for Erdington, announced his decision today, five days before the deadline for receipt of nominations this Friday June 10.

He is the first prospective Labour candidate to break cover and is widely regarded as favourite to take the top job in May next year when voters from the seven West Midlands metropolitan councils vote for a metro mayor.

There is however one possible dark cloud on Mr Simon’s horizon.

Chamberlain Files has learned that Communities Secretary Greg Clark is keen for Tory-controlled Warwickshire county council to become A full constituent member of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

If that happened in time for next year’s mayoral election, voters in Warwickshire would be able to join the seven metropolitan West Midlands councils in choosing a mayor – giving a major boost to the Conservative vote.

There are no elections next year in Birmingham or the other West Midlands metropolitan councils, raising questions about the possibility of a very low turnout for the mayoral election. There are, though, elections for county councils on the same day as the mayoral election.

Warwickshire recently opted to become a non-constituent member of WMCA, which means the county won’t have full voting rights on the board of council leaders. But the council could submit an application for full constituent status in time for the 2017 mayoral election – enabling every registered elector in Warwickshire to qualify for a vote.

Mr Simon said he would hold off from launching his formal mayoral campaign until after the referendum on Britain’s future in the European Union on June 23.

He added:

I have written to Labour Party members to let them know that I will be seeking the party’s nomination to be a candidate for the West Midlands Mayor.

However, until June 23rd I will be focusing on the campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union. For two centuries, the West Midlands has been one of the world’s great manufacturing and trading nations. We still are. But the regional economy, our standard of living and fundamental workers’ rights are at risk if we leave the EU.

Once the referendum is behind us, I will launch my campaign to be Labour’s Mayoral candidate.

Elected MP for Erdington in 2001, Mr Simon was a Minister in two departments in the previous Labour government. As Further Education Minister, he secured the funding to build art colleges in Sandwell and on the former Longbridge site in Birmingham.

Mr Simon stood down as an MP in 2010 in order to campaign for Mayoral devolution – leaving parliament with the largest Labour majority in Birmingham. His hopes of becoming mayor of Birmingham were dashed in 2012 when a referendum came out decisively against the idea.

Mr Simon was elected as an MEP for the West Midlands in 2014. In the European Parliament he has campaigned against Zero Hours Contracts and in favour of better access to finance for SMEs.

Before entering public life, he worked in business as a senior manager with a FTSE 100 company and had a successful career as a journalist writing columns for several national newspapers including the Telegraph and Express and being Associate Editor of the Spectator.

Mr Simon grew up in Sandwell and Birmingham, in a Welsh family. His parents were teachers.

A keen supporter of the arts and the Royal Shakespeare Company , Mr Simon is also a season ticket holder at West Bromwich Albion.ô

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