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Too early to speculate about standing for mayor – says leading candidate

Too early to speculate about standing for mayor – says leading candidate

🕔28.Jan 2016

Labour will begin the process of choosing its West Midlands metro mayor candidate in July.

The party’s national executive committee approved a one-member one-vote selection process the week for the mayoral election which is likely to be in May 2017.

The metro mayor will fill one of the biggest local government jobs in the country, overseeing the new West Midlands Combined Authority and taking responsibility for economic development, transportation and skills.

The decision prompted one of the favourites for the position to declare it was far too early for anyone to speculate about candidates.

Siôn Simon, a West Midlands MEP and former MP for Birmingham Erdington, issued a statement:

I stood down from the House of Commons in 2010 specifically to campaign for devolution, and I’ve been relentlessly making that case ever since.

But now is not the time to start speculating about candidates. Labour will choose its candidate in the summer – still six months away – and that’s the proper time for such conversations.

Till then, I am totally focused on my work as a West Midlands Labour MEP, campaigning for the May elections and leading Labour’s regional EU referendum campaign.

I love this region and want us to be stronger. So in the face of still relentless Tory cuts to local services, that’s what I’m concentrating on.

Mr Simon’s protestation that he is keeping his head down and beavering away on European business is unlikely to convince anyone in West Midlands Labour party circles where it has long been assumed, and never denied, that he will be a front runner for metro mayor.

He gave up his Erdington seat in 2010 to campaign to become the Labour candidate for elected mayor of Birmingham, only to see his hopes dashed when voters rejected the idea in a referendum.

His Facebook pages have plenty of pictures indicating a high profile social start to 2016, with a new year’s drinks party in Birmingham which attracted Labour’s great and good including Mr Simon’s longstanding friend deputy party leader Tom Watson.

He followed that with a much-publicised dinner hosted by Birmingham city councillor Ansar Ali Khan and Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood which was attended by anyone who is anyone in West Midlands Labour Asian circles.

He’s also been out and about and photographed with political allies including Birmingham city council leader John Clancy and Sandwell council leader Darren Cooper.

Labour’s first task in the summer will be to draw up a short list of candidates, probably a maximum of three. As well as Mr Simon, others that may fancy their chances could include Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne and Dudley North MP Ian Austin.

It is likely though that the shortlist will include one BME candidate and one woman, potentially leaving Mr Simon, Mr Byrne and Mr Austin to scrap for the remaining slot.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are yet to confirm their selection arrangements.

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