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Too soon for metro mayor speculation, but Simon lines up a team just in case

Too soon for metro mayor speculation, but Simon lines up a team just in case

🕔08.Mar 2016

Siôn Simon, the MEP who is hot favourite to be Labour’s candidate for West Midlands metro mayor next year, has moved his ‘phoney war non-campaign’ up a notch by revealing an impressive cast of supporters.

Officially, Simon just isn’t talking about the metro mayor.

It’s far too early and Labour isn’t even choosing its candidate until June, as he explained, somewhat unconvincingly, two months ago.

This is what Simon had to say in January:

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.

It must be difficult for him to explain, though, why an ordinary member of the European parliament should suddenly require the public backing of scores of Labour luminaries.

#TeamSiôn, as they are described on his website, includes some of the best known politicians in the West Midlands, and each has penned a little message for Siôn along the lines of his understanding of the needs of ordinary folk, his dedication and energy, reputation as “a man who gets things done”, and simply someone you can trust.

Simon’s team already numbers 117 members including MPs, council leaders, cabinet members and trade union leaders. He has the support of Cannock Chase council leader George Adamson, Redditch Council leader Bill Hartnett, Nuneaton and Bedworth council leader Dennis Harvey and Dudley council leader Pete Lowe.

MEP Neena Gill is on board alongside Birmingham Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood, Birmingham Ladywood MP Shabanah Mahmood, Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips, Birmingham Northfield MP Richard Burden, Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe, Wolverhampton South West MP Rob Marris, and Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Paul Farrelly.

There’s a large Birmingham council contingent including cabinet members Shafique Shah and Tahir Ali, as well as several scrutiny and district committee chairs and councillors.

There is one obvious omission. John Clancy, the Labour leader of Birmingham city council, is yet to join #TeamSiôn, or at least has not done so publicly. Clancy has been supportive of Simon for several years, but is also friendly with Darren Cooper, the leader of Sandwell council, who is understood to be considering putting himself forward for the Labour metro mayor nomination in opposition to Simon.

Quite possibly, Clancy has decided he cannot choose between his two friends and is remaining out of it. On the other hand, should Cooper announce that he is not running for mayor, Clancy could join #TeamSiôn as a last-minute star signing.

There’s plenty of jockeying for position behind the scenes as politicians from all parties weigh up the odds of securing the biggest local government job outside of the mayor of London. Mr Simon could face tough challenges from comrades in his own party with Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne thought to be considering whether to throw his hat into the ring.

On the Conservative side, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise chair Andy Street has been touted as a possible Tory candidate and is yet to declare that he is not interested in the job.

Independent challengers could include Lord Digby Jones, the former CBI chief and Business Minister, who has said he is seriously considering standing

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