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Andy Street launches West Midlands Tory mayor bid and quits as GBSLEP chair

Andy Street launches West Midlands Tory mayor bid and quits as GBSLEP chair

🕔09.Sep 2016

Months of speculation came to an end today when it was confirmed that Andy Street is in the running to be the Conservative candidate for West Midlands’ metro mayor.

The worst kept political secret for years was out in the open following an announcement by the John Lewis Partnership, where Mr Street has been chief executive since 2007 and is reportedly on a salary of £1.5 million.

Birmingham-born Mr Street, 53, will resign from John Lewis to pursue his political career if he is selected as the Tory candidate, and has decided to stand down as chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership with immediate effect.

John Lewis issued the following statement:

Andy Street has indicated to the Chairman that he is interested in running for the office, but at this stage has not been formally selected. A formal process within the Conservative party will now take place.

Should Andy be successful in his application, he has agreed with the Chairman that he should step down from his role and a further announcement will be made to confirm the succession plan for the future leadership of the John Lewis brand.

The Conservative party has yet formally to decide who its candidate will be for next May’s metro mayor election, but Mr Street is the clear favourite to beat former Dudley council leader Les Jones.

Whoever becomes the mayoral candidate will be presented to the Conservative conference in Birmingham next month and endorsed by Theresa May, the Prime Minister.

There is growing confidence in the Conservative party that Mr Street, who can be presented as a ‘non-political’ candidate, has a good chance of winning in the West Midlands.

Although Labour can normally count on a clear majority of votes across the seven West Midlands metropolitan councils, the Conservatives require a swing of about five per cent to win based on the 2015 General Election results.

Mr Street, who has chaired GBSLEP since it was formed, is a prominent Tory with close links to the top of the party and a former chairman of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

While his name has been linked with the metro mayor election for more than a year, Mr Street has always refused to confirm that he has any interest in the job. He batted aside questions from Chamberlain Files about the mayoral election at GBSLEP’s annual meeting in June.

He went on to set out his stall in a newspaper article calling for strong leadership following the referendum vote for Britain to leave the EU, and arguing that the West Midlands faces a time of “political turbulence” and disruption.

He urged regional leaders to make the delivery of the HS2 high speed rail route from London to Birmingham a priority amid speculation that the Government may delay construction or even scrap the project altogether following the Brexit vote.

He believes that the strength of the region’s businesses, new infrastructure and the “creativity and innovative nature” of its young population put the West Midlands in a position to “emerge as a victor from this time of change”.

Steve Hollis, deputy chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, said:

As the founding chair of the GBSLEP, Andy has overseen a transformational change in the GBS economy. We are now a top performing region for the rate of private sector job creation and have seen the number of people claiming unemployment benefit halve from its high in February 2012.

Last year was another impressive year for attracting overseas investors, with 81 projects in the area whilst the level of exports has also continued to grow. Andy has used his John Lewis experience to drive this transformation.

It has been a privilege to work with Andy and witness the Greater Birmingham Solihull economy move from being the laggard in the UK five years ago to now being the leader across many measures.

Andy’s passion for his home region is infectious as is the way he has brought partners together to realise our shared goals for the area. We are witnessing an economic renaissance and new era of optimism. We are the outperforming region in the UK and we are positioned to be one of the global leaders. We owe a huge debt of gratitude for Andy’s leadership.

There was no indication from Mr Hollis over who might take over as GBSLEP chair either in the interim or long term, but it anticipated that the former KPMG man will step up.

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