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Just when you thought the election was over…

Just when you thought the election was over…

🕔18.Dec 2019

As Members of Parliament began to be sworn in yesterday, the long campaign for Mayor of the West Midlands was effectively being re-started writes Kevin Johnson

Liam Byrne was returned as MP for Hodge Hill last week, with only a small decrease in his vote share.

Pete Lowe failed in his bid to secure Stourbridge, seeing a drop in Labour’s share of the vote in line with the national trend. The third shortlisted candidate for Labour’s nominee to chair the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) did not stand for Westminster, but Salma Yaqoob was seen supporting the former Dudley leader along with campaigning in other marginal constituencies.

Mayoral incumbent Andy Street has seen his party balloon around him, with a parliamentary majority of 80 including a number of new Conservative MPs in the West Midlands. Several seats in the Black Country turned blue and Gary Sambrook was returned by Birmingham Northfield. While Richard Burden was ousted, Birmingham Group Leader Cllr Robert Alden failed to unseat Jack Dromey.

Labour stalwarts Tom Watson and Ian Austin did not contest the election, preventing them the fate of losing their seats. Emma Reynolds did lose out in Wolverhampton North East as Labour’s infamous red wall crumbled.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce President Saqib Bhatti successfully succeeded Caroline Spelman in Meriden. Labour councillor Tahir Ali beat Roger Godsiff, who had been de-selected by the party, in Birmingham Hall Green.

Mr Street, along with other Mayors, is losing no time to press Boris Johnson’s new found responsibilities to the Midlands and North.

Writing on the Conservative Home blog, he points out half of the MPs in the area covered by the WMCA are now Conservative.

He sets out a ten point plan for the new Government, The first three are rail related: confirming HS2; funding the vision for the Metro and taking another look at rail with reversals of Beeching cuts.

Further devolution only comes in at eight in Mr Street’s list, starting with a pilot of full business rates devolution.

Meanwhile Liam Byrne claims that Birmingham 2022 is set to be the first ‘real living wage’ Commonwealth Games following a campaign he led.

Mr Byrne says the “significant development” was confirmed in an official paper written by West Midlands Police, who will be responsible for security staff at the Games.

He says he has worked closely with the Leader of Birmingham City Council Ian Ward and Police Commissioner David Jamieson (both Labour) to ensure that those employed to work on the games will not be paid poverty wages. Along with tackling homelessness, the real living wage has been a key campaigning platform for the Hodge Hill MP.

Liam Byrne MP said:

The eyes of the world will be on Birmingham in 2022 and this is an important step to show them the sort of place we can be.

Confirmation that workers on the games will get the real living wage is a hugely significant step. I now look forward to organising committee becoming an accredited living wage employer.

At the weekend, Mr Byrne was keen to point out that the parliamentary results put the two main parties neck and neck across the Mayoral area. Whilst in some ways it makes the same point as Mr Street, the idea that the region is balanced 50/50 between Labour and Conservatives would have been laughable in Labour circles just a few years ago.

Mr Street will be bouyant following an uneasy few months for his party. A lot could rest on HS2 and the progress of trade talks as the May election approaches.

Labour, meanwhile, is in freefall. Their selected candidate will need to distance themself from the car crash of last week’s election, which may prove particularly difficult for Ms Yaqoob who was an enthusiastic supporter of Mr Corbyn and who has the backing of Unite’s Len McCluskey.

But mayoral elections are unlike any other. The personal brand and agenda are more important than for any other candidate. Turnout will be less than half that of a General Election. Many voters will not fully appreciate what a Mayor can and cannot do, but those who visit a polling station will know they are not electing a PM.

Mr Street will have a record to defend – from Metro extensions to youth unemployment –  but perhaps less character flaws than Mr Johnson.

Perhaps the critcial question is which candidate will have a killer three word slogan?

Picture: @SalmaYaqoob : Salma Yaqoob and Pete Lowe

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