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Sion Simon in battle to become West Midlands Labour MEP

Sion Simon in battle to become West Midlands Labour MEP

🕔09.Apr 2013

simonFormer Birmingham mayor candidate Sion Simon is hoping to rekindle his political career by becoming a West Midlands MEP.

Simon’s name features on a list of seven Labour Party hopefuls for next year’s European Parliament elections.

But his chances of actually getting to Brussels could be hampered by Labour’s insistence on giving selection priority to women candidates.

The party’s positive action rules stipulate that a woman must top the regional list of candidates followed by a man and woman in alternate order – a so-called zipping process.

Therefore, a woman candidate will be in first, third, fifth and seventh place, and a man in second, fourth and sixth place.

It is unlikely under the proportional representation system and regional list used at the Euro polls that Labour can win more than two of the seven West Midlands seats up for grabs. The party has only one MEP for the region at the moment, Michael Cashman, who is standing down.

Labour organisers expect the 2014 election to deliver two Labour MEPs, two Conservatives, two Ukip and one Liberal Democat. It’s thought that the rural content of the sprawling constituency, which includes Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, and an expected boost in popularity for Ukip, will make it virtually impossible for Labour to win three of the seven seats.

Mr Simon has to come second in the ballot of West Midlands party members in order to stand a realistic chance of becoming an MEP.

He is up against Birmingham city councillor Ansar Ali-Khan and London-based solicitor Anthony Ethapemi. The women candidates on Labour’s list of seven are Neena Gill, a former West Midlands MEP who lost her seat in 2009, Lynda Waltho, former Stourbridge MP 2005 to 2010, Olwen Hamer, a Stoke councilor, and Claire Edwards, a Rugby councilor.

Ansar Ali-Khan became Birmingham’s most popular councilor when winning his Washwood Heath council seat with more than 8,000 votes. He allied himself with Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne’s joint bid to become elected mayor of Birmingham with council leader Sir Albert Bore, firmly nailing his anti-Sion Simon colours to the mast.

Mr Simon gave up his Erdington parliamentary seat in order to campaign to become Birmingham’s first elected mayor. His dreams were shattered when a referendum in May 2012 came down decisively against the idea.

Writing on his blog about the selection battle, Mr Simon said: “For me, being an MEP is not about bringing the European agenda to the West Midlands; it’s about taking the West Midlands agenda to Europe. That is the heart of my campaign.

“I love the West Midlands. I grew up and live here, and was proud to represent a West Midlands constituency in the House of Commons for nine years.”

He added: “If elected I will make jobs and growth my top priorities, as well as defending the European social protections which the Tories are determined to dismantle. I am a lifetime trade unionist and these issues are at the centre of my politics.

“Since the government scrapped the Regional Development Agencies, no one has been coordinating European Union funding bids for the region. We could be missing out on tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds of European money. The next generation of investment is at risk.

“These are the kinds of things I will focus on as an MEP. It’s about getting a better deal for the West Midlands.”


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