Voters in the West Midlands will elect a metropolitan mayor for their region for the second time on 6 May.
The vote comes a year later than intended after the 2020 elections were postponed due to Coronavirus restrictions.
The region has been badly affected by the pandemic, with key industry sectors being particularly hard-hit by the economic impact of Covid.
With significant power to affect change, voters will be looking for a regional leader who has a strong plan to recover from the pandemic.
Andy Street - Conservative
Andy Street is the current mayor of the West Midlands, after winning the 2017 election with 50.4 per cent of the vote.
Street is a former businessman who served as managing director of John Lewis between 2007 and 2016, when he stepped down from the role to stand as the Conservative candidate in the mayoral election.
He grew up in the region, after his parents moved from Banbury to Birmingham when he was less than a year old. Street studied politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) at Oxford University and was president of the university’s Conservative Association in 1984.
Speaking to NationalWorld earlier this month, Street laid out some of his key manifesto pledges, including a plan to create 100,000 jobs in the region by 2023. He has also released a detailed prospective map for an integrated transport system in the region, to be built by 2040 if he is re-elected.
Liam Byrne - Labour
Labour’s candidate to be the region’s second metro-mayor is Liam Byrne, the serving MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill since 2004.
Byrne has said that he wants the West Midlands to “lead Green Britain” and become the first net-zero carbon region, with a focus on jobs in eco-friendly manufacturing and trades. He has also criticised the incumbent mayor for a failure to bring down the level of homelessness in the region.
A former chief secretary to the Treasury under Gordon Brown who also held a number of other ministerial posts, for many people Byrne’s work in government is largely overshadowed by an infamous note he left for his Conservative successor in 2010, which read “Dear Chief Secretary, I'm afraid that there is no money”.
Byrne was born in Warrington, and went on to study politics and modern history at Manchester university. He worked for multinational consulting firm, Accenture, and investment bank, NM Rothschild, prior to entering politics.
Jenny Wilkinson - Liberal Democrat
The Liberal Democrats will stand Jenny Wilkinson, a forensic accountant who has unsuccessfully contested the Sutton Coldfield seat for her party at the last two general elections.
Wilkinson lists “empowering people and communities” as a primary focus of her campaign, alongside tackling poverty and inequality, and “building a green heart of England”.
She is a resident of Sutton Coldfield, where she launched a local campaign to prevent the closure of a number of libraries.
Steve Caudwell - Green
Steve Caudwell, the Green Party candidate, is the current opposition leader of Solihull Council, and his party’s most senior elected official in the region.
A former Programme Manager who worked for JLR and Airbus, Caudwell was elected councillor for Castle Bromwich in May 2019, in an area which has seen an increasing number of Green councillors elected over the last decade.
His manifesto is titled “A West Midlands that works for everyone” and includes commitments to ensure local government uses public procurement to “buy local,” and lobby to bring the bus network into public ownership.
Pete Durnell - Reform UK
Reform UK, previously known as the Brexit Party, announced on 1 April that it would stand Pete Durnell for the mayor’s office.
Durnell is a previous UKIP candidate, who picked up just over 5 per cent of the vote in the 2017 mayoral election.
He has criticised both main party’s handling of the pandemic, writing that the “Conservatives want to restrict our freedoms, Labour says ‘yes’”.
Analysis - The political implications of the contest
Incumbent Andy Street is the favourite to win, although Labour’s Liam Byrne is predicted to attract a significant vote-share - his party was expected to win here in 2017, and lost out by less than 1 per cent of the total vote.
Unlike some of the mayoral seats up for re-election, the West Midlands is likely to be a relatively tight contest, and could be seen as an indicator of broader electoral trends.
A surprise win for Labour would be seen as a boost for Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the party, while re-election for Street will be a sign that the Conservative’s are taking a firmer hold of yet another part of the country which traditionally voted Labour.
That said, the incumbent mayor does have an appeal separate to that of his party, as a high-profile businessman who is not closely associated with his party through, for example, time spent in government.
Some have noted that much of Street’s campaign literature does not heavily feature his party’s branding or colour-schemes, which could indicate - should he be re-elected - that his support is not necessarily indicative of wider support for the Conservative party, or government.