The Labour Party has chosen its candidate for this year’s South Yorkshire mayoral election on 5 May.
Oliver Coppard will run to replace Dan Jarvis, who announced last year that he would not seek reelection as mayor.
‘A more hopeful future’
Oliver Coppard, a former parliamentary candidate from Sheffield, won the selection race in the second round of voting with a 57% share of the vote.
In a statement released after his victory, Coppard said he is “both proud and grateful” to have been selected.
He said: “Our campaign has been built around a simple but urgent hope; that together we can rebuild the pride, purpose and prosperity of South Yorkshire. Every vote cast in support of my selection was a silent instruction to pursue that ambition; to reclaim a more optimistic and hopeful future for everybody that lives here.
“That’s why over the coming weeks and months we will be building a campaign that makes the case for the change, investment and powers we need to overcome the challenges we face, and to realise the potential and ambition of the people of Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield.
“I put myself forward to be the Labour Party’s candidate for mayor so I could fight for a more hopeful future for our region, the place I’m proud to call my home. Now I intend to earn the trust of people and communities of South Yorkshire, so we can begin to build that brighter future together.”
Coppard campaigned on a number of specific policy commitments, including to plant 1.4m trees in the region and bring public transport back under public control.
He has also committed to introducing a community wealth building strategy for South Yorkshire, and to increasing transparency and accountability by holding mayoral Question Times across the region.
Coppard also committed to not having a second job, unlike the Labour incumbent who is both mayor of South Yorkshire and MP for Barnsley Central.
His victory has been welcomed by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who met with Coppard on Thursday.
Considered by many to be a rising star of Labour’s centrist faction, Coppard nevertheless maintains fairly broad support across the party, according to local sources.
Who is Oliver Coppard?
Coppard previously stood as a parliamentary candidate for Labour in Sheffield Hallam, coming second in 2015 against then-deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
He finished second, but increased Labour’s vote share by almost 20%, reducing the Liberal Democrats’ majority there to less than 3000 and arguably laying the groundwork for Labour to win there in 2017.
In 2016, Coppard ran Labour’s ‘Remain’ campaign across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and he has since worked as a consultant in the charity sector.
On his campaign website, he stresses the challenges Labour faces in the region, and argues that the party “can’t fight back with the same old ideas”.
He said: “We now have three Tory MPs here and dozens of Tory Councillors. So called safe seats are now marginals. We’re losing waves of seats to the Greens in Sheffield. Communities that have voted Labour for generations are now turning their backs not just on our Party but on our principles.”
“But we can’t fight back with the same old ideas or hope to win back the support we’ve lost without building a community led movement to fight for a better future.”
Also standing to be Labour candidate were Lewis Dagnall, Jayne Dunne and Rachael Blake.
Coppard has committed to working with each of them going forward, writing of Dagnall, “I’m going to be asking for his insight and support over the coming weeks and months”.
Who is standing in the South Yorkshire mayoral election?
As Labour’s candidate, Coppard will likely go into the election as the favourite to win, as Dan Jarvis won comfortably in 2018, by more than 50% in the second round of voting.
While the region is made up of constituencies mostly represented by Labour MPs, many of the more rural and suburban seats now have much smaller majorities or even voted Conservative in 2019, as is the case with Don Valley.
The party also faces stiff competition among urban voters, as the Greens have made significant inroads in Sheffield, winning five council seats at the last local elections.
While the Conservatives have yet to announce their candidate, Bex Whyman will stand for the Green Party.
Whyman, a senior analyst from Sheffield who was selected in December, is running on transport and energy as her primary issues.
Web entrepreneur Simon Biltcliffe, from Barnsley, will represent the Yorkshire Party in the election, running on a platform of further devolution for the region and the whole of Yorkshire.