Who is running to be Labour’s West Midlands mayoral candidate?

Elliot Chappell

Labour is set to name its West Midlands candidate for mayor on February 6th, just three months before the election takes place on May 7th.

There has been criticism over the length of the selection contest – last time, Labour chose its candidate in the preceding August.

The process began last year, with a shortlist drawn up in October, but was then postponed due to the snap election and the ongoing Labour leadership and deputy elections.

Voting began on January 15th and members are currently casting their votes online and by post to decide who they want as their candidate for the metro-mayor role.

Members will be able to have their say until 12pm on February 5th, after which the votes will be counted and results announced the next day.

Three candidates made it onto the shortlist before the general election interrupted the process, and members are currently choosing between Salma Yaqoob, Pete Lowe and Liam Byrne.

Salma Yaqoob

The anti-war activist and former leader of the Respect Party joined the shortlist for the metro-mayor role in October, after being backed by high-profile figures on the left of the party.

Yaqoob’s bid has received criticism from some Labour MPs, but she has also been described by shadow cabinet member Richard Burgon as “a courageous opponent of racism and war, who inspires people to fight for a better society based on justice, equality and socialism”.

Yaqoob has the support of Unite the Union, which is hugely important, as well as the CWU and Momentum. She has also won the backing of Ken Loach, after the influential film director had previously endorsed rival candidate Pete Lowe.

The candidate shared her reasons for standing in a LabourList comment piece. She has also written on the importance of the mayoral election for the broader fightback required after the election defeat last month.

Pete Lowe

A councillor in Dudley since 2006, Lowe served as the leader of the local authority twice and has been the Labour candidate for Stourbridge parliamentary constituency three times.

He has been endorsed by UNISON, BFAWU, FBU, NUM, the Musician’s Union and the Labour Homelessness Campaign as well as a number of local Momentum groups.

The contender wrote for LabourList to explain why he is standing, and on how on the policies passed at the last Labour conference could transform the region. He has advocated a trial of the four-day week.

Liam Byrne

The MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill has the backing of Tom Watson in the contest, as well as the support of Labour-affiliated unions Usdaw, Community and GMB.

He has been endorsed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, which might come as a bit of a surprise as he is not generally considered a Corbynite. He also received the support of left-winger Clive Lewis.

Byrne co-founded the Blairite group Progress. He also famously left the note “I’m afraid there is no money” as the outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury, which was later used against Labour by the coalition government.

The Birmingham MP set out his pitch to be mayor of the region for LabourList last year, highlighting homelessness and inequality in particular. He has also proposed to introduce a “region of sanctuary” for refugees, and to deliver municipal socialism in the area.

The incumbent Tory Andy Street is standing again in the contest, and the Liberal Democrats have not yet announced their candidate.

The role of a directly-elected mayor was created following a devolution settlement between central government and the West Midlands combined authority.

A supplementary vote system is employed in the contest, with members of the public expressing their first and second preference. If no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, all but the top two are eliminated and the votes for the candidates removed from the process are redistributed according to their second preferences.

The inaugural election took place in May 2017 – the Conservatives beat Labour’s Sion Simon in the second round by 3,766 votes, with an overall turnout of 26.8% on the day.

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