Liam Byrne wins Labour’s West Midlands metro mayor selection race

Sienna Rodgers

Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has been selected as the Labour Party’s candidate for the West Midlands metro-mayoral election on May 7th.

The new mayoral candidate won against UNISON-backed Pete Lowe and Unite-endorsed Salma Yaqoob, both of whom are considered to be on the Labour left and had local and national Momentum support respectively.

LabourList understands that Byrne won the race after second preferences were taken into account, but came close to winning on first preferences. Lowe took second place in the contest, and Yaqoob came third.

Update – A Labour spokesperson said: “Out of a total of 6,948 valid votes, Liam Byrne received 3,105 first preference votes, Pete Lowe received 2,034 and Salma Yaqoob received 1,809. Five votes were recorded as invalid.

“After the redistribution of second preferences, Liam Byrne had received 425 additional votes and Pete Lowe had received 686 additional votes. A further 698 votes were non-transferrable.

“Therefore, after second preferences had been distributed, Liam Byrne received 56.5% of the vote and Pete Lowe received 43.5%.”

Byrne’s bid was supported by large affiliated trade union GMB, which was involved in his campaign in the region, plus TSSA, Community, Usdaw and former deputy leader Tom Watson.

He will go up against Tory incumbent Andy Street when the 2020 West Midlands mayoral election takes place in three months’ time. Street won the post when he beat Labour’s Siôn Simon in 2017.

Dudley councillor Lowe had 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. He has stood as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Stourbridge three times.

Yaqoob, a former leader of the Respect Party who stood against Labour in 2005, 2010 and 2017, also won trade union backing. As well as Unite, she had the left-wing CWU, and high-profile figures such as Owen Jones.

Although both Lowe and Yaqoob are typically seen as further left than Byrne, the shadow digital minister who co-founded Blairite group Progress had received the endorsement of John McDonnell – a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn.

Byrne has worked in the West Midlands area to support food banks and campaigned against homelessness. His plan for the West Midlands promotes many ideas backed by the Corbynite leadership, such as a ‘Green New Deal’.

But the success of Byrne in the internal election is likely to be interpreted as a fresh boost for Keir Starmer, who is running for the Labour leadership and has so far received more than double the number of local party nominations than his main rival Rebecca Long-Bailey.

Commenting on the result, Byrne said: “I’m so proud that members from across our region and our party have united behind our campaign for West Midlands mayor. Now, the real campaign begins.

“This is the first election since Brexit. The first election in a new, uncertain world. We need strong leadership to build a bold new future for our region. With the pioneering spirit of our history, we must now become the centre of Britain’s Green Industrial Revolution.

“We were once the workshop of the world. Now we must become the workshop of a green planet. Becoming Britain’s first zero carbon city region and bringing to our region the green manufacturing jobs of the future, low cost solar energy for our citizens, new forests and clean air.

“If we’re to end the shame of homelessness we need nothing short of a green home building revolution. To end rough sleeping and to give young families their first foot on the housing ladder.

“Above all what I’ve learned as the MP for one of Britain’s most diverse communities is that we’ll achieve nothing unless we pull together as good neighbours.

“Our diversity is our strength. But we achieve most when we stick together and look out for each other. Communities that work together are stronger, and safer. Our young people should lead the way. And we need to support them with youth workers back in every neighbourhood.

“As regional minister for the West Midlands, I drove through the plan that transformed New Street train station. As West Midlands mayor, I will fight every day for well paid jobs, to end the climate crisis and to give our young people the best possible start in life.”

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