Everything you need to know about Labour’s West Yorkshire mayor selection race

As part of a new devolution deal, West Yorkshire is soon to elect its own metro mayor. LabourList has put together a guide to everything you need to know about the mayoral election and Labour’s candidate selection race.

What is the role?

Announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the March budget, the devolution deal for West Yorkshire will give the region its own metro mayor, similar to the ones in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. The new role will represent the cities of Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford, as well as the regions of Kirklees and Calderdale, and the vote is set to take place on May 6th, 2021.

The West Yorkshire mayor will have control over regional transport, housing, land, adult skills and, by latest 2024, regional policing and crime policy. It will be supported over the next 30 years by an annual £38m investment from central government.

Whoever is chosen as Labour’s candidate will be favourite to go on to win the mayoral election given the size of party support in the area. Labour secured 45.2% of all votes cast in the sub-region in the 2019 general election, while the Conservatives received 39%.

The election is set to use a supplementary vote (SV) system, which means candidates will be ranked by voters in order of preference. If nobody receives a majority of first preferences in the initial round, all but the leading two candidates are eliminated and a second count is conducted.

Who is running? 

Former actor and current MP Tracy Brabin announced her plans to stand on October 9th with a glowing endorsement by Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker. Brabin, who served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, is seen to be one of the more left-wing candidates in the race. Her Batley and Spen parliamentary constituency is not only part of the proposed West Yorkshire mayoral region but is the same area she was born and grew up in.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe announced her plans to run for mayor over the weekend and has since won support from Labour frontbencher Holly Lynch. Hinchcliffe is currently head of Bradford City Council and chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, a role that the new mayor will replace. Born and bred in Bradford, she worked for a corporate outreach charity before entering local government.

Huddersfield lawyer Hugh Goulbourne was the first candidate to enter the contest, launching his campaign at the end of July. He moved to the Yorkshire region a decade ago after growing up in Coventry and calls himself a “proud adopted Yorkshireman”. The father-of-two advised the last Labour government on fuel poverty and environmental issues.

Former councillor Peter Judge announced his plans to stand on Monday, just two days before self-nominations closed. A Labour member for 40 years, he previously served as a councillor in Calderdale during the 1990s. Judge, who was born in a pit village in South Yorkshire, has been selected as a Labour council candidate for the 2021 local elections.

Former MP Paula Sherriff, who is running to be a member of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), announced her intention to stand for mayor earlier this year. This week she confirmed her withdrawal from the mayoral selection contest after receiving a cancer diagnosis in March.

How does it work?

Candidates were able to declare their intention to stand in the race until midnight on October 14th. They now require at least two nominations from the regions’ 22 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) to progress to the next stage. Alternatively, they can gain two nominations from organisations affiliated to West Yorkshire Labour.

The deadline for nominations is midnight on November 8th. The final candidate shortlist will then be agreed upon by a joint Labour NEC and regional executive committee (REC) panel following interviews with candidates.

(This stage can prove controversial. In the West of England mayoral race, several candidates were eliminated at the interview stage despite receiving enough nominations – including the Labour left hopeful who secured the most backing of any candidate and came close to winning the mayoral election in 2017.)

Once the shortlist is compiled, there will be a campaigning and hustings period, with members in the region voting on the candidates via email and postal ballots between November 23rd and midday on December 11th.

What are they campaigning on? 

Tracy Brabin has yet to put forward a full manifesto, but writing for LabourList this week stressed her plans to be a “different sort of leader” who will bring a big vision to the national stage. She hopes to modernise the region’s transport and increase economic investment into the area, from supporting green jobs and sustainable reindustrialisation to a “creative new deal” that would seek to grow the region’s burgeoning creative sector and the variety of industries that support it.

Susan Hinchcliffe has highlighted her skills as a negotiator and expertise in local government in her announcement, with the campaign slogan “courage to dream, experience to deliver”. She says experience will allow her to “steer the ship” to deliver on her key pledges, including a greener regional economy, better housing and fighting for equality for all.

Hugh Goulbourne’s campaign has focused on bringing new skills to the region, improving public health and building up transport networks – especially in Leeds, which is the largest UK city without its own mass transit network. He set this out in a piece for LabourList in July. Goulbourne stresses the fact that he is a grassroots candidate, “not a politician”, and will have an outsider’s perspective as he is an active member and local party chair but has never served in an official position.

Peter Judge has told LabourList that his main aim as mayor will be to abolish his own post. He believes the region needs a directly elected assembly, similar to Wales or Scotland, rather than a metro mayor. Judge also wants to see the region’s bus networks run as co-operatives with both employees and passengers on the boards of companies.

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