I’m the leader of Bradford Council and chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. I led the negotiations with the Tory government to secure our £1.8bn devolution deal, the biggest of its kind. It presents West Yorkshire with tremendous opportunities, and I am running to be the Labour mayoral candidate to make sure these opportunities quickly turn into reality for our region.
There is opposition to this deal across the county. Some oppose it because they voted against city mayors when it was asked in a referendum and do not want to see another layer of government. Others want to see a ‘One Yorkshire’ deal that reunites the whole county, while others are worried the deal will be dominated by the big cities of Leeds and Bradford. I have some sympathy for all these concerns.
The democratic deficit caused by ignoring the 2012 mayoral referendum is only partially offset by the fact this is a different deal over a wider area than the originally proposed model of city mayors. I am part of the cross-party team that backed a One Yorkshire approach and will continue to do so, but I think the Tories were too frightened of the prospect of a mighty unified Yorkshire to support our proposals.
A devolution deal was made a prerequisite for transformative regional investment. Effectively, the government punished us for not having one. And after ten years of crippling austerity, no deal was an option Labour could not support. The Tories probably think they have a chance of winning West Yorkshire. I aim to prove them wrong.
Whatever members’ misgivings, West Yorkshire will have an elected mayor come May and, despite Tory shenanigans, I am proud of the deal we negotiated. We have the chance to make the radical improvements in Yorkshire that our communities have been crying out for at a time when we will need that investment more than ever.
The final objection to a metro mayor relates to a fear that smaller towns might lose out. As mayor, I would address these straight away. Fairness is key. West Yorkshire is diverse, with big cities and towns as well as smaller settlements and rural villages. If the region is to be successful, all these communities need to see the improvements that devolution will deliver.
For too long, structural inequalities have blighted our communities, and they have been further exacerbated by Covid. That’s why my plans are underpinned by an absolute commitment to equalities. My main priorities are:
- Equality. Black Lives Matter has reminded us all of the deeply ingrained inequalities that exist across the board. Fighting for justice and equality will be at the centre of everything I will do.
- Fairness. All communities, large or small, must be looked after.
- A greener, cleaner economy. Recent flooding is a reminder that tackling global warming is the most important job we have.
- Prosperity through better skills and jobs.
- Better, cleaner and cheaper integrated transport.
- Decent housing that fulfils our social purpose.
Of course, our plans are worth nothing if we do not win. I have no doubt the Tories think they can sneak into power here, especially as we have a number of so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats. We cannot be complacent. I promise that if I am chosen as Labour candidate, we will launch the biggest campaign possible across all of West Yorkshire.
My campaigning credentials are well-known. I’m a straight-talking Yorkshire woman who’s a leader during the time of Covid. I don’t do frills and won’t give false promises. When done properly, campaigning is about listening and learning as well as selling the dream. If Covid stops this aspect of campaigning, it will not get in the way of us engaging with voters through innovative and exciting campaigns using modern technologies, as well as direct mail.
With the right approach, we will not only win this mayoral election, but we will also support our councillor colleagues to win in their important local elections and start to re-cement the ‘Red Wall’ for any future elections. And when we do win, we’ll build a more equal economy where people can have a fair chance of having a better life.