The most simple way for someone to get involved in social action and fighting for what they believe in is through voting in elections, and choosing a representative that loosely believes in the same thing as them. I’m in no way saying it’s easy to find someone that really represents you, our system is far from ideal. It’s certainly reasonable to be put off by the lack of diversity you see on your ballot sheet but voting is certainly a start; it can’t hurt to have your say in a political landscape that increasingly disregards young people and their interests.
On the 4th May 2017, the first ever West Midlands mayoral election will be held, the inaugural holder will become the face of more devolved powers for the West Midlands and will be in control of transport and strategic planning around the county. In addition to these roles the mayor will chair a new body, 'West Midlands Combined Authority,' that will be responsible for the spending of over £30 million a year over a 30 year span.
Here's a rundown of each of the candidates standing in the election. I won’t bore you with my own political views (in this blog anyway) but I want to give you a short profile on each of the candidates in a non-partisan way. I’m assuming you know a basic amount about each of the main political parties in the UK. I hope this helps you make an informed decision and choose a suitable candidate for you.
The Conservative candidate, Andy Street, is the former managing director of John Lewis, having worked there for 30 years. He grew up in Solihull and has said that if he is elected he will "set out a plan and deliver" adding that this "is the business approach rather than a career politician approach." With his extensive business background he has chaired the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise scheme since 2011. Street also has a considerable interest in the arts, he is the vice chair of Performances Birmingham Limited, a registered charity that manages both Symphony Hall and Town Hall.
Labour's candidate, Sion Simon, is a former newspaper columnist and was elected as MP for Birmingham Erdington in 2001, he was re-elected in 2005 with a large majority. After having held several ministerial positions, Simon stood down in 2010 in an attempt to be elected mayor of Birmingham. In 2012, a referendum was held in which the electorate voted against the role. Next, Simon became an MEP for West Midlands and he currently sits on the Employment and Social Affairs committee as Labour's European Spokesperson.
Although UKIP are opposed to the idea of a West Midlands mayor they have nonetheless fielded Pete Durnell as their candidate. Durnell describes himself as “passionate” and has stated he “cares deeply” about the region. Durnell has worked in Computing most of his life and is a self-described “advocate of direct democracy”. Durnell believes that the West Midlands needs to be promoted to attract maximum possible investment and thinks we should “replace political correctness with respect and common sense”.
Beverley Nielsen, the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor is a leading businesswomen and educator, she formerly worked as regional director of the CBI in West Midlands and has been a director for Birmingham City University for the last decade. Nielsen has said that if she is elected, she will fight to get West Midlands a greater share of resources from National Government.
James Burn is the Green Party candidate for mayor, he is a Green Party councillor for Chelmsley Wood and is a qualified social worker who also runs his own small business. He has provided constant scrutiny of West Midlands Combined Authority since its arrival in 2015 and he is currently Leader of the Opposition of the Conservative-run Solihull Council.
It’s definitely interesting to note that out of the 5 main political parties, only one female candidate has been fielded. In addition to this, it’s easily noticeable that there is a clear lack of ethnic diversity in regards to the candidates put forward. This very lack of diversity might be seen as a catalyst of political apathy amongst young people, but I would nonetheless advise you to do some further research in relation to what each of the candidates stands for, find the candidate whose policies you agree with most and make an informed decision.
Have your say on May 4th.