South Yorkshire Mayoral election: Labour can’t take the mayor’s job for granted

In a few short weeks South Yorkshire will elect a new mayor.

By Vulcan
Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 10:41 am

No, I’m not talking about the old boy or girl with the bling and funny hat who opens garden fetes.

I mean the Mayor of the South Yorkshire City Region, to use the Sunday title, directly elected on May 4 as we go to the polls for the local elections.

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Vulcan on the top of the Town Hall

The most powerful politician in the area, with responsibility over transport, regeneration, and skills.

The person who is supposed to lead efforts to ‘level’ up’ South Yorkshire and fight for new jobs and investment.

Current incumbent, Labour MP for Barnsley Central, Dan Jarvis, is relinquishing the role to concentrate on his day job in parliament.

I would say that Mayor Dan was a hard act to follow, but he isn’t really.

Dan Jarvis.

He hasn’t done much in the four years that he has held the role. The one big thing he needed to do was to ensure he brought HS2 to Sheffield.

He fluffed it, despite his opposite number across the Pennines, Andy ‘King of the North’ Burnham, successfully lobbying for a high-speed rail connection for Manchester.

So, there’s not much of a record for Labour to defend.

The party’s new candidate, selected by members last month, is Oliver Coppard. A Keir Starmer loyalist, he ran Nick Clegg close for his Sheffield Hallam seat back in 2015 and is recognised as an energetic campaigner.

Perhaps he can put some va-va voom into proceedings and persuade more people to actually care about the job.

Turnout last time was a pitiful 26%.

The risk – or possibly the opportunity - is that an outsider might sweep in and grab the reins.

Could a celebrity or business figure be persuaded to stand? Might they give the region stronger leadership?

After all, the popular West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, was the former managing director of John Lewis. He sails under the Conservatives’ flag, but is widely liked and respected in what was once Labour territory.

Despite making big inroads in places like Doncaster and Rotherham at the last general election, the Tories are trailing in the polls and will no doubt expect to get a flea in their ears about Boris and his Downing Street parties.

The Lib Dems still seem out of contention, poisoned by their association with the aforementioned Mr Clegg, while the Greens don’t have any breadth of support across South Yorkshire

It looks as though its Labour’s to lose, but that’s not the same as saying it ought to be that straightforward.

We deserve some vision and clear priorities from our mayor – and some criteria to judge them by.

We need decent jobs and houses, not photo opportunities and watery promises.

It’s the sort of role where you either deliver the goods or you don’t.

However you are planning to vote, (assuming that you are, dear reader), make sure your candidate is put on the spot and made to explain – in detail - what they will do.