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A dark day for common sense: Andy Street denied in the West Midlands

Saturday was a big day. A nervy day. The highly anticipated mayoralty results in the West Midlands were due (and my beloved West Bromwich Albion needed a point to secure a playoff position!). 

Now, I love this region. I’ve had the pleasure of growing up in this richly diverse, unique, and pioneering part of the United Kingdom. But it is not without its faults. These faults need sustained attention. One man, however, provided this. Andy Street - the first mayor of the West Midlands, in office from 2017 - offered real hope, exemplified vision, and a tried-and-tested strategy. A truly class politician in a time so devoid of leaders of substance. 

As I trundled home from The Hawthorns, my nerves somewhat subsided with playoffs secured, they were to reappear sharply as we awaited the delayed results of the election. The recount called by Street’s team in Coventry only added to my worries.

Common sense would suggest that the good people of the West Midlands would have voted for Street’s third term, to continue the growth and direction enjoyed under his mayoralty. But, alas, national politics well and truly put a spanner in those works. 

By a mere 1,508 votes, the political nobody that is Labour’s Richard Parker is now the mayor of the nation’s largest combined authority outside of London. Street became yet another local election victim of the Conservative government’s incompetence and ineptitude.

I would like to caveat this article by stating that I write not as an explicit Conservative supporter but as an Andy Street advocate and, most importantly, a proud West Midlander. Under Street’s mayoralty, a wide array of dynamic, pragmatic policies have been implemented. Street oversaw the expansion of the West Midlands Metro, commissioning new tram lines and extensions across the region, helping city interconnectedness and employment mobility.

This investment into crucial public transportation infrastructure has undoubtedly helped alleviate congestion, aid connectivity, and, in line with the Birmingham Clear Air Zone initiative, promoted sustainable travel across the West Midlands. I am particularly gutted that we will never see Street’s full West Midlands Metro 2040 vision realised - God, that London-tube style map looked like the ticket! In Parker’s hands, I am now ‘parking’ that dream firmly. 

Whilst on the topic of transportation, Street has been indispensable in his advocacy for HS2, emphasising the need for regional economic growth by creating jobs and, again, improving the region’s connectivity, this time to the capital. If one thing is clear from this, Street had a clear idea of how to make the West Midlands more prosperous and better connected. 

For local businesses and regional economic prosperity, Street was a godsend. With his background as an extremely successful John Lewis CEO, we were in safe hands. Under Street, the West Midlands has seen a proliferation of regeneration projects, investment in skills, enhanced business support, and the alignment of the region as a centre for international trade and investment.

Not to mention the unprecedented success of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, that were hosted all across the region, which created many employment opportunities, business investment, and better public transport, all whilst underspending.

How was this all not enough for voters to leave party politics at the door and vote for regional prosperity? 

Street’s election campaign this time around tried desperately to distance him from the Conservative government, yet under the party umbrella. This has cost the West Midlands dearly. 

Andy Street didn’t lose this election. Nor did Richard Parker really win it. Rishi Sunak and the contemptuous yet futile Conservative government lost Street the mayoralty, and inadvertently won it for Labour. 

Why not stand as an independent? Well, the answer to that question may lie in Andy Street’s future endeavours. Speculation was swirling, just minutes after the final election results were called, that he could lead the future Conservative Party. 

One thing is for sure - Street’s pragmatic, moderate, centre-ground conservatism won the hearts of many West Midlanders. Street, by far, outperformed any other Conservative candidate at this election. Rishi Sunak should take notes from this. Pandering to the right to appease those Reform defectors clearly isn’t working. 

I am sorry for Andy Street and also my fellow West Midlanders. For now, we will have to wait and see where Richard Parker takes the region. It is my sincere hope that he will continue the great work of Street and fulfil many of the policies already implemented. With the Labour-run Birmingham City Council bankrupt, we needed maintained, proven prudent leadership. 

I am proud of the regional achievements under Andy Street’s mayoralty and sincerely hope to see him return to frontline politics. Thank you Andy.

Image: Andy Street 

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