The Mayoral Race: Hustings Heaven

Sion Simon

Richard Lutz joins the throng to listen to the six candidates for West Midlands mayor.

My, my, my. There seemed be more excitement about the fancy-schmancy TV boys with their cameras and notebooks and sharp suits than the half dozen candidates sitting behind the dias like so many sitting ducks. They ranged from UKIP to Communist with all the others wedged somewhere in between.

So, once the media got their wide shots, pieces to camera and interviews in the bag before basically buggering off into the night, it was left to us, the full house at the Bapist Church (opposite Asda) in Kings Heath, to do the heavy lifting.

So, whatcha get for our money for this election next Thursday? Here are the runners and riders.

Sion Simon (Labour): Funny way to spell Sean if you ask me and Simon, erstwhile Erdington MP and present MEP for somewhere amorphous, seemed incapable of handling declarative sentences despite a load of Big Ideas. Somewhere in there, as he fiddled with his dicey microphone, there are  pledges a-plenty about transport, inward investment, and… err. .. that hackneyed phrase “taking back control”.

Control of what? No answers there for anyone in the hall who wants to know about the £36 million mayoral plan or even an explanation if that money is for the first year or the whole three year term. Listen Sean (sorry, Sion), get a hold of yourself and that dicey mic, learn how to project your voice and, please, finish a sentence.

Peter Durnell (UKIP):The man with the face of a paperbag, Peter is encumbered with one of the worst haircuts in the region and should avail himself of the many good barbers up and down Alcester Road. He seemed to apologise for everything (“Sorry, I just want to make this point…”) and then fly away into the night on a sea of unconnected words. Funny that being UKIP, not a word about race or immigration in this here multi-cultural town. He’ll be left behind in the slips come election day.

Beverley Nielsen (Lib Dem): I got excited because I thought she was an opera singer. But no, she seems to have held every public management job in the West Midlandss for organisations and quangos I never heard of. She had a one track pitch all about skilling up the young. Ask her about skilling up the young and she was a demon. Ask her about transport, education or the health service, and you got a wadge about skilling up the young. Her big idea is give everyone a free day on the buses each Saturday to become tourists in our wonderful region. She has an uphill battle. 

Andy Street (Con): I thought Andy Street was a side road in Digbeth until these elections began. There, you got my cheap shot about the Tory boy. He used to be head honcho at John Lewis and so Our Andy was greeting all comers and and doing everything but doling out vouchers to the department store’s plasma screen mid-season mega sale. Master Street still looks 16, which is good in an election. And he did handle a heckler with boyish aplomb (“Let me finish my sentence before you have a go…”).

With a Tory administration in Number 10, he will have access. But does he have the brass knuckles and backbone to deal with slimey sinister slicksters from the City or thugs from the Westminster corridors?

Graham Stevenson (Communist): In Graham’s opening schpiel, he said he didn’t want a mayor for the West Mids. He didn’t believe in the post. Well, there’s a start – why don’t we just roll out to the pub now if he’s running for an office he says shouldn’t exist ? But he’s an engaging leftie, the kind you’d plonk down beside in the aforementioned boozer and shoot the breeze with about What Is Wrong With The World And Everything Else.

Graham looked like he forgot to comb his hair, tuck in his florid orange shirt or even look in the mirror for his Big Night Out and that made him more loveable. Graham said the whole system is stacked against us Real People. And he loved the sound of his own garrulous deep voice. Graham wishes for a Socialist Democratic Republic of the West Midlands. With him as King Czar, I think. A likeable revolutionary.

I won’t go into details of the bloviating hot air that swelled from the dias in two hours. Look online for all their guarantees, pledges and rhetoric. The usual nonsense and baseless promises about manifestoes, long range plans, inward investment and. of course, a better bus system. It’s all down to us on May 4th. On May 5th, we’ll have a mayor from the six above.



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