West Midlands Mayoral Hustings – 2024

And we’re back. The West Midlands Mayoral Election is just a warm-up for the real election, later this year, but it’s nice to get our democratic boots back on and throw ourselves into a hustings. Fortunately, we only have six candidates and one of those didn’t bother to turn up so this should be an easy one.

Because this is one of those inclusive hustings it was jointly run by Moseley and Kings Heath forums. Roles were split between Achim, from Kings Heath reading out questions and bringing chaos, David, from Moseley, throwing in dictionary definitions and Spencer ringing the bell. We don’t know where Spencer comes from.

Since the dawn of man, all hustings have had the same format. Personal statement, questions, closing remarks. It’s tried, it’s tested, it works. Nobody had told Achim so he launched into his first question leaving us with no context on what these people stood for. His first question was something about improving wellbeing.

As exciting as this was Andy Street demanded the right to make a personal statement and we were back into the traditional format. This is what they each had to say.

Andy Street – Conservative – It was surprising to see Andy without his trademark yellow helmet and Mr Mayor high vis jacket but he had, apparently, decided to come to the hustings as a sombre businessman. Don’t worry he did bring his shouty voice. He told us to reflect on the results he has had, in the last seven years, £10bn worth of investment, a 2040 transport plan and 135 thousand jobs. As we reflected on results, all of us thought about Kings Heath station sitting over the road. Unloved and unfinished

Elaine Williams – Reform Ltd – Elaine is an ordinary person like me. She knows the High Street is dying and she knows how the businesses of Kings Heath have been decimated by the lack of free movement. I think she meant the LTN rather than wanting to rejoin the EU.

Richard Parker – Labour – Richard has personally brought £1bn worth of investment into the region. Between Andy and Richard, we seem to be swimming in investment. Richard will bring the buses into public control (big cheer) like they’ve done in Manchester. He’ll also rebuild the High Street. I think this is High Streets generally rather than ours specifically.

Siobhan Harper-Nunes – Green – Siobhan thinks we, Moseley and Kings Heath, epitomise the values of the Green Party. She wants to replicate what we’ve done with Moseley Baths, across the region. She believes neighbourhoods always know best. Which isn’t the best case for a region-wide governmental structure. Elaine ran over time leading Spencer to rise to the occasion with some frantic bell ringing.

Sunny Virk  – Lib Dems – Sunny believes HS2 was over-engineered and the trams have been over-engineered. He can’t see a Labour Mayor working with a Tory Government so the only choice we have is a Lib Dem Mayor. He didn’t explain the logic of this. We should also get rid of homelessness. Finally, he believes we should remain in the EU. It was a bit like he was fighting the 2017 Mayoral election.

At this point, Achim said he was disappointed that all of the candidates had ignored his question. This led to a brief break whilst David explained the process to him again.

So, to the questions. Six questions in total which had been created as composite questions from twenty-seven submitted online. Unfortunately, no questions from the floor which meant we didn’t get any questions on the 50 bus stop, the perils of robots or self-driving cars.

How would you improve the wellbeing of the West Midlands

Elaine –  Elaine has heard services are not as they should be and that we need to work with mental health boards. We also shouldn’t flood Bournville Park.

Richard – He would create a mental health task force and believes that poverty and loneliness are at the heart of low well-being. He would also look at redeploying Combined Authority assets to focus on mental health

Siobhan – Siobhan really liked Richard’s task force idea so she will also do that. She would invest in health services and give young people a dream

Sunny – Sunny thinks Mental Health is a vicious circle. He doesn’t believe in gimmicks and he would create a dedicated mental health outreach service just for Moseley. This is likely to get very expensive if he goes to more hustings.

Andy – Andy has already had two task forces and is about to create a third one. I’m not sure if this is a good advert for task forces or not. He called them missions but reassured us they were task forces. He also told us that his regime has created a massive increase in skills. Is being mayor really a regime? It sounded a bit like North Korea.

The WMCA favours an enhanced bus partnership but, what if we had public buses?

Richard – Richard is committed to public control of buses like in Manchester and he can do it for £25m. It will extend the network and create more buses for Moseley. This was really popular, based on the cheering. We might not fully understand what bus franchising means but we definitely want it.

Siobhan – Siobhan would go even further and wants to publicly own the buses. She also believes we should have an entirely free public transport system. This is escalating out of control.

Sunny – Wants a £2 daily cap like there is in London. He also wants to join up the trams. He is the only man who can make this happen because the Lib Dems are the only people who can talk to central government.

Andy – Andy wants us to judge him on his record and maintains that buses are cheaper in the West Midlands than they are in Manchester. And this is a FACT. He is driven by the numbers and is waiting for a report on bus franchising which won’t be done until July. He’ll have a view on it then. Unfortunately the election is in May.

Elaine – Elaine has a different approach to buses. She thinks they are too big and if we just bought smaller ones we could have more of them. This is ingenious. How small can buses go?

How would you work with the new Police Crime Commissioner?

Siobhan  – She already works with him. So that’s fine

Sunny – Sunny is against antispeeding. I think he meant speeding as that would be a very unusual position to take but he kept repeating it. He also had a truly incomprehensible analogy about frying pans, boiling water and fryers. The whole kitchen

Andy – Andy has obviously been spending a fortune trying to put the current Crime Commissioner out of a job. So, their working relationship is going to be, at best, prickly. He suggested that we all need to vote for a Conservative Crime Commissioner to make his life easier.

Elaine – Is aware that knife crime is rife and if you go and visit police stations there are never any police in them anymore.  This is worrying, as Elaine is a solicitor so you would imagine she isn’t visiting police stations for fun. Had they made firm arrangements to meet her? Had she got the days mixed up?

Richard – Richard was glad that Andy had admitted he was a Conservative as he generally keeps quiet about this. Which is fair. Richard will happily work with the police commissioner

As there were two police people at the back of the room we all clapped for a bit and they looked really awkward.

What are three things you would ask a new Government for?

Sunny- Sunny wants HS2 back but doesn’t want to overengineer it. He has a plan to reduce the speed of HS2 and that would pay for the line to Manchester. Sunny admitted he wasn’t an engineer. He would like more money for the police. He couldn’t think of a third and as the bell tolled went with “more money for councils”

Andy – Andy wants the Government to honour devolution agreements and wants them to support his private sector HS2 plan. He also wants us to host the Invictus Games. Which seems harsh as we haven’t paid for the last games he made us have. Someone shouted “vanity project” and Andy got very angry. Andy does not like people criticising the Commonwealth Games. But I suppose he’s not paying for them.

Richard – Richard wants devolved funding for 16 – 19 years olds, funding for entrepreneurs and the right to go to cabinet meetings. Apparently, he’s talked to Angela Rayner and she said this was fine.

Siobhan  – She wants more money for transport (that would be free), more housing and an elected West Midlands Assembly. Which would mean more hustings. Do any of us want that?

Elaine – Elaine would build more houses on brownfield sites, more money for the police and cut red tape for businesses

What are your plans for making social housing and rented housing energy efficient?

Andy – Andy will build loads of houses like they have in Coventry. This was the most “You don’t know these houses, they go to another school answer” I’ve ever heard.

Elaine – Elaine is worried about the skills to fix things. One college she has heard of offers a dog grooming course but not an electrical skills course. Clearly not a big fan of dogs.

Richard – Richard will crack down on rogue landlords with a rogue landlords register. If I was a landlord I’d probably avoid signing up for that.

Sunny  – Sunny would insulate walls so we’re no longer dependent on Russia.

Siobhan – Siobhan couldn’t think of an answer “as it’s hard”. She’s not wrong. She has looked at Labour’s green plans and thought they were great.

Only one person can win, what would you do if you don’t win?

Elaine –  Elaine is standing in two other elections so we don’t need to worry about her

Richard – Richard might get a dog

Siobhan  – Siobhan doesn’t want this job “It sounds really complicated” I can’t imagine a world where Siobhan doesn’t vote for Richard.

Sunny – Sunny has just opened an office in Birmingham and doesn’t want Labour to let us down like they did in 2014. He kept mentioning 2014. I’ve no idea what he thinks happened in 2014.

Andy – Andy is all in. He can’t imagine losing. If he does he’ll go on holiday to Wales.

Achim thanked is for taking part through our clapping.

That was it. No real mention of Moseley. This could have happened anywhere and we would have had the same answers. Did anyone win? I don’t know. It finished 7 minutes early so in some twisted way we all won.


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