Labour candidates for West Yorkshire mayor go head-to-head at members' hustings

Candidates vying to be Labour’s pick in the race for West Yorkshire mayor next year set out their stalls to party members last night.
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A members-only hustings event was held on Zoom where questions were posed to Susan Hinchcliffe, Tracy Brabin, and Hugh Goulbourne by Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis.

Ms Brabin, who is also MP for Batley and Spen but is expected to have to give up that job if she became mayor, told the event she was “not your typical politician” and grew up on a council estate on free school meals.

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While Ms Hinchcliffe, who is leader of Bradford Council, played up her role in securing the West Yorkshire devolution deal and said she was ”already operating nationally”.

Susan Hinchcliffe, Tracy Brabin, and Hugh Goulbourne all want to be Labour's pick.Susan Hinchcliffe, Tracy Brabin, and Hugh Goulbourne all want to be Labour's pick.
Susan Hinchcliffe, Tracy Brabin, and Hugh Goulbourne all want to be Labour's pick.

Mr Goulbourne said his top three priorities were climate change, changing the culture of the area and transport, where he would invest in a mass transit system for the region.

He said: “When we think of the divide between London and West Yorkshire, what greater divide is there than on public transport?”

And he emphasised his business and legal background, adding: “I would bring mentors, business people, community leaders, and fantastic councillors that I know in the region together with me, they would support me in this, I wouldn't be on my own, they'd be there supporting me and alongside me.”

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Ms Brabin said her first priority would be coronavirus, and she added: “I've been making the case to the Prime Minister and to Rishi Sunak to say that we need regional Covid funds to come out of this.”

Ms Hinchcliffe said: “My overriding objective is tackling inequalities in our region.

“I just feel this is a real opportunity for a West Yorkshire mayor to get the powers and money to address our structural inequalities in our region, that blight our society.

“So eliminating poverty, not just alleviating it.”

The candidates faced questions on public transport, the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport and how they would work with Whitehall figures such as Tory ministers during the hour-long session, and also where their favourite place in West Yorkshire was.

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Ms Hinchcliffe said improved public transport would help the region prosper, and committed to a mass transit system.

She said: “It's held us back, I often say that not having the right transport in place in West Yorkshire has actually killed people, it’s left people in poverty, [they have] not been able to get to those jobs that they actually deserve, not been able to get to the skills and opportunities that they need to access.”

Mr Goulbourne said rather than stopping at trains and buses, that West Yorkshire could consider a Hyperloop, a concept mooted by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk which involves taking a magnetic levitation (maglev) train and putting it in an airtight tube so that it encounters no air resistance, allowing it to travel at incredibly fast speeds of more than 700mph.

Former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling once suggested the idea for Yorkshire, and Mr Goulbourne said he would commission a feasibility study “looking at where the Hyperloop could solve some of the problems and getting us from here to Manchester, to Newcastle and other places”.

He said funding for that could be raised through borrowing.

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“We've got historically low interest rates, this is a time when we can borrow and invest in ensuring we have the very best 21st century public transport system for West Yorkshire,” he said.

While Ms Brabin said there needed to be more focus on travel between towns and villages as well as cities, and added that she wanted to focus on active travel, highlighting the cycle superhighway between Leeds and Bradford.

“It's a big project and I think that I can deliver it,” she said.

Ms Brabin and Ms Hinchcliffe said there was a balancing act between supporting the green agenda but also aviation jobs.

While Mr Goulbourne said he was against airport expansion.

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Labour members in West Yorkshire members in the region will vote for candidates via email and postal ballots between November 23 and midday on December 11.

The Conservatives have previously said they were committed to putting up a strong candidate for the race, and would be announcing their pick soon.