West Midlands mayoral hopeful criticises lack of BAME candidates standing for the position
A prominent candidate for West Midlands metro mayor has criticised the lack of black and ethnic minority candidates standing for the position, as well as the lack of women, describing the potentially embarrassing situation as a “problem”.
Labour hopeful Pete Lowe has expressed concerns at what he described as “cultural problems” within the Labour movement.
Speaking to I Am Birmingham, Pete said: “I think it is a problem.”
“I think it’s one of the cultural problems with regard to the Labour movement in the West Midlands for a considerable amount of time. Eighteen months ago, we started work on how we could make sure we can have a left candidate. I think the very fact that people want to serve the party in the West Midlands at a senior level have all formed into a certain group.
“What we need to do is to ensure we can do something about that.”
Asked if he would back an alternative candidate if they were selected instead of him, Lowe confirmed “it would be incumbent on me”.
The Dudley councillor’s dismay at the lack of representation in the upcoming battle to head the West Midlands Combined Authority as metro mayor has been echoed by former Selly Oak MP Lynne Jones, who described the lack of inclusivity as “appalling”.
Writing on social media, she stated: “It is appalling that, in the West Midlands, we so far have only two white males putting themselves forward”.
Twitter user Aaron responded by describing the situation as “embarrassing”, writing the candidates all seemed “stale, male and pale”.
“When those (Liam Byrne MP & union officer Pete Lowe) who already hold political positions & have money to campaign & get endorsements BEFORE any shortlist even announced- of course it puts off BAME ppl & those who don’t already have resources. Not a good look for @WMLabour!”
Although Lowe is one of only two declared Labour candidates in the West Midlands mayoral race – the other being Liam Byrne – the party hasn’t confirmed or selected an official candidate to run against the other parties.
The Conservative frontrunner is current regional Mayor Andy Street.
Although not confirmed, the Green Party and Liberal Democrats Party may potentially field the same candidates as they did in 2017 – James Burn and Beverley Nielsen respectively. Nielsen was the only female among the six different candidates during that election.
At the time, criticism was levelled at the candidate line-up for lacking female representation and having no BAME representation at all.
Former Birmingham councillor Najma Hafeez and Wolverhampton City Council member Milkinder Jaspal has submitted their names as Labour mayoral candidates in 2016 but were rejected.
2020 West Midlands mayoral election
For the 2020 election campaign, Liam Byrne, Pete Lowe and Andy Street are the only formally announced candidates at present; with Pete Lowe describing himself as the “left-wing” and “proud socialist” option.
Bromford & Hodge Hill councillor Majid Mahmood was an early potential Labour candidate but didn’t put his name forward before the selection deadline. Neena Gill MEP and Lynda Waltho MP had also announced their intentions to stand but withdrew; leaving three white male candidates to dominate the contest.
While there’s been little visibility of Andy Street’s re-election campaign, Byrne and Lowe have been promoting their candidacy for several months and have racked up early endorsements; including Liam Byrne gaining the backing of Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, a move which has been criticised as premature given the lack of diverse candidates having put their names forward.
Labour party member Michael Thawe, who represents the West Midlands on Momentum’s National Coordinating Group (NCG), said:
“The rush to endorse any mayoral candidate before a shortlisting has even started really does stop BAME candidates coming forward. It’s just wrong to bounce people in because they have MP status. A proper process that everyone has equal access to should be the default position.”
The rush to endorse any mayoral candidate before a shortlisting has even started really does stop BAME candidates coming forward. It’s just wrong to bounce people in because they have MP status. A proper process that everyone has equal access to should be the default position.
— Michael Thawe (@Michael_Thawe) August 9, 2019
The final West Midlands mayoral candidates are expected to be announced in later this year.