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All mayoral candidates confirmed for series of public debates

Published Wednesday, 08 February 2017

All of the five main candidates will appear at four Public Debates across the West Midlands in the lead up to the election of the first regional mayor on 4 May 2017.

Mayoral candidates debate
  • Four Public Debates will feature James Burn, Pete Durnell, Beverley Nielsen, Siôn Simon and Andy Street
  • Debates start at Black Country Living Museum on Tuesday 7 March
  • Around 1,000 people expected to attend across four events
  • 84 days to Election Day.

All of the five main candidates will appear at four Public Debates across the West Midlands in the lead up to the election of the first regional mayor on 4 May 2017.

Councillor James Burn (Green), Pete Durnell (Ukip), Beverley Nielsen (LibDem), Siôn Simon MEP (Labour) and Andy Street CBE (Conservative) will line up for the events starting on 7 March.

The Public Debates will be led by local newspapers across the region: the Express & Star, Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph. The papers will be responsible for selecting members of the public to attend the Public Debates and putting their questions to the candidates. Details on how to apply for tickets will be published next week.

The dates and venues are:

  • Tuesday 7 March: The Workers Institute, Black Country Living Museum
  • Wednesday 22 March: Coventry Cathedral
  • Tuesday 4 April: Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome
  • Sunday 23 April: Vox Conference Centre, Resorts World Birmingham, NEC Campus.

All Public Debates will take place in the early evening, with the exception of the last one which will be during Sunday daytime. A total of around a 1,000 people are anticipated to attend the Public Debates.

The Public Debates have been enthusiastically welcomed by the candidates:

James Burn (Green) said:

"These events are a great opportunity for people to hear more about the WMCA and each candidate's proposals. I'm really looking forward to connecting with the public, listening to their views and discussing my plans to help the least well-off areas of the region catch up – and to make sure this is a combined authority and mayor that continues to listen to and involve everyone in a real and meaningful way, long after the mayoral election is over."

Pete Durnell (Ukip) commented:

"I am delighted to confirm that I will be participating in all of the series of four debates organised by West Mids Elects. The new West Midlands Metro Mayor will be instrumental in shaping future strategic plans for the region, and in ensuring that they are fully implemented. I therefore believe it's absolutely essential the West Midlands public have as many opportunities as possible to scrutinise and question candidates before voting on May 4, and that these high profile debates featuring all the main party candidates, will play a vital role in enabling them to make the right choice."

Beverley Nielsen (LibDem) added:

"I welcome these debates as an opportunity to let people know just what is happening to our region. I am determined to throw a spotlight on the issues the establishment want to keep in the dark. Please turn up and make up your own mind before casting your vote. The LibDems offer a real option for change if you want to take it."

Siôn Simon (Labour) commented:

"This election is our chance to finally start taking back control of the West Midlands from London. For too long politicians in London have made decisions about our area. In these Public Debates - and throughout the Mayoral campaign - I will be arguing that we need a strong, local Mayor who will always put the interests of the West Midlands first, rejecting the status quo that sees us put at the back of the queue by the Tory government in London."

Andy Street (Conservative) said:

“Whoever wins the Mayoral election on May 4, they must go into office with a strong mandate. These debates will play a key part in raising the profile of what is a new and important role. I relish the opportunity to debate with the other candidates the issues facing the region and how I plan to go about tackling them as Mayor.”

The Public Debates are organised by Urban Communications, sister firm of RJF Public Affairs which publishes the Chamberlain Files political blog. It is also launching an information website - www.westmidselects.org.uk - to help voters find out more about the role of mayor, the candidates and details of how to cast a vote on 4 May.

Marc Reeves, Editor of the Birmingham Mail and Editor-in-Chief of Trinity Mirror Midlands said:

“The election of the mayor of the West Midlands is the most important vote for the region since Brexit.

“The new mayor will have an enormous amount of power, and it's vital all those who want the post are put through the most rigorous job interview possible. These debates are an important part of that and we'll be helping our readers put the candidates on the spot.”

Keith Harrison, Editor of the Express and Star, said:

“The West Midlands Mayor will wield great influence over the next few years and it's important that people get the chance to have their say on the key issues in the Black Country and beyond.

“It will be a great opportunity for ordinary people to question the candidates about their policies and I'm looking forward to some lively debates.”

Kevin Johnson, Managing Director of Urban Communications and Partner at RJF Public Affairs, said:

"The election of the first West Midlands Mayor will be a landmark political moment in the region.

"The creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and now the election of a Mayor represent huge advances for an economic area where pan-region, cross-party working has not, until recently, been the order of the day.

"However, a West Midlands Mayor does not have widespread public awareness, understanding or anything near to total support.

"With no other elections currently taking place on the same day, 4 May 2017, there are fears of a low turnout for the election. That could impact upon the mandate of the incoming Mayor.

"Generating interest and engagement in this election is going to be challenging. It will need big moments to bring the contest and the opportunity to life.

"Debates that are open to and fully involve the public are therefore essential to this election.

"I am very grateful to all the candidates for readily signing up to Public Debates when we started to pull together plans some months ago.

"Having local newspapers at the forefront of the Public Debates - including before and after the action on stage - is also critical. I am looking forward to working with the editors and their teams to make sure the Public Debates reach as many people as possible.

"Staging the events in venues which are accessible to the public; which provide great backdrops for Public Debates and which symbolise some of the best features of the West Midlands is also important. So, I appreciate the incredible support we have received from the Black Country Living Museum, Coventry Cathedral, Birmingham Hippodrome and the NEC Group in staging these Public Debates."

It is hoped that other media, including regional broadcasters, will also be on hand to cover the debates.

The Public Debates are supported by a range of service partners including Purpose (brand and design), PSP (technical services) and Action Starter (technology). Principal partners include the Chambers of Commerce across the region (Greater Birmingham, Black Country and Coventry and Warwickshire) and leading think tank Centre for Cities. Other partners include BPS Birmingham, the Lunar Society and Downtown in Business Birmingham.

Paul Faulkner, CEO, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said:

“This election is an opportunity. An opportunity for key decisions to be made here in the West Midlands and to join up thinking across local authority borders. An opportunity for a mayor with the clout to bang the drum for the region on the national and international stage, while working in partnership with local businesses and communities, to make a difference for local people.

“However, real engagement and strong voter turnout are essential if we want a mayor with a mandate and backing of the people. That is why The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce are delighted to be principal partners in West Midlands Elects alongside our fellow Chambers of Commerce in the Black Country and Coventry & Warwickshire. Together we have greater reach and more opportunity to make a real impact.”

Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of the think tank Centre for Cities, said:

“The new metro mayor will have a great opportunity to make a big difference on the issues that matter most to people living across the West Midlands, including improving housing, jobs and transport. These events are a really important chance for voters across the area to find out more about what the different candidates want to achieve if they become mayor, and how they plan to go about it.”

Beyond the audiences at the four events, it is hoped many more voters will engage in the Public Debates through social media. More details on the social media channels which will be available will be shared in the coming days.

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