New West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin vows to work with Westminster on what's best for the region

Tracy Brabin starts her first day in her new job as West Yorkshire Mayor today, following her thumping victory in the region’s first ever vote for a metro leader.

By Richard Beecham
Monday, 10th May 2021, 11:36 am
Updated Monday, 10th May 2021, 11:59 am

Ms Brabin insisted she would work cooperatively with the Government but would “stand up” for the region’s interests while also backing Keir Starmer as Labour leader following disappointing local election results nationally.

She also spoke of how important it was to have role models from working class backgrounds in positions of power.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Ms Brabin said: “I am humbled and excited by this opportunity. The way we have had to pivot our campaigning for online and on Zoom, it has been a very intense campaign.

Tracy Brabin won the mayoralty by more than 100,000 votes after second preferences.

“Only in the last two weeks have we been able to talk to people face to face. But I am hugely excited about the next few years ahead.”

She used her victory speech to recall her own humble beginnings, being raised in a council flat in Birstall, and being inspired into showbusiness through performances at the Batley Variety club.

So how important does she feel it is to have working class role models in seats of power?

“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” she said. “I have been inspired by women in my life and I hope I will be able to inspire others. It is really an historic moment to have the first ever woman metro mayor in the country, and I am proud it is a woman from Yorkshire.”

Given the impressive majority of more than 100,000 votes after second preferences, the people of West Yorkshire clearly have faith that Ms Brabin will have the ear of Westmister. So how does she plan to work with the Government?

“I have always been able to work cross-party,” she said. “For me, it doesn’t matter as long as you are able to get things done. I am hoping the Government takes the same view, and that we can work together and really make West Yorkshire the best place to raise a family, start a business and grow old.

“I am very happy to work with Westminster, but obviously if we feel we are being unfairly treated or short-changed then I of course will be the strong voice for my community.”

At this weekend’s local elections, Labour suffered some serious losses elsewhere in the country, but remained relatively stable in West Yorkshire, as the party comfortably held onto overall control of the region’s five councils.

So what can the national party learn from its performance in West Yorkshire?

“It’s an authentic campaign that understands local people’s concerns and really cares about local issues,” she said. “That is what people have got behind, whether it is bus services working for people, not profit, whether it is young people who can’t get on the property ladder or families that can’t find social housing that works for them.

“The Mayor will have chance to deliver on those things.”

Labour’s lacklustre national performance, as well as its crushing defeat at the Hartlepool byelection, seems to have reopened some of the party’s old wounds, with many supposedly to the left of leader Keir Starmer calling for a change in direction.

But Ms Brabin insisted Mr Starmer has her full backing, adding: “Keir is the Labour leader, of course he is the right man for the job. I nominated Keir and (deputy leader) Angela (Rayner) for their roles, and going forward, we will listen, learn and build from what we have seen across the country. It has not all shaken down yet.

“Had we seen (the Welsh Assembly results) first, it would have been a different narrative than Hartlepool, because in Wales, Labour in government have absolutely smashed it.

“We have seen Labour mayors representing millions of people with a mandate of their own with extraordinary numbers.”

Her election means she takes up the dual role of both mayor and police and crime commissioner, meaning she is no longer allowed to be an MP. This will trigger a by-election in the coming months, one which the Yorkshire Party, which polled at third place in the mayoral race, has already confirmed it will stand in.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes makes the Tories odds-on favourites to capture the seat for the first time since 1997. So does Ms Brabin feel the party can hold onto her seat?

“I am optimistic,” she said. “We will be fighting for every vote. A Labour member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, working with a Labour mayor, I think we can get some really exciting things done.”