Labour’s would-be South Yorkshire mayoral candidates face grilling from party executive

Richard Caborn, Dan Jarvis and Ben Curran
Richard Caborn, Dan Jarvis and Ben Curran
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The prospective Labour candidates to be Sheffield City Region mayor are to be questioned today by members of the party’s National Executive Committee.

Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis, former Sports Minister Richard Caborn and Sheffield city councillor Ben Curran will all be interviewed in Wakefield tonight before a shortlist is drawn up.

I’ve always considered myself on the political left – my decade of service as a trade union lawyer demonstrates that clearly.

Ben Curran

Ballot papers will be sent out this month to all eligible party members in South Yorkshire on a one-member, one-vote basis, before the winning candidate is announced on March 23.

During questions tonight, the three hopefuls will be questioned about their priorities if they are elected as mayor as well as other matters in the public domain that could affect their candidacy.

Mr Jarvis, a former British Army Major and supporter of a ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution deal, has said he will remain an MP if he becomes South Yorkshire’s first directly elected mayor.

Defending the decision, he said that by standing down he would “be squandering my ability to pressure the government into giving us the powers and investment we need”.

He said: “In the short term, it is only through fulfilling both roles that I will have the platform necessary to engage with national government and champion both the immediate needs of the Sheffield City Region and the longer term need for wider devolution across Yorkshire.”

The former Platoon Commander in The Parachute Regiment has not held a local government position, but said he had “25 years of proven track record in delivering the most challenging and complex projects, often under exceptionally difficult circumstances”.

He said: “Both in our Armed Forces and in Parliament I have established a reputation as someone who can take tough decisions and can work constructively and effectively with others to get things done.”

Richard Caborn, a former trade and industry Minister under Tony Blair and Sheffield Central MP, says his priority “to ensure that the people of South Yorkshire finally see the benefits of devolution”.

He has pledged to bring about a new economy for the region “based on high-value manufacturing, health and wellbeing, and the creative and digital industries”.

Mr Caborn is likely to be asked about the so-called ‘cash for influence’ scandal, where his Parliamentary pass was taken away for six months in December 2010 after Commons authorities found he had been “careless” in telling reporters posing as lobbyists how he was able to influence ministers.

The former MP, who in 2014 was appointed by Sheffield council leader Julie Dore as the city’s ambassador for business and industry, said: “I had a proud record as MP, serving 27 years and never taking a single penny outside the salary I earned, until I announced that I was leaving Parliament and my successor had been put in place.

“This matter was investigated around ten years ago now, after I left Parliament. I didn’t agree with the judgement, but unfortunately I was not granted the right of appeal.”

Mr Caborn also supported Tony Blair in voting in favour of the Iraq War in 2003. Defending the decision, he said: “Politics is full of tough decisions but nothing compares with matters of war and peace. I have always seen military action as a last resort.

“In hindsight, knowing what I know now, I believe we should only have proceeded with an international consensus led by the UN.”

Ben Curran, Sheffield City Council’s cabinet member for planning and development, says ensuring the South Yorkshire economy is protected from Brexit-related economic shocks and that there is no “1980s-style scenario” will be his top priority.

The least well-known of the three candidates, he was originally a Liberal Democrat but joining the Labour group after becoming “disillusioned”.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve always considered myself on the political left – my decade of service as a trade union lawyer demonstrates that clearly.

“I joined the Labour Party because I’m against austerity. It’s a right wing dogma and I am never one to stand aside whilst people are suffering.”

Coun Curran was a member of the council’s Cabinet when a £170m deal with outsourcing giant Capita was signed in 2015, an arrangement that was expanded earlier this year.

Despite this, he describes himself as an “insourcer by nature” and said: “As Cabinet Member, I have insourced the call centre and HR service from Capita and have led on the insourcing of the Kier repairs and maintenance service.

“Sheffield City council has had a contract with Capita for some time. There was a renegotiation in 2015 to help achieve budget savings to help protect services from the government’s austerity drive.”

He also defended the council’s controversial Streets Ahead PFI contract with another outsourcing firm, Amey, which last year led to a decision to replace dozens of trees planted in honour of fallen soldiers because it would be too expensive to save them.

Coun Curran said the contract was signed with cross party support to rid Sheffield of the tag ‘pothole city’, and that it now had some of the best roads in the country.

He said: “It is regrettable that the situation around the street trees has deteriorated in the way it has. I totally understand that we have not – and simply cannot – satisfy everybody on this issue.

“We must remember that every tree that is removed is being replaced and the council have planted more than 60,000 other trees in the city.”