Conservative mayoral candidate says absence from party panel line-up is not a 'snub' for West Yorkshire race

The Conservative candidate in the West Yorkshire mayoral race has dismissed suggestions that not appearing on the line-up for a party event for prospective mayors means his party does not believe he can win the job.

Matthew Robinson, who was announced as the Conservative candidate for race last month, did not make the list of panellists for an event at the Tory Spring conference this weekend to “meet incumbent and prospective Conservative mayors”.

The event is described as an opportunity to “meet our fantastic candidates for the upcoming mayoral elections”, including Shaun Bailey for London, Laura Evans for Greater Manchester, and Samuel Williams for the West of England.

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Incumbent mayors Andy Street and James Palmer will also be speaking.

Conservative West Yorkshire mayoral candidate Matthew Robinson. Photo: Conservative Party

But Labour sources suggested that the omission of Mr Robinson was indicative of the party’s confidence in the Yorkshire contest and described it as a “snub”.

Labour’s Tracy Brabin is currently the bookies favourite to win the election on May 6 - with results announced on Sunday, May 9 due to coronavirus extending the counting window.

But Mr Robinson said not being on the panel was “more to do with logistics and timing.”

He said: “You can’t get every candidate or panellist at every event or panel discussion.”

And he said he had been busy setting out his stall for the mayoral job, adding: “Last week I met with Grant Shapps to discuss transport priorities for West Yorkshire, and this week I’m meeting other ministers discussing my plan for West Yorkshire and talking with voters and businesses about their priorities for the region.”

But a West Yorkshire Labour source said: "West Yorkshire needs a strong voice, not excuses. How can the Tories expect to represent local people on the national stage when their candidate can’t even get a seat at their own conference?"

Bookies Ladbrokes currently has Ms Brain as the odds-on favourite to win the job, which would trigger a by-election in her Batley and Spen seat.

But it has been reported that all parties have had to reconsider what resources they can put towards the local elections after a byelection was called in Hartlepool earlier this month.

A Ladbrokes spokesman said: “Ladbrokes opened up betting on this three months ago with Tracey Brabin as a 1/5 favourite and 95 per cent of the money staked since then has been for her. That has forced us to cut her price into today's 1/10.

“We don't have any past history or polls to help us make predictions here, but it would be a huge shock to political punters if she failed to win. The Tories are doing reasonably well in national polls but that hasn't tempted many people to back Matthew Robinson at 6/1. If the betting is any guide, the Greens, Liberal Democrats and the Yorkshire Party are competing for third place at best.”

Standing for the Green Party is Andrew Cooper, Stewart Golton is the Liberal Democrat candidate, and Bob Buxton has been put up for the Yorkshire Party.