Keir Starmer: There's a gap between metro mayors and Westminster, I want to bridge it

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to learn lessons from Labour mayors as he set out the type of person he would like to see take the role in West Yorkshire.

A devolution deal was agreed for the area in March, unlocking £1.8bn of funds, and as part of the deal an elected mayor will be chosen in May next year.

Despite the election still being a year away former Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff has already indicated she would be interested in the job, and Bradford council leader Susan Hinchcliffe has also been suggested as a possibility by some close to the discussions.

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Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Sir Keir said: “The mayoral roles are really important, and I do Zoom calls with all the existing mayors at the moment and we might start doing them with some of the candidates.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer. Photo: PA

He said: “What you really want is someone that people identify with as their mayor, representing their area and pressing the things that matter most to them.

“So if you take the mayors that we've got, people know who they are for their area. It's got to be somebody identifiable, strongly associated and that I think people want to look at and be proud of them there.”

He added: “It's a slightly different role to some of the other roles. And I think that that seems to be the important thing.”

Labour currently have five metro mayors: Sadiq Khan in London, Andy Burnham in Manchester, Steve Rotherham in Liverpool, Dan Jarvis in Sheffield City Region, and Jamie Driscoll in the North of Tyne.

The Conservatives have four: Ben Houchen in Tees Valley, Andy Street in the West Midlands, Tim Bowles in the West of England, and James Palmer in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Both parties will be looking to up their tally next May.

Sir Keir said: “One of the things I've felt quite strongly over the last few years is that there's been a bit of a gap, if you like, between the leader of the Labour Party and our locally elected mayors, actually locally elected council leaders as well.

“I've been trying to bridge that gap and therefore, I've already had individual meetings with each of our labour mayors, but also collective meetings.

“Because firstly, I want them to feel more centrally involved in what the Labour Party does. Secondly, there's a lot that we could learn.

“We're trying to get the Labour Party from a party that has lost four elections to one that can win elections, and the mayors have won elections.”

The move could see mayors becoming more integrated with the party, and feeding into the Westminster wing.

Sir Keir said: “If I want to know what's going on on the ground, actually, why wouldn't I talk to our mayors?

“So one of the features of my leadership is going to be closing that gap. And doing the same with local Labour council leaders as well.

“We've had at least two calls with up to 100 Labour council leaders on them so that we can actually work together in a more coordinated way and avoid this sense of the bigger gap or tension on occasion.”