Ministers should ask people in Yorkshire about levelling up, says Labour leader

The Government should talk to people in West Yorkshire about levelling up, Sir Keir Starmer has said, as he set out the priorities for Tracy Brabin if she was to win the West Yorkshire mayoral race for Labour.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and West Yorkshire Mayoral election candidate Tracy Brabin packing a box of food as he visits a food bank project at St Giles Food Share in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, during campaigning for the election for West Yorkshire mayor. Photo: PA

On a visit to Pontefract today in a last gasp at campaigning before polls open tomorrow, Sir Keir reaffirmed his backing for devolution and said crime and transport would be Ms Brabin’s main focus.

“I absolutely support devolution of power and what you’ve seen with Labour mayors, look at Andy Burnham, look at other Labour mayors, is a powerful voice for their communities,” he said.

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“Here in West Yorkshire, we need a powerful voice and Tracy Brabin is that powerful voice. She will stick up for West Yorkshire against the Government and I think that’s what people need more than anything.

“Here in Pontefract, we’re at a food distribution centre, the Government talks about levelling up, they should come here and talk to people here about levelling up. Tracy will be a powerful voice for these communities.”

Visiting St Giles Food Share, Sir Keir said: “I’m here again with Tracy Brabin, our candidate for the West Yorkshire metro mayor, and she’s got a fantastic plan focusing on jobs – 1,000 jobs for the area, particularly for young people.

“She’s also got a very, very good plan for transport and buses, and we’ve seen what Andy Burnham has done over in Manchester with transport. Cheap, efficient, smart transport that really helps communities, that’s what we can have here with Tracy Brabin.

“What I say to people is if you want that, if you value that, then vote for it. She will, of course, also be very, very strong on crime because the crime levels here are too high and she will drive them down.”

Although Labour is predicted to win in West Yorkshire, Sir Keir said he did not expect Labour to recover from its 2019 general election result in only a year when asked about polling suggesting his party could perform poorly on “super Thursday”.

“We are fighting for every vote into those elections tomorrow,” he said.

“We are having a very positive reception on the doorsteps, we are going into tomorrow in good spirit.

“Whatever the results are, I will take responsibility, as I take responsibility for everything in the Labour Party.”

Pressed on whether he might have to rethink his leadership approach if the results are poor, the party leader added: “Well, look, I took over the Labour Party after the worst general election result since 1935.

“We’ve got to rebuild into the next general election – that is the task in hand.

“This is the first test and we go into that test fighting for every vote, but I never thought we would climb the mountain we have to climb in just one year – it is going to take longer than that.”

Boris Johnson meanwhile said it would be “very tough” for the Conservative Party during the local elections and looked to play down his party’s chances of taking the Westminster constituency of Hartlepool in the by-election – despite recent polling putting the Tories 17 points in front of incumbents Labour.