News’ Emily Roberts reports on the campaign spending of the Conservative candidate for West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street
Recent reports published by local news outlets claim that Andy Street, the former managing director of John Lewis, has spent approximately £1 million in his bid to be elected the West Midlands Mayor on May 4th. Street has opted for a conventional – but expensive – style of canvassing, by mailing leaflets and newspapers to households throughout the West Midlands. The amount of resources used to promote the Conservative candidate has resulted in the hefty price tag of £1 million. It is thought by many that Street may have felt pressure to outspend his Labour rival, Siôn Simon, in order to counter Labour’s advantage in terms of the amount of party members and volunteers it has within the region.
In September 2016, Andy Street announced his decision to step down from his position at John Lewis in favour of running for the role of West Midlands Mayor. On his official campaign website, Street states that he intends to ‘use the skills [he] learnt in business to help create jobs and opportunities for your family and everyone in our area.’ His manifesto also highlights the key areas he hopes to bring positive change to, should he be elected; ‘investment, jobs, housing, safer streets and transport network[s].’
According to the Electoral Commission, candidates can spend no more than £130,000 during the last five weeks of the electoral race, however there are no restrictions on the amount they can spend prior to this. Though Street’s campaign finance does not violate rules set by the Electoral Commission – as most of his was spent from January to March – it has evoked an impassioned response from many who believe that the election should be built upon a level playing field. While many of the political parties involved have withheld information regarding how much money they have raised and spent on their campaigns, it is understood that the sum allegedly spent by Street overshadows the rest considerably. One candidate who has declared how much she has raised is Liberal Democrat hopeful Beverley Nielsen, with £50,000. Speaking to Redbrick, UoB student Jack expressed his disappointment at the news, saying, ‘it sounds like politics as usual – money talks a lot more than character or integrity.’
In a survey conducted by The Coventry Telegraph, it appears that Andy Street and Siôn Simon are each on track to receive 33% of the first preference votes. The official candidate will be announced on Thursday May 4th.