West Midlands feels the Byrne

Submitted by AWL on 12 February, 2020 - 11:22 Author: Gerry Bates
Liam Byrne and Tony Blair

Right-winger Liam Byrne has been selected as the Labour candidate to unseat Tory West Midlands metro-mayor Andy Street in May.

Out of 6,948 votes, Byrne received 3,105 first preferences. There were two left candidates, former Dudley council leader Pete Lowe on 2,034 votes and former Respect activist Salma Yaqoob on 1,809.

Yaqoob’s transfers did not go to Lowe, or not much more than they went to no second preference or to Byrne. After transfers Byrne beat Lowe 56.5-43.5%.

Byrne has, for obvious reasons, made vague leftish noises, but he was a loyal minister in the Blair-Brown regime, nominated Yvette Cooper in 2015 and supported the coup against Corbyn. He also has a record of playing to anti-migrant bigotry. Yet very early in the campaign, for reasons that are still not clear, he got the backing of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Lowe’s campaign emerged out of local activist networks; it was eventually supported by Unison, the Bakers’ Union, FBU, NUM, the Musicians’ Union and the Labour Homelessness Campaign, as well as a number of local Momentum groups.

The Momentum National Coordinating Group then weighed in and backed Yaqoob, whom the NEC exempted from the normal rule about length of membership for candidates despite complaints from Bradford West Labour MP Naz Shah about what she said was Yaqoob's demagogic campaign (as an independent) against Shah in the 2017 general election.

There followed support for Yaqoob from Unite, CWU, some Momentum groups and high profile figures including Owen Jones.

The grassroots left in the West Midlands will continue to organise, to beat the Tories in May, put Byrne and co. under pressure, and avoid messes like this one in future.

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