Who is Andy Street? Profile of the new West Midlands Mayor
Andy Street has always admitted he is a novice when it comes to politics, but he believes he has the ‘real world expertise’ the West Midlands needs if the region is to fulfil its potential and compete on the global stage.
The new Conservative West Midlands Mayor quit his £1 million a year role as boss of John Lewis because he wants to spearhead the region's rise as an economic powerhouse.
And he has vowed to put the Black Country at the top of his agenda as part of his pledge to be ‘a mayor for the entire region’.
“There are many people here in the Black Country who feel they are missing out,” he told the Express & Star when he was campaigning in February this year.
“There are pockets of success, in Wolverhampton for example, with the city centre being developed, and there are some really great growth opportunities.
“The resurgence of manufacturing, there’s new start-ups happening, so there is lots of new hope, but to make that really jive, we need a mayor who knows how businesses work.”
Mr Street has described himself as part of a wind of change that is sweeping across the political landscape. He cites Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election and the UK’s Brexit vote as examples of the public striking out against the political establishment.
The 53 year old spent three years as chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, a position he says gives him an ideal grounding for dealing with the challenges facing the mayor. “I feel I am offering a fresh approach,” he told the Express & Star at the time. “Ok, I’ve not been a politician but I have had leadership roles, both in business and chairing the LEP.
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“I am very happy that people scrutinise whether I am fit to do this job in terms of having the ideas that are ready, about having the leadership capabilities, but I do think there is a feeling here that moving away from career politicians is probably a good thing.”
He has also said he is not afraid to go against the Government if he think it benefits the region. “We’ve talked about this on my campaign trail,” he said, citing taking over the running of the West Midlands rail franchise from the DfT as an example. Mr Street backed Remain during the EU referendum, and during his previous role at John Lewis had warned that Brexit could damage British economy.
But he says his opinion was influenced by his role in the retail world and by the political turmoil that engulfed the country following the referendum result.
“I think it was the right thing to say at the time,” he said.
Watch Andy Street talking to the Express & Star in February this year
“There was a political crisis but we can now say it has not turned into an economic crisis. That is precisely because the Government has gone on and got a grip of the situation.
“So actually what I said then wasn’t wrong, but the good news is that it has been handled well.”
Mr Street says he has the ‘real world expertise’ to oversee devolution in the West Midlands, having been part of the team that negotiated the previous deal alongside council leaders.
“Everybody recognised this deal was about us being stronger together, butabsolutely fiercely independent at the same time,” he said.
“There are some things that can only be done on a regional basis. We simply have to work together for the greater good.”