Liam Byrne mayor bid backed by Mandelson, Darling, David Miliband and maybe Ed too
Liam Byrne has won the endorsement of some of Labour's most impressive national figures in his bid to become mayor of Birmingham - as well as fulsome praise from party leader Ed Miliband.
The line up of supporters includes former foreign secretary David Miliband, former chancellor Alistair Darling and Peter Mandelson.
Their backing may help to cement his claim that he has the knowledge and the authority to stand up on a national and international stage and fight for Birmingham, thanks to his experience in government. His last job before the general election was as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the second-in-command behind the Chancellor.
Mr Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, formally announced his intention to stand as mayor of Birmingham today, with an event outside Birmingham council house alongside his new running mate Sir Albert Bore, the former council leader who will become Deputy Mayor in a Byrne-led adminstration.
The first battle is to win the referendum on May 3 which will decide whether Birmingham wants a mayor. But after that, the battle is to win the Labour nomination, against rivals Sion Simon and Gisela Stuart. The backing of so many senior Labour figures will surely be a plus.
And while Ed Miliband is not going to tell any party members who to vote for - and makes a point of talking about "a strong field of [Labour] candidates" he also makes it clear that he thinks Mr Byrne would be an excellent mayor.
In a letter to Mr Byrne, which the MP has published, Mr Miliband said: "Since you won your by-election in Hodge Hill in 2004, you have been a formidable campaigner, a successful minister and a key member of my Shadow Cabinet."
He added: "As you say if Birmingham does decide to introduce a Mayor we have an opportunity, whoever wins the party's nomination from a strong field of candidates, to show in Birmingham, and elsewhere, what a Labour government can do for our country come the next General Election.
"Let me say finally that it is a pleasure to work with you. You have brought insight, strategic thinking and deep commitment to your work for the Labour Party. I look forward to working with you in the future in whatever capacity you serve."
Mr Byrne is also boasting of the backing of Roy Hattersley, the former Birmingham MP and former Labour Deputy Leader.
And he has the support of two people with credibility when it comes to Mr Byrne's key election theme, creating jobs in Birmingham and supporting employers. They are Black Country MP Adrian Bailey, chair of the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, and Coventry MP Jim Cunningham, who is chair of West Midlands Parliamentary Labour Party but is also a longstanding battler for British manufacturing (frequently urging more support for manufacturers in Commons debates, under the last government as well as this one).
Here are those endorsements:
"Liam is a passionate champion for Birmingham and will make a brilliant mayor. Together, Liam and Albert are exactly the right team take the city forward."
Lord Hattersley, former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and MP for Sparkbrook
"The Mayor of Birmingham needs to be a big hitter for the city and Liam Byrne can be that figure. Liam has real passion for Birmingham and genuine vision for the city. He is interested in doing things and not just saying them, and that is what any city needs. Liam can win the city for Labour, and then show what Labour can do in government."
Rt Hon David Miliband MP, former Foreign Secretary
"When I worked with Liam Byrne at the Treasury, he fought tirelessly to help create jobs and get our country moving. Liam is a passionate, dedicated man you can trust to get the job done."
Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, former Chancellor of the Exchequer
"This is brilliant news for Birmingham. If I had to think of an ideal fit to be the city's mayor - deep knowledge, broad contacts and who puts investment and jobs first - it would be Liam".
Lord Mandelson, Former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
"Liam was a superb regional minister for the West Midlands, and if the referendum is carried he will be a big voice for Birmingham"
Jim Cunningham MP, Chair, West Midlands Parliamentary Labour Party
"I have worked with Liam as a campaigner, back bench MP and more recently as his Parliamentary Private Secretary. He combines care for the underdog with an impressive grasp of policy. As a native of Birmingham and a former businessman he has a passion for the City and a vision for its future."
Adrian Bailey MP, Chair of Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee
"Liam has the vision, ideas and ambition to turn Birmingham into a world class city by building on its achievements, and by tapping into the creativity,energy, dynamism and the rich diversity of this great city. He has worked tirelessly to represent the people of his constituency and has a track record of delivering for people across diverse communities. As someone who has worked with him over the years, I know Liam is passionate about local democracy and committed to delivering for the people of Birmingham both through his national work in government and in opposition. He cares deeply about empowering and engaging local communities and especially young people to reach their potential."
Rushanara Ali MP