All being well, there will be a West Yorkshire Mayoral Election this spring, where folk from Castleford to Keighley, and Holmfirth to Horsforth will have their say over who governs them. The winner will have £38 million a year to play with, and has responsibility over transport, housing, land and adult skills.
There will obviously be a parade of serious politicians looking to fill the role, but surely West Yorkshire has its own celebrities who could take office and aid the region to future prosperity using the skills that have placed them in the public eye? For the sake of meeting the word count for this article, we certainly better hope so.
Here are the best candidates for the West Yorkshire Mayor job
One of the key attributes for a major politician is the ability to keep calm in a crisis. You wouldn’t want to send Gordon Ramsey into an intense negotiation, only for him to storm out three minutes later because someone passed him a limp cheese and pickle toastie. This is why Alan Bennett could be the perfect candidate. Have you ever seen the Leeds-born playwright riled up and apoplectic with rage? Of course you haven’t. He is like a tranquil sea – calming and reassuring. His speeches would be things of wonder. Delivered in that Leodensian drawl and peppered with references to quaint biscuits. Who wouldn’t want to listen to what Mayor Bennett had to say on any topic? Could we finally have met a politician who would be universally admired? What a thing to ponder!
Another Leeds resident and this time one that hasn’t decamped forever to London like Bennett. Yes, the Hyde Park lass did move to LA for 15 years, but she knows which side her bread is buttered and she’s now back in West Yorkshire, living with her mum. In an age where interviews with politicians tend to go round the houses as they do anything they can to avoid answering a straight question, it would be refreshing to have a Spice Girl installed as the mayor who would tell you exactly what she wanted. What she really, really wanted.
Moving away from Leeds, could Skelmanthorpe be the birthplace of the next West Yorkshire Mayor? One of the responsibilities of the role is to pave the way for a regional mass transit system and Jodie Whittaker’s role in Doctor Who should provide just the inspiration she needs to fulfill that. Imagine never having to brave the M62 at rush hour again. Consider not having to squeeze onto another packed transpennine train. Imagine nipping into your TARDIS and landing at your desk in mere seconds. That is what they mean when they use the phrase ‘northern powerhouse’.
You can’t create a list of statesmanlike West Yorkshire folk and miss out Ilkley’s Alan Titchmarsh, can you? Similarly to Alan Bennett, Titchmarsh brings a serene calm to proceedings. This could backfire though, because anyone in his office caught not doing their job properly is unlikely to fear the kind of friendly pep talk you might imagine Titchmarsh giving in place of a rollicking. Still, he’s a great communicator and, given that the role involves looking after housing and land, he could sort the garden, take outside advice from Londoner Tommy Walsh on construction and even rope in Bradford’s Linda Barker to be Minister for the Lovely Interiors.
Mr Burton from Educating Yorkshire
What we want from our mayor in West Yorkshire is someone who can be a real leader. And who better to thrust into that kind of role than someone who has actual real life leadership experience? Mr Burton from Educating Yorkshire, the fly-on-thewall documentary based at Dewsbury’s Thornhill Academy, is best remembered on the show for helping pupil Musharaf Asghar overcome a stammer to give a speech in public. The scenes, broadcast in 2013, brought joy and happy tears to millions across the country, making Mr Burton a household name. He’s called Matthew by the way, but it just doesn’t seem right to call a teacher by their first name. He went on to become the headteacher at the school and, following such a catalogue of success with teenagers, he should be able to expand that to fulfill the mayoral remit of developing adult skills in West Yorkshire.
Divina de Campo
Top British drag superstar Divina de Campo hails from Brighouse and would add some glamour to the mayoral race. She has already gained experience of taking on new challenges each week on the way to ending the first ever series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK as runner-up. She also starred on the BBC1 Saturday night singing contest Altogether Now as a judge, handing down forthright but fair comments to prospective warblers. Something that would be handy for her potential future mayoral roles.
A great attribute for a politician is the ability to see into the future and head off disaster, rather than waiting for it to hit and dealing with the chaos. One West Yorkshire lad who has made a career from making accurate predictions is Halifax-born, Todmorden-raised John Kettley. If you didn’t already know, John Kettley is a weatherman, a weatherman, a weatherman, John Kettley is a weatherman. And so is Michael Fish. In the immortal words of the band Tribe of Toffs. Anyway, we often hear about political storms, but Kettley would help us spot them coming a mile off and ensure plain sailing for West Yorkshire. He could also use a daily address to let us know what clothing would be suitable for a jaunt up Baildon Moor. He really is the gift that keeps on giving.
Who will be the West Yorkshire Mayor?
So there are the runners and riders in the celebrity race to be West Yorkshire mayor. Who are you backing at the moment? It’s a tough field, but they have most bases covered. It is just a shame that Otley’s Thomas Chippendale passed away 250 years ago. He might not have been much of a politician himself, but he would certainly surround himself with a solid cabinet. Apologies.