“I WILL be a strong voice for West Yorkshire and rebuild West Yorkshire in a post-Covid world.”

That is the promise of Tracy Brabin, Labour’s candidate for the upcoming mayoral election in May 2021 to choose the person to lead the county forward in the coming years.

The Batley and Spen MP, and former actor, director and writer, was selected by Labour members to run for the pivotal new role, and will be campaigning hard over the next six months to be elected as a Labour mayor – and the first directly elected female mayor in England.

The nomination came almost 12 months to the day that Ms Brabin managed to keep her seat as the Red Wall crumbled around her at last year’s General Election. West Yorkshire is now a 13-9 seat split between Labour and the Conservatives following the shift in allegiances, with many voters won over by the ‘Get Brexit Done’ slogan and promises to ‘level up the North’.

In the coming days, Brexit will indeed be done in one way or another giving our Leave-leaning county its wish, and any levelling up plans were scuppered by the unforeseen Covid-19 pandemic. But Ms Brabin is hoping that voters who turned away from Labour will once again put their trust in the party to do the best for West Yorkshire.

She said: “While we can’t always trust the polls, they have shown there is a growing trust again in Labour, and I want to show people this is how a Labour Government would look.

“I don’t think we did [in 2019], but we can’t take voters for granted, and we have to get the message out there of hope, ambition and opportunity, and build back that trust so in a few years we can win the General Election.”

It’s clear that the first point of order for whoever seals the mayorship is going to be getting West Yorkshire back on its feet following the Covid-19 pandemic which has put thousands out of work, decimated the economy and had a massive impact on people’s physical and mental health.

Ms Brabin said she will start the process of rebuilding the economy through a job creation taskforce, reaching those people who are out of work to help them retrain and find new opportunities.

“It’s got to be about jobs, and I will be making the case just like Andy Burnham has for a fair Covid recovery fund for West Yorkshire,” she said.

“We need to help those most affected by Covid job losses. Young people and the BAME community have been hit hard and need support finding work again, as do those in their 40s and 50s who have been laid off and might have lost hope they’ll ever work again.

“I’d have control of further education as mayor, and we need to do something to help these people retrain and find new opportunities.”

Ms Brabin said she will work with colleges and universities, and promote in-work learning to help people improve their skills.

What seem to be Ms Brabin’s two flagship pledges seem to go hand-in-hand, as alongside creating new jobs in a post-Covid world is a radical plan to thrust social housing to the top of the agenda.

Ms Brabin grew up in a council flat in Birstall, and knows personally how crucial flexible, readily available social housing is to support those who need help most.

“There’s shovel-ready projects such as retrofitting homes ready to go, and I will be getting social housing building up and running again.

“I absolutely understand the value of social housing, and while I can’t yet give specific numbers I will commit to social housing as a way forward, because families like mine were saved by social housing and because of the opportunities it gave me. No family should be in the precarious position of not having a roof over their head.”

Part of the role of mayor will also be to oversee crime and policing, with the wave of drugs crime sweeping across West Yorkshire a key area that will have to be addressed, not to mention the growing domestic violence problems that have only been exasperated by Covid-19, with the number of women killed by their partners each week more than doubling since the pandemic.

A former shadow minister for early years, Ms Brabin knows that prevention is better than the cure, and early intervention to drive young people away from crime will be key to reducing levels of criminality in the county. She would also introduce a Domestic Violence Perpetrator Pilot to help offenders address their problems and improve rehabilitation to cut future offending.

“We also have to look at poverty and poor mental health as these can be key contributors to crime,” she said, “and if we can intervene early in the long-term this can have a big impact on reducing offending.”

Early intervention isn’t a cure all though, and Ms Brabin emphasised it is important to get more ‘bobbies on the beat’ patrolling neighbourhoods to increase community confidence, build relationships and rapport with the community and make people feel safer in their homes.

Ms Brabin has big plans for West Yorkshire if she gets the nod on May 6, 2021, but before that is the task of convincing an electorate of more than 1.65 million voters in West Yorkshire – including 363,000 in Bradford – that they should cast their ballot for her.

She said: “I will be a strong voice for West Yorkshire, speaking truth to power and ensuring we get a fair and equitable slice of the pie.

“I will challenge the Government to make sure its warm words about levelling up the North are turned into real action, and will continue to campaign hard towards May next year.”

The West Yorkshire Mayor election will take place on Thursday, May 6, 2021, on the same day as local council elections.

The Green Party has already declared its candidate will be Andrew Cooper, and Bob Buxton will run for the Yorkshire Party. Candidates for other political parties including the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have yet to be announced.