As part of a series of interviews with the Gryphon, Andrew Cooper the Green Party’s candidate for Mayor of West Yorkshire has set out his vision for mayor of West Yorkshire.
The Councillor for Newsome in Kirklees, south-west of Leeds, was first elected in 1999 and is currently the party’s Energy spokesperson.
Before deciding on a run, Cooper said he looked at the powers available for the Mayor of West Yorkshire. “There were lots of levers you could pull, things you could actually do that would make a real difference.”
One of which for Cooper was the need for what he calls a “Green Buildings Fund,” which means that public sector building and social housing projects are built to the “very highest energy efficient standards.”
He’s also determined to shut down the proposed expansion of Leeds-Bradford Airport. He pins the blame squarely at the feet of his Labour colleagues: “It was a majority of Labour councillors on that committee that ensured it was passed.” He lambasted Labour politicians who support the airport (“there is no room for simply ignoring the impact of airport
expansion”), telling me that crucially “there’s no opt-out in addressing climate change.”
Cooper is also keen to push for an expansion of cycle lanes, walking, and a mass-rapid-transit system in Leeds. Under his plans we might even finally get a Tram like our neighbours in Manchester and Sheffield. He also wants to stop the road expansion and road building programme.
“Of £875m spent on the transport budget £660m of that is spent on road widening and new roads,” he says, insistent that under his tenure, that will change.
Now it’s no surprise that a Green candidate has put tackling the climate crisis at the heart of their campaign, but the role of Mayor of West Yorkshire has far more powers. One of which is that of police and crime commissioner, overseeing the running of the police in West Yorkshire.
In light of the tragic events surrounding Sarah Everard and the Black Lives Matter protests, the role of the police in protecting minorities and the community as a whole has been brought into question.
Cooper believes that begins at the top. “One of the things I’d do from the start is make sure there’s a woman whose in charge of policing,” he says. He also stressed the need to go further and listen to women and non-binary people’s experiences in their own communities, and what they believe would make them feel safest, and begin to reflect that within the role of Police and Crime Commissioner.
But the real question is can the Green’s win in a city dominated by Labour? “We’re on the up, a lot of really positive things are happening” Cooper states. He believes that part of the Green Party’s success lies in what he calls Starmer’s “bland-Labour politics”, which leaves a free political space. “It does seem to me that Keir Starmer has decided to play it safe and be as uncontroversial as possible,” he continues.
Whether that success will translate into a Green mayoralty remains to be seen.
The local elections take place on Thursday 6 May, 2021.
Image via candidate’s blogspot page.