My family moved to Sandwell when I was six. My early memories are of a West Midlands TV production that went on to become a national sensation – at least in my mind. Chris Tarrant was the host of Tiswas. The anarchic Saturday morning kids programme was a West Midlands creation that went on to national acclaim.
Mum and Dad were both teachers. Mum taught French at a secondary comprehensive and my dad taught at a special school. Our family come from a Welsh non-conformist background. My parents taught me the value of education - and sought to ensure that I had a great one. They taught me that as neighbours, we have obligations to one another. They taught me that looking after the old lady down the street isn’t charity – it’s what it means to be a good person.
My mum used to talk a lot about her grandfather. He was a farm worker who left school at 11. He was incredibly well educated – much of which he taught himself before he went blind. Education was very important in our house when I was growing up. It was so important – and remains so – because it gave me choices in life.
I’m very proud to be from the West Midlands. Our region holds an incredibly special place in world history – but all too often we don’t celebrate where we’re from. Think about what’s come from the West Midlands.
Shakespeare – arguably the most creative figure in history. His body of work is unparalleled. The steam engine. The Lunar men. Manufacturers of world-class cars. The spitfire – made in Castle Bromwich.
The collective geniuses of the West Midlands are game-changers - global and historic leaders. We should celebrate this more. As Mayor, I will champion our region. If we were a nation, we’d be the 58th biggest country in the world.
We’ve got so much to be proud of. But we need to restore our pride and place as the great engine of business, jobs and opportunity at the heart of England. If I am elected West Midlands Mayor, that will be my guiding purpose.