Who wants to be the South Yorkshire Mayor?

Plus, is this pop song really the best ever?

Good afternoon readers — and welcome to this week’s Tribune briefing.

Today we have a look at who will be Labour’s candidate for Mayor after the party announced the seven candidates for the role on Thursday. We also feature an interesting piece about “the best pop song ever written” and recommend a fascinating new literary art exhibition at the Millennium Gallery.

You might have noticed we didn't send out a story this weekend. Well, we did, but it was members-only. We're going to start doing that sometimes, just to give our paying members — who support all our work and fund everything we do — some extra value, and to nudge a few others to sign up.

The piece was an in-depth look at how the government’s controversial rail plans, announced last week, are going to impact Sheffield and South Yorkshire, including an interview with rail engineer and writer Gareth Dennis.

Speaking to The Tribune this week, he said the main reason our rail services are so bad is that every service north and south has to go through Sheffield Midland, a station which was opened in 1870. “It doesn't take a genius to stand on those platforms and see the track with mud and grass growing up through it,” he said. “The track in that area hasn’t been changed in a century.”

Last week we sent members a story about the surge in popularity of the party drug ketamine at Sheffield’s universities and another about the people behind Sheffield’s Christmas markets.

This week we’ll send two more, one of which focuses on a Sheffield artist who celebrates the beauty in brutalist architecture. To get both of those and help The Tribune take on more in-depth pieces and ambitious investigations, please consider joining. It costs less than £1.40 a week if you pay for a year.

This week’s weather

Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say: “It will be much colder this week with high pressure heading back to the Atlantic by midweek, with an increasing risk of showers (wintry over the hills) to end the week.”

Monday 🌤 Settled and often sunny with brisk winds easing through the day. Cloud increasing overnight. Highs of 8°C

Tuesday ⛅️ Cloudier than Monday but still largely dry with some brightness coming through. Highs of 8C again.

Wednesday ⛅️ A weak cold front heads south during the day with bright spells in between cloudier periods. Turning colder overnight with a frost likely. Highs of 7°C.

Thursday 🌤 A few showers are possible but, due to our inland location, we may get away with a dry and sunny day. Cold north-westerly winds and turning frosty overnight. Highs of 6°C.

Friday 🌦❄️ Turning more unsettled from the northwest as rain heads east. Some uncertainty over the track and timings of precipitation so stay tuned to forecasts nearer the time. Highs of 6°C.

Big story: Who wants to be the South Yorkshire Mayor?

Top line: Five current or former South Yorkshire councillors plus a former parliamentary candidate and a university student have said they will stand to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of South Yorkshire. It’s likely that one of them will win next May — but who are they?

Background: In September, current mayor and Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis said he wouldn't seek a second term as South Yorkshire Mayor, beginning the search for his replacement.

  • The applications to be the next Labour candidate closed last Wednesday and interviews will take place in December.

  • Three weeks of voting begins on January 5 and ends on January 26. The result will be announced on the same day.

Who are the candidates?

  • Senior Doncaster Councillor Rachael Blake currently holds the portfolio for children’s social care, communities and equalities. According to the local democracy reporting service she is “arguably Doncaster’s most senior female council politician below elected Mayor Ros Jones,” and currently represents the Rossington and Bawtry ward.

  • Oliver Coppard stood in Sheffield Hallam in 2015, losing narrowly to Nick Clegg. He then went on to be a regional organiser for the Remain campaign and has since set up his own political consultancy, Campaigns Plus. He’s from the currently-ascendant centrist wing of the party but his lack of experience of any kind of elected office could hold him back.

  • Former Gleadless councillor Lewis Dagnall is the Labour left’s candidate. First elected in 2015, as cabinet member for environment, streetscene and climate change he led the council’s attempts to reach agreement with the tree protesters but resigned over previous leader Julie Dore’s handling of the governance referendum. He is also married to Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake.

  • Jayne Dunn is a highly experienced Sheffield City Councillor with a compelling story. Growing up in a house with domestic violence, she became a single mum and then was later homeless before starting her own business. She has been a councillor for Southey since 2012 and is currently executive member for education, children and families.

  • Darnall councillor Mazher Iqbal has served on Sheffield City Council since 2006 and is currently executive member for city futures: development, culture and regeneration. He was “stood down” from his leadership role in June after allegations of wrongdoing emerged but was recently cleared of breaking the members’ code of conduct after a year-long investigation.

  • 20-year-old University of Liverpool politics student Dominic Jones is the youngest candidate on the list. He represented Barnsley at the UK Youth Parliament and was the UK’s economy delegate at the G7 Youth Summit in Cornwall in May.

  • Doncaster Councillor Jake Kearsley was elected for the first time in the Town ward in May. He is currently studying politics, philosophy and economics at the Open University and also works for a domiciliary eye care company.

What next? After the interviews take place in December, the long list will be whittled down to two or three candidates. But without a “big beast” in the contest, the selection really is wide open. In a strongly Labour county which Dan Jarvis almost won on first preferences in 2018, whoever wins will be odds on favourite to be Mayor of South Yorkshire next May. 

Analysis: The fact that no one with a national profile wanted to put their hat in the ring is striking. While metro mayors’ formal responsibilities are limited, the “soft power” they wield is increasingly significant, as Andy Burnham has demonstrated in Greater Manchester with his efforts to tackle rough-sleeping and the influence he has gained via regular media appearances. The fact that none of our current or former MPs has followed suit would seem to indicate that this mayoralty isn’t seen as a big job yet.

Jamie kicks off Christmas

Jamie Campbell of Everyone’s Talking About Jamie fame stole the show at last night’s Christmas lights turn on by coming dressed as the tree. Thousands packed into Barker’s Pool for the big event which also saw a spectacular fireworks display from the top of Sheffield City Hall.

Covid-19 update

Cases: Sheffield’s Covid case rate — the number of positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days — is currently 320.9, 171 cases or 9.9% up on last week. The current case rate for England is 409.5, 19.2% up on seven days ago.

Hospitals: 122 patients are in hospital in Sheffield being treated for Covid-19, a fall of three from last week. Nine of these patients are on ventilation, the same as last week. Five deaths linked to the virus have taken place in the last seven days. 

Vaccines: Just under a quarter of people in Sheffield are still yet to have their first vaccine, while just under 30% have not had both. Those aged 40 and over can book booster jabs from today.

Our favourite reads

  • Notorious Attercliffe swingers’ club La Chambre closed down for good last year. But now its former owner has claimed that the club’s demise could force the city’s sex industry underground. Barry Calvert, who ran the club with his wife Marie for 22 years, confirmed the club would not be coming back but told The Star Sheffield should look more favourably on its much-maligned sex industry as a form of tourism.

  • This excellent piece in The Guardian reports from Sheffield and Leeds in the wake of the racism allegations against Yorkshire County Cricket Club. The paper speaks to Atif Aslam who works for the Ellesmere Youth Project in Spital Hill who says he was regularly verbally abused as a child when he was walking home from school. “It was so common that it didn’t faze us,” he says. “We never went home upset about it.”

News update

  • Leisure services in Sheffield are to receive £100m of investment to make them “as close to self-funding as possible” when Sheffield City Trust loses responsibility for them in 2024. The money will see Ponds Forge and the Sheffield Arena improved and the Springs, Concord and Hillsborough leisure centres completely rebuilt.

  • The council has written to the government asking them to ban grouse moor burning after recent burns near Bradfield caused smoke pollution in the Loxley Valley. The letter says burning “must end entirely for the health and protection of nearby communities, and the commensurate benefits of carbon reduction for the planet.”

Things to do

Art: A new exhibition of art about the celebrated Bloomsbury Group goes on display at the Millennium Gallery from this Thursday, November 25. Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love and Legacy looks at the art produced by the influential group of early 20th century writers, painters and philosophers. The gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm.

Learn: Philosophy in the Gallery is a chance for people to meet and talk with others about the ideas that emerge when we look at art together. The sessions use the philosophy for communities (P4C) method, a structured but flexible process for a group to find and discuss a big question. The next session will take place on Friday, November 26. 

Music: Leading pianist Tim Horton comes to the Crucible’s Studio Theatre on Friday night for a night of Chopin for solo piano. The concert is the first of six featuring the composer that Tim and Music in the Round will host over the next few seasons. Afterwards, Horton will speak to broadcaster Tom McKinney about Chopin’s music and his upcoming performances. 

Letters to the editor 

Regardless of whether we loved or hated HS2, we've all been messed around for 10 years and are no nearer to sorting out our transport issues. Everybody loses. At the same time Sheffield Station was opened in 1870, Hunters Bar roundabout was a turnpike marking the start/end of a cobbled road used by horse-drawn stagecoaches. Penny-farthing bicycles were just becoming fashionable. Our station has been upgraded just once since then, in 1905. Can you imagine if everything else had been equally frozen in time? It's now 2021, we wouldn't put up with a Turnpike at Hunters Bar or penny-farthings on cobbled streets, so why do we have to put-up with our Victorian rail infrastructure? Never mind Insulate Britain, all 500,000 residents of Sheffield should be sat down in the streets protesting at what a raw deal we get, time and time again. Chris Greenwood, Nether Green

Picturing the past

Sheffield, Christmas 1939. Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses make wax flowers for Christmas decorations at first-aid stations and hospitals in the city. Women in the city reportedly responded well to the VAD appeal, and the new nurses quickly found a hobby which occupied much of their time when they were off duty.

If you think someone you know might find this briefing useful, please do forward it on and tell them about The Tribune.