Midlands Metro Mayor: The word on A Street

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Two months on since his mayoral victory, what has Andy Street brought to the role?

"Ask me anything you like"

That's the "no holds barred" invitation from the newly-elected Conservative West Midlands "Metro" Mayor, Andy Street, for a series of public Question and Answer sessions, the first of them in Coventry.

The two months since his victory, by the narrowest of margins, over the Labour candidate Sion Simon MEP, have inevitably been overshadowed by that other great election drama, and by its aftermath.

Tory activists in one of the many local Labour marginal seats which eluded them told me they regretted that the upbeat mood after Andy's win had not lasted longer into the general election itself.

"It was all going so well", they told me, "until that manifesto: a disaster!"

So one of the obvious questions for Mayor Street is whether the rapid reversal in the Conservatives' fortunes nationally makes his job more difficult locally.

Suddenly there is a "money tree" after all.

But the cash is for the Government's newfound commitments to Northern Ireland. Will the extra billion pounds for the province mean correspondingly less investment in the Midlands engine, of which we have all heard a significantly less lately? Mr Simon has tweeted his demand for the Midlands to have its fair share of public spending: he says Northern Ireland will get £11,535 per head of the population per year compared with just £8,750 for the West Midlands.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Andy Street narrowly beat Sion Simon in the first West Midlands mayoral election

And when can we expect the second West Midlands "Devo Deal"? That's another subject on which we have heard little for some time.

On the other hand, will the Government be even more determined to show what a Tory winner can do, by "opening the taps" on the cash flow? We'll see.

So what do we think of the show so far?

Mr Street certainly looks like a man in a hurry.

He wasted no time in choosing Solihull's Conservative council leader, Bob Sleigh, as his deputy.

Councillor Sleigh had chaired the shadow West Midlands Combined Authority before the real thing came into being, with the mayor himself in the chair. So in many ways the Deputy Mayor looks like a logical choice.

But does it also indicate a reluctance to "reach across the aisle" of British politics to other parties?

Is Mr Street more of a party political animal than he seemed?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Will the aftermath of the general election make Mr Street's job more tricky?

Another question, perhaps for that "Q and A": as a candidate, he had majored on his reputation as the successful former boss of the John Lewis department store chain rather than as a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool Tory.

Remember though, that Mayor Street moved almost as quickly to bring the West Midlands Labour Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson into his top team to head-up the drive against homelessness.

He speaks warmly of Labour council leaders on the WMCA board, not least the leader of Wolverhampton City Council, Roger Lawrence, whom he has appointed lead member for another of those key objectives: public transport. Plans have just been handed to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, for a £200m, seven-mile extension of the Midlands Metro tram system from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.

Is this another early test of the Government's commitment to that "devolution revolution" now that George Osborne is no longer in office?

He later confessed that, as Chancellor, he had "sweated blood" to secure the agreement for the West Midlands to elect a mayor.

Perhaps this is yet another question for these "Ask Andy" events.

Image copyright West Midlands Combined Authority
Image caption Mr Street hopes to oversee the extension of the Midland Metro through the Black Country

Have the ructions at the top of the Conservative Party set back the causes once held so dear by Mr Osborne, now that, as editor of the London Evening Standard, he describes the prime minister as "a dead woman walking"?

I'll Ask Andy

As if there weren't enough questions facing the new mayor, I'll have some of my own when I talk to him for this weekend's Sunday Politics Midlands.

Joining me in the studio will be the Conservative MP for Stratford-on-Avon, Nadhim Zahawi, and the Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood Shabana Mahmood.

And I hope you will join us too, in our usual 11.00 slot on BBC One in the Midlands this Sunday morning, 2 July 2017.