Former CBI chief Lord Digby Jones is backing the ex-John Lewis boss Andy Street's bid to run the West Midlands

Mark Sands
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Brexiteer Jones has backed both Labour and Conservatives in the past (Source: Getty)

The former director general of the CBI has offered a hearty endorsement to ex-John Lewis boss Andy Street's bid to become the first mayor of the West Midlands.

Voters will go to the polls next week with Street and Labour's Sion Simon the leading candidates to secure the brand new position.

And Birmingham-born Digby Jones, who briefly served as a trade minister under Gordon Brown, has thrown his weight behind the former retail chief.

Writing in the Birmingham Mail, Jones said voters should not select a "career politician" or a "party apparatchik".

Read More: Birmingham is the next major hub, says John Lewis boss

Jones said: "Our new mayor must not be a professional party politician but someone from the right sort of business, from our region, someone who allows local authorities to get on with doing what local councils do and not interfering, not getting mired in the party politics of it all.

"Someone who is at ease in the corridors of power, in the boardrooms of would-be investing businesses around the globe, someone at ease with all types of media, someone who will be taken seriously to promote creating socially-inclusive wealth, stimulating successful business to make profits which generate tax which builds schools and hospitals, providing the opportunities for thousands of new jobs but someone who cares, who personally experiences the need for meaningful diversity and zero discrimination every day."

Although he entered politics under Labour's Brown, Brexiteer Jones has also backed Tories in the past.

In 2014 he introduced the speech of then chancellor George Osborne at the Conservative Party conference, and he rowed with former Labour leader Ed Miliband, claiming the party was "sneering" at wealth creators.

Labour candidate Simon is an MEP and former MP. Before entering politics he worked at Guinness and served as a journalist.

The West Midlands is one of six city regions electing a mayor next week, with votes also taking place in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, the Tees Valley, the West of England, and Cambridge and Peterborough.

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