The boss of John Lewis had been confirmed as the Conservative mayoral candidate for the West Midlands.
Andy Street will step down as managing director of the department store chain after being chosen by the Tories to compete for the region’s newly created role of metropolitan mayor.
He joined the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership in 1985 as a graduate trainee and has been running the John Lewis chain for nine years.
Street faces a tough battle in the Labour heartland against Siôn Simon, MEP for the West Midlands and a former MP for Birmingham Erdington, when the election is held in May.
Street, who is from Birmingham, is chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership – the body tasked with driving economic growth in the region.
Voters in the region faced a “critical election” in May, Street said.
“It will determine how we create wealth here and what type of society the West Midlands will become,” he said. “I promise to work tirelessly to convince voters that I am the man to lead us through these decisions.
“The opportunity we now have is unprecedented. Our economy is being renewed, but we have much more to do to ensure everybody feels the benefit. Our mission is therefore to build the economic powerhouse of Britain in an inclusive way.”
The West Midlands combined authority includes Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton and has a population of about 4 million. The new mayor will have responsibility for housing, transport, adult skills and planning, and will oversee a £1.1bn, 30-year investment fund.
Street is expected to speak at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham this weekend.
He has served on several government bodies, including the prime minister’s business advisory group and is also vice-chair of Performances Birmingham, which runs the city’s symphony and town halls.
Street leaves John Lewis as the chain reported a 31% slide in profits for the six months to July amid a fast-changing retail landscape in the UK.
In February, Mark Price, who ran the partnership’s supermarket chain Waitrose, stepped down to take a peerage and become a trade minister under then prime minister David Cameron. He retained the role after Theresa May became PM.
Burnham will step down from the shadow cabinet to focus on campaigning and will quit as an MP if he is elected mayor.
This article was written by Chris Johnston, for theguardian.com on Thursday 29th September 2016 23.58 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010