Sheffield Mayor contenders are unrecognisable to voters

Richard Marsden discusses politicians with members of the public in Sheffield's market
Richard Marsden discusses politicians with members of the public in Sheffield's market

ALMOST two thirds of people in Sheffield do not recognise a single one of the city’s potential candidates for elected mayor.

The Star went out onto the city centre streets armed with photos of Richard Caborn, Paul Scriven, and current Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore – and asked 100 passers-by if they could name them.

Only 11 people recognised Julie Dore, just 22 knew her predecessor Paul Scriven, and just 27 could name former Sheffield Central Labour MP Richard Caborn.

Of the 100 people The Star questioned, 63 people recognised none of the Sheffield trio at all.

But there was one mayor’s face who sparked recognition among most Sheffielders – that of Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, 150 miles away.

Sheffield goes to the polls tomorrow to decide in a referendum whether the city should have an elected mayor.

Today, Matt Dixon, of the Mayor4Sheffield campaign, said The Star’s findings were ‘not surprising’.

The Tory parish councillor for Oughtibridge said: “The figures show Sheffield people do not connect with their civic leaders. Boris Johnson is on television and in the national papers whereas, with Julie and Paul, particularly, this shows local politicians are not identified with by their community.

“That’s the key difference between the status quo and having a mayor. A mayor is a figurehead.”

But former Sheffield Council leader Coun Paul Scriven said: “A lot of people know who Ken Dodd is but that doesn’t mean he would be a good leader of a city.

“Do we want someone who is able to run Sheffield, or a personality?”

Retired Sheffield Central MP Richard Caborn added: “The recognition rating figures are relative to the amount of public exposure people have and are not surprising. But is this a popularity contest, or about substance in terms of whether somebody is right to run the city?”

Armed with pictures, The Star stopped shoppers in the Winter Garden, Castle Market and at city centre tram stops.

In Castle Market, Alison Tunnicliffe, a domestic assistant, aged 49, from Wybourn, knew Boris but struggled with the rest.

She said: “The problem is local politicians do not go out and talk to the public enough so people do not know who they are. They just seem to sit in their offices.”

Joanne Slingsby, a shop worker, aged 46, from Skye Edge, added: “People are not bothered about politics – that’s the problem. Working people think the governments and councils do nothing for them so are not interested.”

But Colin Radcliffe, a former Labour city councillor who represented Gleadless from 1976 to 1986 and whose father-in-law, Albert Richardson, was a Lord Mayor of Sheffield, said: “I don’t think having an elected mayor will change anything – if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.”

Mr Ratcliffe, aged 75, who lives in Lowedges, added: “The main problem at present is money. Some people just become councillors because they receive automatic allowances, whereas we were only paid if we attended meetings and did the job, which meant we had a better connection with the public.”

Zahra Waffa, 43, an NHS nurse from Burngreave, said she believed having an elected mayor would be a good idea to increase the profile of Sheffield’s leader and lobby for the city’s interests.

She said: “I think it would be a good idea. We need change to help us progress.”

Paul Wood, Sheffield District Labour Party chairman, said: “The only reason Boris Johnson has a high recognition rating is because he was a celebrity before he became mayor of London and is on television a lot.

“Julie Dore is growing into her role.

“I don’t think it is necessarily a problem that our elected politicians are not recognised everywhere because their role is not about being well-known but getting the job done.”