St Helens Council leader Barrie Grunewald has ruled himself out of the race to become mayor of the Liverpool City Region.
Coun Grunewald had told the Reporter he was taking the weekend to consider whether to throw his hat into the ring for the job.
However, late last night he withdrew from the contest and backed Walton MP Steve Rotheram’s campaign instead.
It is believed Coun Grunewald’s well-publicised doubts about the city region and his concerns about the project becoming too “Liverpool-centric” would have counted against him.
Mr Rotheram’s popularity across the Merseyside region following his principled campaigning over the Hillsborough tragedy make him the frontrunner for the post.
And today Coun Grunewald further bolstered Mr Rotheram’s bid by endorsing his campaign.
He said: “I am proud to offer my support to Steve Rotheram as he launches his Mayoral Campaign.
“Steve has impressed me with his vision of how he sees the role and his commitment to be open and fully transparent.
“I believe his plans will benefit all of the City Region from St. Helens to Sefton where he will ensure that ‘no borough is left behind’.
“I can honestly say that Steve truly gets that you cannot be Mayor of the City Region and focus only on one area.
“Steve is a real team player, who will draw on all the talent across the Boroughs and he will build a City Region where aspiration and ambition is at the heart of everything we do, we can build our own powerhouse with Steve as Metro Mayor.
“In the coming weeks as he announces his pledges and manifesto, I know Labour Party members will come to the same conclusion as me.
“They want a person who is open, who is transparent, who has vision and integrity, a campaigner who has a proven track record in taking on the establishment and achieving success.
“I believe that person is Steve and I look forward to working and campaigning with him.”
Mr Rotheram said he had received backing from various colleagues before announcing his intention to run.
He said: “Today I have confirmed that it is my intention to put my name forward for the Labour Party’s nomination for the Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor.
“I have received such an overwhelming number of individuals and organisations who have contacted me encouraging me to do what they believe would be the right thing for the whole city region and its people.
“I have a positive vision for the future of our area and would adopt a ‘No borough left behind’ approach.
“I passionately believe that under my Mayoralty, Merseyside will be region reborn. Where no one is shut out, left behind or told they do not matter. Everyone will have a stake in our future helping create an ambitious, forward looking and united region.
“It will be my intention to be ‘fully inclusive’ and to consult with Councillors, Local Stakeholders, MPs and other authorities on a regular basis about the policy making process.
“I will be announcing a number of policy priorities over the coming weeks that will provide the basis for my manifesto for change and outline my strategic vision for the City Region.”