Written by Chris Midgley
Senior Account Executive
4th May 2017 was a historic day for several regions across the North. Liverpool, Manchester, Tees Valley and the West Midlands (which is in the North if you’re in London but South if you’re in Newcastle) all chose directly elected Mayors for the first time.
Turnout was very low across all of these regions with Greater Manchester seeing the highest with 28.9% voters making it to the polls. While low turnout would normally boost the favourite’s chances, as it did in Liverpool and Manchester, both the West Midlands and Tees Valley threw up surprise results.
Conservative Andy Street, former John Lewis chief, won in the West Midlands against former Labour MEP Sion Simon, who is most often remembered for his YouTube parody of David Cameron’s ‘Webcameron.’ Simon started well with several of the early results in his favour, including Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, but having distanced himself from the Corbyn wing of the Labour party his campaign lacked ‘boots on the ground’. Many Momentum and Trade Union activists weren’t involved and, when faced with the well-oiled Tory campaign machine, coupled with comparatively high turnout in Conservative areas such as Solihull Simon’s bid for Mayor fell short by just under 4000 votes.
Tees Valley was undoubtedly the shock of the day with the Conservative candidate, Ben Houchen, taking the mayoralty that should have been easily Labour’s.
Labour candidate Sue Jeffrey was the clear favourite to become Tees Valley’s first Metro Mayor, with Labour receiving nearly 44% of the vote in the 2015 General Election (the Tories received 29.8%), winning eight out of nine Westminster seats, and four out five local authorities in the region are under their control, further showing how dominant the party is in the region. It appears however that Theresa May’s stance on Brexit coupled with some distinctly un-Tory policies won over the voters. Houchen pledged to renationalise the Peel Airports and abolish Cleveland Police, in what I can only assume was a 2010 LibDem moment (promise whatever you want because you don’t think you’ll have to deliver).
It will be very interesting to see how the Tees Valley story develops, and how many of his manifesto pledges Houchen can deliver on, but for now I am sure the Conservatives will just focus on a win no one expected them to have.
The North West
Liverpool and Greater Manchester were more predictable with Labour romping home as Steve Rotheram took 59% of the vote and Andy Burnham 63%. In fact, Labour were so confident in Manchester they organised a celebration rally hours before the count ended. Burnham has already spoken about ‘a radical rewrite’ of the GMSF, something which will likely not be welcomed by Greater Manchester’s property industry.
Rotheram’s victory has been somewhat marred by the fallout with Liverpool’s city mayor Joe Anderson, who had tried to secure the selection for Rotheram’s job and then subsequently the Liverpool Walton Westminster constituency. A statement made on social media by Anderson highlighted the gaping fissures within the Labour party and has been the subject of several articles when the Party’s press office would want the focus to be on the few positives that came on 5th May.
I describe Labour’s victories in Liverpool and Manchester as unfortunate because it simply reiterates to the electorate that some elections are forgone conclusions and therefore not worth participating in, remember 82% of Greater Manchester’s electorate did not vote for Andy Burnham. Just over a week ago our Northern Director, Kevin Whitmore, asked, “Mayoral Elections: Does Anyone Care?” based on the turnout, the answer is a resounding no.
Remarkable Group has produced a handy guide to the key powers held by the new Mayors in each City Region. You can download or request a paper copy here.