Conservative Andy Street has been re-elected mayor of the West Midlands, taking 54% of the vote after a second round of counting.
When Street first won the role in 2017 he narrowly beat Labour by less than 4,000 second preference votes. This time round, Street defeated Hodge Hill Labour MP, Liam Byrne, by 47,043 votes.
In his victory speech, the former John Lewis director Street said he would waste no time “in addressing the deep-seated issues exposed by the pandemic”, with the support of a prime minister and government firm in their belief in ‘levelling up.’
Speaking to the Guardian, Street said: “I’m honoured and really pleased it’s a clear result, there’s clearly a mandate there for us to get on and do what we want to do.”
He said “it’s incredible story of a party revival” in the West Midlands, with the Conservatives also making gains across a number of local authorities.
“We have really built this up from a no hope situation. People laughed at me when I left John Lewis but I knew we could build something, there was potential,” he said.
Street, who lost his mother to Covid in February, added: “It’s been tough here the last 15 months and there’s been lots of tragedies, but we’ve got to focus on recovery.”
Conceding defeat, Byrne issued a strong rallying cry after a tough few days for the Labour party: “I know that this is a bitter blow. This defeat is my responsibility. We might have lost the battle today, but there will be no surrender in our fight to build back stronger and fairer and greener. And because our cause is justice, we will prevail in the end.”
Labour still won the most votes in Birmingham, Coventry and Sandwell, but the Conservatives made major gains in all areas, including in Dudley where Street almost doubled his majority from last time.
The election recorded a 31.23% turnout, up from 26.7% in 2017.
With the result predicted to be close, some suggested the West Midlands mayoral election would act as the best indication of whether Labour could win back many of the seats it lost in the 2019 general election, although the party’s defeat in Hartlepool on Friday has already shown it is in trouble.
Despite early polls suggesting a Conservative victory for West Midlands mayor, Byrne has been confident throughout the campaign, on Tuesday “we’re going to win” and that he had seen “a clear trend of people switching back to Labour” from the Tories.
Labour launched a huge grassroots campaign across the region in an attempt to boost their vote share, with Byrne vowing to make the region a leader in the green industrial revolution and saying his manifesto was “the greenest any Labour politician has ever run on”.
But the results on Saturday suggested the message had not cut through, with the majority of voters across the authority, which includes Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, choosing to back Street, who has promised to create 100,000 jobs in the region to help it bounce back from Covid.
Birmingham Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood on Friday suggested Labour would lose the election saying it “doesn’t look too brilliant for Byrne”, as he issued a scathing criticism of the party for becoming too London-centric.
In contrast to the mayoral election results, the Labour candidate Simon Foster was elected West Midlands police and crime commissioner, beating his Conservative rival, Jay Singh-Sohal, by more than 40,000 votes.