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General Election 2017: Labour strong in Birmingham, but unstable times for devolution

General Election 2017: Labour strong in Birmingham, but unstable times for devolution

🕔09.Jun 2017

There have been many words used on Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, not least on these pages.

But, it’s high time we re-tuned our focus to home territory, writes Kevin Johnson. 

Nationally, the story is how well Mr Corbyn did. He exceeded all expectations, driving Labour’s share of the vote to 41% and adding 29 seats to the party’s tally.

In danger of expressing the obvious, he did not win – either on share of vote or the key criteria in our electoral system: seats.

But in Birmingham, Labour won. And won big.

We, in common with many observers, had factored in Edgbaston and Northfield as gains for the Conservatives before a single vote was cast. Erdington and Yardley were under threat too, but nowhere near as ‘certain.’

None of those seats changed hands.

In fact, Labour amassed a 62% vote share in Birmingham.

It is a performance nothing less than extraordinary, not least in the wake of Siôn Simon’s defeat to Andy Street just a few weeks ago.

Among the winners was Preet Gill, taking over from Gisela Stuart in Edgbaston, and becoming the first female Sikh MP. She will also be among the biggest cohort of women MPs in Parliament’s history.

Given the youth profile of Birmingham, we shouldn’t be surprised. It is thought youth turnout across the country reached 72%, with many attracted by Mr Corbyn’s policies.

Elsewhere in the patch, there were not too many changes. Labour did pick up Warwick and Leamington in a shock win, but the Tories took Walsall North, kicking out Labour stalwart David Winnick.

Ian Austin kept hold of Dudley North by just 22 votes. He has been one of Mr Corbyn’s fiercest critics.

Slightly further afield, Stoke-on-Trent South was won by the Conservatives.

Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor, benefitted from the patronage of Mrs May during his campaign. Earlier today, he called for Mrs May to stay in post, but suggested she would need to listen more.

Many saw that his relationship with Number 10 would benefit him and the region. That link is looking less useful right now.

Theresa May will struggle to hold onto office for very long and will have very little time to worry about the progress of Mr Street’s mayoralty or the next phase of devolution.

Nick Timothy, the PM’s joint chief of staff who is understood to have pressed for a snap election and been lead author of the ill-fated manifesto, is likely to be a target for many angry Tory MPs. He is unlikely to be in a position to help Mr Street or his hometown.

As one of the architects of the region’s devolution progress remarked to us earlier, devolution is now on the back foot – the council leaders will be happy.

Cllr Clancy, Birmingham’s Labour leader, is not a natural Corbynista. But he will be feeling far more positive about the prospects of his group at the first all-out council election next year. Meanwhile, his opposite number Cllr Robert Alden failed to take Erdington from Jack Dromey.

We are living through some very interesting times. It will take days and weeks for political developments to play out and for proper analysis to be undertaken on what has just happened.

One thing is clear – last night Labour won Birmingham.

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