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WM Mayor: day one and the aftermath

WM Mayor: day one and the aftermath

🕔08.May 2017

Here it is then. The first day in office for the first ever elected Mayor of the West Midlands, writes Kevin Johnson.

There is much to reflect on and much to ask about the next three years. But it would be churlish not start by congratulating Mr Street on his victory and to wish him well for his three years in office.

In an area awash with Labour MPs and Labour-led councils, a Conservative with no political experience pulled off a stunning victory.

In his winning speech he said:

What we have seen here today is what I would call the re-birth of a new urban conservative agenda.

It’s defined equally by its ambition, its breadth and also its sense of social responsibility.

It’s about economic success, but it’s also about shaping a region that works for everybody, however strong or weak they may be.

I want to be a Mayor who works for everyone across the West Midlands and binds all of our leaders together.

If Mr Street succeeds, there is a not only a chance further progress can be made on devolving more powers and budgets across the country but that the region will be better for his Mayoralty.

READ: New WMCA chair takes the helm – but what’s it been up to?

He ran, by any reasonable assessment, an incredibly effective campaign built on an excellent operation and an awful lot of belief and commitment from his supporters.

Yes, there are questions over whether money talked and it is clear Solihull (as well as Dudley and Walsall) was especially keen to return the former MD of John Lewis.

Given the margin of victory was less than 1%, we can point to a whole host of factors which may have proved decisive either way.

We touched on some of the key questions as we concluded our live reporting from the count.

READ: LIVE – West Midlands Mayor Election Results.

But no one is suggesting the new Mayor did anything other than play by the rules.

Round One:
James Burn – 24,260
Pete Durnell – 29,051
Beverley Nielsen – 30,378
Siôn Simon – 210,259
Graham Stevenson – 5,696
Andy Street – 216,280

Round Two:
Siôn Simon – 24,603
Andy Street – 22,348

Total:

Siôn Simon – 234,862

Andy Street -238,628

The full results can be seen at the official results page.

In typical Street style, even though technically today is the start of his term, he’s been quick off the blocks already with a visit from Prime Minister, Theresa May, as well as media interviews over the weekend.

Andy Street has reason to feel satisfied about turnout. Whilst we set up the Public Debates in order to help push turnout toward 20%, most of us did not even dream of reaching 26.68% whilst Mr Street stuck to his prediction of 30%. He must take a large degree of the credit for that outcome, given the visibility of his campaign regionally and nationally.

Now, just under 27% is nothing to shout about in general terms. It is significantly lower than for general elections and still quite a bit lower than turnout for council elections (33.6% last year).

In the six Metro Mayor elections held on Thursday, the West Midlands only ranked fourth for turnout.

But, this election was more than double the turnout for that of the first West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012.

Days and weeks will be spent pulling apart the data, with the parties trying to determine what the results in each ward mean for the General Election in exactly one month and for Birmingham city council’s first all-out election of 101 seats in a year’s time.

Labour will be particularly interested in what happened to the postal vote given the important role it plays, not least in a number of Birmingham wards.

The issue of the Supplementary Vote is particularly pertinent – for candidates and parties and for the Returning Officer and Electoral Commission. Chris Game has already started the debate on these pages.

READ: WM Mayor Election: where did the votes come from?

Will Siôn Simon be back? Chamberlain Files has it from a very good source that Mr Simon is already preparing himself for 2020. It may seem unlikely he would be Labour’s candidate again, but there is a lot of political water to wash under the bridge in the next three years.

READ: WM Election – what happened to the others?

Mr Simon and West Midlands Labour will, presumably, set about undertaking a review of the campaign – although minds may be focused elsewhere for the next month.

There is some talk that not enough MPs, councillors and activists were out campaigning.

The travails of the Labour Party at a national level cannot have helped Mr Simon. He was in an almost impossible position – strongly back Jeremy Corbyn and he would push even more centrist voters to Mr Street; distance himself (as he increasingly did) and fewer loyal party members would be there to lend a hand on the streets and phone banks.

As well as commenting on a campaign overshadowed by national issues and national politics and pointing to success in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry and Sandwell, Mr Simon said in his speech immediately after the result:

In these last months we did hear coming back from the doorstep a message from traditional Labour voters that they are not feeling confident that Labour…remains strong in the Labour values which are at the heart of our West Midlands.

And we in the Labour Party need to hear that message coming up from our people and we need to respond and we need to respond to it now.

But others close to the campaign will say that Mr Simon was slow out of the campaigning blocks, did not work hard enough, carried too much political baggage, was complacent and didn’t lead or inspire.

Even some of those who recognise his qualities would say that, in the end, he did not deserve to win.

Mr Street, famously, did win. But the really hard job of making the Mayoralty works starts today.

We say, good luck Mr Mayor!

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