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WM Mayor: What happened to the others?

WM Mayor: What happened to the others?

🕔08.May 2017

Inevitably, the focus on the contest for West Midlands Mayor is now all on the winner, Andy Street, with a bit of space left for the candidate who lost out by less than 1% of the vote, Siôn Simon.

Not much room for the other four candidates, including two who will not see their deposits returned having missed the magic 5% mark.

READ: WM Mayor – day one and the aftermath.

For Green James Burn that is particularly disappointing. Not necessarily for him – he told Chamberlain Files on Friday that he was pleased with the performance and that the party had successfully raised issues in the campaign.

Other candidates felt for him, though. He was widely liked and respected by his rivals and many of those who showed up to our Public Debates and other hustings.

Communist candidate Graham Stevenson was late to the campaign after having successfully crowdsourced his deposit. He was in the half of candidates who did not agree with the mayoral model, but stood anyway.

UKIP’s candidate, Pete Durnell, stood no hope in the face of a complete collapse of his party but did manage to get across the 5% line.

There was no campaign to speak of and there was a lack of detail to back up policy positions. But, Mr Durnell was personally active and worked hard to ensure he was represented at many hustings and in the media.

READ: LIVE – WM Mayor Election Results as it happened.

The most disappointed candidate was the Lib Dem’s Beverley Nielsen.

Overall, she polled just 5.89% of the vote. In Solihull, an area where the party has been strong, she won less than 7% of the electorate’s backing.

Given Ms Nielsen had given Mr Street a run for his money in terms of campaigning activity – from shoe leather to Tweeting frequency – it must be particularly galling.

That the two main party candidates both polled over 40% in Round One and no other candidate even reached 6% would seem surprising, particularly given the turbulent political times and the nature of a mayoral contest which is more personal.

Chris Game analyses the role of the Supplementary Vote elsewhere on these pages. But it seems clear that the ‘other’ candidates did not mange to communicate how voters could back for them first (with their heart, as per the French Presidential system), before exercising their second vote with a view to determining the outcome (a vote with the head).

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

On Round Two, as Chris highlights, many people did not exercise their second vote or use it in a way that might have affected the outcome.

Any candidate beginning to look at a run at 2020 will need to give their SV strategy much more consideration.

Beverley Nielsen’s campaign was full of ideas, sincerity and energy, but it lacked the level of resource and sophistication enjoyed by Andy Street and even Siôn Simon.

The media operation was patchy with changing names and, at times, schoolboy mistakes that would have done nothing to generate interest or credibility from the wider media.

The Lib Dems are famous for street politics, particularly at local elections and parliamentary by elections. But that didn’t seem to count for anything.

The Lib Dems are positioning themselves as the party of Single Market in the General Election and the same was true for Ms Nielsen. In theory, that positioning should have appealed to a number of Remainers – or at least the Remoaner element.

There was no #fightback here.

Ms Nielsen knows she needed to communicate simple and clear messages to cut through. For all her laudable efforts, she did not manage to achieve that this time around.

But, in an election dominated by Mr Street’s juggernaut momentum and campaign scale and an area that should, by precedent, have returned a Labour Metro Mayor, it was difficult for any other candidate to cut through.

READ: New WMCA Chair takes the helm – but just what has it been up to?

By 2020, the political landscape could look quite different. Parties and potential candidates should waste no time in analysing what went right and wrong in the Metro Mayor election of 2017 before setting out on a path to next time around.

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