With the polls closed, counting is well under way on the bonanza of parliamentary, mayoral and local authority elections across England and Wales. The results of these races will have a major impact on the post-Covid recovery and on the government’s levelling up agenda.
Camargue is providing commentary on the outcomes of the races for England's metro mayors and Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliament as the results roll in, to provide you with the context that really matters.
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Below you can find out more about the key races declared so far. We'll update this page as more results come in.
North of England
Conservatives gain Hartlepool
Kat Wingate on the Hartlepool by-election
In a historic election, the people of Hartlepool have elected Jill Mortimer, the first Conservative (and first female) MP for this constituency. Hartlepool has been a Labour held seat throughout its 47-year history, even through the 2019 General Election when the Conservative Party made strong inroads into the former Red Wall in the North.
Critics of Sir Keir Starmer have said that the race was Labour's to lose, seeing the election as a test of his leadership. A significant drop in Labour’s vote share from the previous election does potentially speak more to disenchantment with the party at a local level than the persuasive power of a Conservative future. Yet the Conservative share of the vote has been steadily increasing in recent general elections, with Labour holding the seat in the last two elections due only to UKIP and Brexit Party splitting the right wing vote.
However, the popularity of the incumbent Conservative Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, should not be overlooked as a key factor for voters in this by-election. Hartlepool is one of the five local authorities represented by the Tees Valley Combined Authority, an area which has benefited from recent government funding hailed as a product of Conservative local government working closely with national leadership. It seems voters in this north east seat wanted in on the action and the benefits reaped by neighbouring constituencies returning a Conservative MP in 2019.
Burnham burns bright in otherwise dark election for Labour
Thomas Parfitt on the outcome of Greater Manchester's election for metro mayor
Labour’s Andy Burnham has been re-elected as mayor of Greater Manchester with an increased vote share. On 67 per cent of the vote, he stood well clear of the 20 per cent won by Conservative opponent Laura Evans. While most of Labour’s results across the country this election have been undeniably disappointing, the party leadership can look to Burnham as an example of how Labour can still connect with voters. He seems to have cracked the code, with a powerful combination of a strong personal brand and a clear set of policies centred on local priorities, such as tackling homelessness and reforming Manchester’s transport network.
Burnham used his victory speech to call for greater English devolution, and to criticise Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda. He argued that Johnson should learn from his policies in Manchester what England’s regions really need and want. In a later interview, Burnham restated his interest in a future Labour leadership bid – saying that if Labour needed him, “they should get in touch”. For now, his stated priority is delivering the local change he has promised in his manifesto – including creating a London-style franchised bus system, introducing a clean air zone over the city, and building 50,000 new affordable homes. In the meantime, both Labour and Conservative leaderships will be closely analysing the success of the ‘King in the North’, and what lessons can be learnt for elections to come.
Liverpool stays red with Rotheram
Roxy Blake on the contest for Liverpool City Region mayor
Labour incumbent Steve Rotheram secured a first round win, with a solid 59 per cent of the Liverpool City Region vote share. Rotheram won over 50 per cent of the vote in every part of the city region – an improvement on his 2017 performance.
His #Nooneleftbehind campaign seems to have chimed with voters, communicating a vision for a fair post-pandemic recovery. Media focus on Labour’s Hartlepool loss has distracted from the party’s success in Liverpool (and elsewhere in the north west). Yet, regardless of how party politics plays out nationally, Rotheram has his work cut out for him to ensure his devolution-focused policies of job and skills investment as well as, transport, and cultural revival really do deliver for the region.
The Conservatives’ Jade Marsden with 19 per cent of the vote was a distant runner up. But there were encouraging signs for the Green Party which gained 7 per cent more of the vote than it had in 2017 – beating the Liberal Democrats to third place. Recovery and levelling up have dominated the narrative, but it’s clear that environmental policy is an increasingly important factor for voters.
Friends in high places
Kat Wingate on the Tees Valley metro mayor
In today’s second big Conservative win in the north east, Conservative incumbent Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, has been re-elected with a thumping 73 per cent of the vote. It’s a remarkable transformation for the Conservatives in the region – the party polled just 30 per cent in the area as recently as 2015.
In the four years since he won a surprise narrow victory, Houchen has leant on his friendships in high places, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak (whose Yorkshire constituency of Richmond, borders the Tees Valley). There is little doubt that Houchen has put Tees Valley on the map with a series of investments, not least the 4,500 acre Freeport which could deliver up to 32,000 new jobs, promising prosperity to a region which has often been overlooked.
In a campaign that has largely been about jobs, Houchen has not missed the opportunity to promote his good Westminster connections. Delivering on the Levelling Up promise in Teesside has proved to be good for the Conservatives locally, a good indication for national policy in future.
Bittersweet win for Labour in West Yorkshire as tricky by-election looms
Ali Parker on the result of the region's first metro mayoral election
England has its first female metro mayor, as Labour’s Tracy Brabin comfortably won the inaugural West Yorkshire contest in the second round, with 60.1 per cent of the vote. Brabin had a commanding lead over the nearest challenger, the Conservative candidate Matthew Robinson, after the first round but failed to achieve the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off.
As West Yorkshire’s first metro mayor, Brabin will now have the opportunity to shape the role in the region. A devolution deal agreed with central government last year provided a £1.8 billion pot to drive investment in the area.
As the role includes the function of the police and crime commissioner as well, Brabin must resign as MP for Batley and Spen. This sets up another compelling by-election in a seemingly safe Labour seat. Although the seat is demographically very different to Hartlepool, Labour’s majority in the constituency is almost identical to the one it enjoyed in Hartlepool. Tactical calls – when to hold the by-election and who to select as a candidate – could prove vital for Labour’s chances of holding the seat.
Out of the blue
Ellie Hainsworth on the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough metro mayor election
An unexpected result has seen Labour candidate and NHS children’s doctor Nik Johnson elected as the next mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, beating incumbent Conservative mayor James Palmer in the second round. The new mayor himself has expressed his victory as a “surprise”.
Palmer won the first round with 40and a half per cent of the vote but failed to achieve a majority. He was ousted on second preference votes, with Nik Johnson favoured by votes reallocated after Liberal Democrat candidate Aidan van de Weyer was knocked out.
The Labour victory could have big implications for projects in the area. The Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro, championed by Palmer as the future of transport for the region, looks to be in jeopardy. Johnson promised to scrap the project and approach transport options with a fresh eye as one of his key pledges during the campaign.
The move away from the Conservatives was part of a regional trend, with the party also losing control of Cambridgeshire County Council (to no overall control).
Never knowingly under polled
Giles Venn on the outcome of the race for West Midlands Combined Authority mayor
With opinion polling suggesting a close contest for most of the early campaign, a win for either of the main parties heading into Thursday’s West Midlands Combined Authority vote wouldn’t have been considered a major shock. However, incumbent Andy Street’s comfortable defeat of Labour opponent Liam Byrne MP, taking 54 per cent of the vote after the second preference count, ultimately came as no surprise in the context of the Conservatives’ strong showing across the Midlands.
Street’s slick campaign together with his dynamic personal brand have been cited as key to his victory, helping him to pick up votes in former Labour strongholds such as Dudley and Walsall. The former John Lewis managing director made much of his strong links to business and track record on securing inward investment over the past four years – promising much in terms of rebuilding the region by way of 100,000 new jobs, improved transport infrastructure and supporting a greener economy. How he steps up to deliver this will be interesting to observe – Street has made no bones about his willingness to lobby Downing Street hard to ensure the Government’s levelling up investment does not bypass the West Midlands on its way to England’s other ‘blue wall’ regions.
South of England
Closer contest in London but Khan cruises home
Ben Lewis on the race for London's mayor
If a race can be both unprecedently one-sided and far closer than expected, London’s mayoral election was just that. Talk of a Khan victory in the first round proved premature, with his margin of victory in the end reduced. It was interesting to see that Shaun Bailey secured more first preference votes in two constituencies (Ealing and Hillingdon, and Brent and Harrow) where Khan won the most votes in 2016, Khan’s critics claiming a perceived weak record on crime, jobs and new homes having eroded support. Those in the mayor’s camp, however, point to a lower turnout (likely inspired by the pandemic) as being the sole reason for Khan’s reduced performance, while noting that his margin of victory was greater than Boris Johnson’s re-election in 2012.
Ultimately, the reality likely falls somewhere in the middle, with Labour’s overwhelming popularity (and in many cases tribal unpopularity of the Conservative government) in the capital allowing Khan to take a comfortable victory, while tough questions over his record and accusations of a ‘style over substance’ approach failed to do too much damage.
Though his victory was clear, Khan’s claim to an ‘overwhelming mandate’ is perhaps excessive, but Londoners will doubtless be keen to see his promises for a ‘greener, fairer and safer’ London put into action.
Labour wins the four horse race
Michael Philps on the race to be West of England metro mayor
In one of only two mayoralties to change hands this election, Labour’s Dan Norris secured a surprisingly comfortable win in the West of England. Norris’s existing profile locally, having previously been an MP in the region for over a decade, played an important part in his success. There had also been a feeling in the region that not enough progress had been made by the previous mayor, Conservative Tim Bowles (who decided not to re-stand).
Conservative mayoral candidate Samuel Williams made the second round but second preference votes overwhelmingly went to Labour. The Bristol area, a traditional Labour stronghold, saw a significant rise in turn out, helping Norris’s cause. He was also able to drive a Labour resurgence in Bath and North East Somerset, a region that voted convincingly in favour of the Conservatives in 2017.
Although a distant third, the Green Party result is notable too. The party achieved a fifth of the vote in the first round, comfortably ahead of the Liberal Democrats. They had even greater success in the race for Bristol City Council, where the Greens gained 14 seats and are now the joint biggest party. As the Greens aim to gather momentum across England and Wales, Bristol (and the West of England more broadly) could point to the types of places where the party could become a major electoral force.
During the campaign, Norris promised a jobs and skills summit and a Green Recovery Plan within his first 100 days as mayor, as well as improving public transport in the longer term. With victory achieved, he’ll now be under pressure to deliver or risk giving his political opponents the opportunity they need to take advantage in four years’ time.
Labour matches best ever result to avoid coalition
Luke Aldridge on the outcome of the Senedd Cymru election
Welsh Labour exceeded both the polls and the wider UK narrative to achieve its joint-best ever result in a Senedd election. The party won 30 seats, as voters rewarded Mark Drakeford for his response to the pandemic. Although the party is one seat shy of a majority, it has suggested it intends to govern as a minority and work with opposition parties on a ‘case by case’ basis.
With powers for responding to the pandemic devolved to the Welsh Government, its handling of the crisis over the past 15 months has helped it build a reputation for competence and good governance. It’s that approach that is being attributed to helping the party keep hold of a number of those seats that pundits identified as under threat from the Conservatives. In the end, the Conservatives only managed to capture one of these seats - Vale of Clwyd. Labour’s gain of a North Wales regional seat and reclaiming Rhondda from former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, also helped secure the party’s victory
Despite only converting one Labour seat, the Conservatives did record their best ever result with 16 seats, up five from the previous election, cementing themselves as the official opposition.
Elsewhere, it was a disappointing night for Plaid Cymru, which despite performing strongly in its north west heartlands and increasing its number of votes, failed to make major inroads and gained just one seat. The Liberal Democrats make up the other party in the Senedd, with Welsh Lib Dem leader, Jane Dodds, gaining a regional seat after the party lost its only constituency seat to the Conservatives.
Labour’s success means it will press forward with its pledges in its ‘Moving Wales forward’ manifesto, to create jobs for the under 25s and work towards a greener future for Wales. How Labour is able to work with opposition parties over the next few years will provide a fascinating subtext.