Andy Street won the West Midlands mayoralty in 2017 by the slimmest of margins, with 50.4 percent of the vote to Labour’s 49.6 percent in the second round. He has been re-elected by a far more comfortable margin: 54 percent in the second round, and was within eight thousand votes of winning on the first round.
Street’s success is part of the broader English political realignment. Just look at his vote share in the Black Country. But he also has a distinct political style, emphasising his business experience – he’s the former boss of John Lewis – and a more consensual approach. Voters have clearly decided that they prefer this style to the more traditional, partisan posturing of the Labour candidate, former Cabinet Minister Liam Byrne. Tellingly, he ran considerably ahead of the Tory candidate for Police and Crime commissioner.
It is also striking that Street has cut Labour’s margin in Birmingham, the second largest city in the country. Indeed, Street’s advances with ethnic minority voters has interesting lessons for the Tory party as a whole.
Street had hoped to run for re-election on his economic record. But the Covid downturn put paid to that. The test for Street now is what kind of recovery he can help foster in the West Midlands and whether he can deliver on his promise of bringing a giga-factory for electric car batteries to the region, which is essential if the West Midlands automotive industry is to thrive.
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