Conservatives' Andy Street becomes first ever West Midlands Mayor

Conservative candidate Andy Street has won the first ever West Midlands Mayoral Election.

In a narrow contest, the former boss of John Lewis beat Labour's Sion Simon by just 3,766 votes. Mr. Street said he thought the ongoing unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn being Labour leader had helped him win.

"Undoubtedly the comparison of the two national leaders has helped here," he said, adding it was the beginning of a "new, urban Conservative agenda".

He polled a total of 238,625 votes, compared to Mr. Simon's 234,862, but little more than one in four people voted, with a turnout of 26.8% amounting to a total of 523,201 votes cast.

In the Black Country, Sandwell had the lowest turnout with 23.27%. 25.24% of voters turned out in Dudley, with Wolverhampton at 25.21% and 24.6% in Walsall.

The new mayor has pledged to eradicate youth unemployment, deliver 25,000 new houses and to invest in public transport.

Following his victory, he vowed to tell Prime Minister Theresa May that the West Midlands "is a region that is going places" that needs more investment to make it even more successful.

Mr Simon who is a Labour Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands, criticised his own party, saying it was out of touch nationally.

"What we have heard coming from the doorsteps time and time again during this campaign is that traditional Labour supporters tell us that they're not feeling confident enough that we, in Labour, are strong enough with traditional Labour values," he said.

But the former Birmingham Erdington MP refused to blame Mr. Corbyn and did not rule out standing again in three years' time.

Mr Street will have powers over economic development, education and skills, housing and transport and head the new West Midlands Combined Authority.

Voters had placed first and second choices for their preferred candidate in the ballot boxes, with first choice requiring 50% of the total vote to win outright.

But, by about 14:00 on Friday, when four out of the seven councils taking part had declared, it was clear neither candidate had secured 50% of the vote and that the final result would be decided after second choices had been taken into account, though in Sandwell, out of the approximate 9,000 people who voted in first round, only half cast valid second preferences.

Mr. Simon won Coventry, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Sandwell, while Mr. Street won Walsall, Dudley and Solihull.

Beverley Nielsen came third for the Liberal Democrats with 30,378, while UKIP's Pete Durnell was close behind in fourth with 29,051 votes. The Green Party's James Burn came fifth with 24,260, while Graham Stevenson of the Communist Party polled 5,969 votes.

Officials said that more than 7,000 ballots had been spoiled.


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