The UK General Election - 4th July 2024

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A new Mayor in the West Midlands – it’s never happened before.

Will Savage

Director - Head of Birmingham

The Conservative Party had a well-defined communications strategy for the local elections. Forget councils, the real battle was in Tees Valley and the West Midlands. Retain the mayoralties and it would be an OK showing.

An odd strategy, given that both Ben Houchen (Tees Valley) and Andy Street (West Midlands) ran, really, as independents. Ben Houchen ‘forgot’ to wear his blue rosette to the count.

Nevertheless, as Houchen was returned it seemed to be paying dividends. Until, of course, Labour’s Richard Parker toppled Andy Street by a mere 1,500 votes.

A strange sort of victory for Labour, given the party’s share of the vote fell by around 1% (compared to Andy’s 11% drop). The independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob, running on a pro-Gaza platform, took chunks from Labour’s Muslim vote. A warning shot for Labour HQ.

Incumbency is a powerful electoral force for Metro Mayors, and there is no doubt Andy Street was a force of personality. On the day, it was simply not enough to combat the national trend.

Nevertheless, It’s not clear the Labour Party ever truly thought it could win. Kier Starmer was hurriedly bussed over from watching football in a pub somewhere in the East Midlands once it became clear a Labour victory was possible.

So, to Richard Parker. There is no doubt he understands the West Midlands Combined Authority. He was part of its creation, as a partner at PwC. With power now over skills, transport, and housing the focus of his campaign has been about creating opportunity and delivering more social housing.

For the region, the coming months must be a period of re-calibration. The Mayor has never changed hands before. As a professional community, we need to learn how to pivot and respond to changing agendas. We have become comfortable in our relationships with a single Mayor, with a consistent approach.

If the region is to succeed, then Richard must succeed. It’s our job to support him.

Elsewhere in the West Midlands, there was some change, but nothing seismic. Rugby Borough Council, already under No Overall Control, became more evenly balanced between Conservative, Labour, and the Lib Dems – whilst the door is not closed on a Lab/Lib Dem coalition, an informal agreement between all the parties seems likely.

The Conservatives lost each of the wards they contested to Labour in Coventry, whilst in Solihull the Conservative vote held up well with little overall change. Labour strongholds in the Black Country were never in doubt.

With a Labour Mayor now in place, and Labour councils strengthened, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Coventry in particular will now look to flex their muscles. The relationship between the council and the Mayor will define Richard Parkers tenure in the West Midlands.

Thanking our veterans for today’s General Election announcement

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