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Local elections: The battleground mayoral contests across England this May

The Independent takes a look at some of the key mayoral battlegrounds and who is leading the race

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
@ashcowburn
Thursday 29 April 2021 17:21
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With voters heading to the polls next week on what is being dubbed “Super Thursday” in a swathe of elections across Great Britain, here The Independent examines some of the mayoral battlegrounds and who is leading the race.

Alongside London, there are twelve elections for regional (metro) and city mayors across the country, including Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West of England, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Coupled with the council elections and ballots for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, the contests will provide one of the first indicators of how the national parties are faring in the first major democratic exercise since the 2019 general election.

In London,Sadiq Khan, the incumbent Labour mayor, has been leading the polls in a contest many observers have treated as a foregone conclusion. His closest rival (there are 19 in total, including Count Binface) the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, has struggled to gain momentum in the race. A key question is whether Mr Khan will win outright on the first round of counting with over 50 per cent of the vote — something not achieved by any of his predecessors in the role.

Earlier this month a poll for the Evening Standard suggested Mr Khan could emerge with a landslide, with 51 per cent saying they were certain to support him. A more recent poll by ITV News, however, suggested the race has narrowed, with Mr Khan still on course for victory, but with 41 per cent of first preference votes.

Victory for Labour in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region appear all but certain, with veterans Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram seeking re-election as metro mayors next week. Both were key faces during a stand-off with government last year over coronavirus funding during local lockdowns.

There will also be an election for the mayor of Liverpool, which has attracted controversy over Labour’s selection process. After the resignation of the former mayor Joe Anderson, who stepped down in December after being arrested by police, prompting the party to find a replacement candidate.

However, three candidates, including the current deputy mayor, were excluded from the race to be selected, with no reason being given and the party saying only that it was “committed to ensuring members are able to choose the right candidate”. Labour denied accusations of a political stitch-up. Instead, the party eventually selected Joanne Anderson (no relation to Joe Anderson) for the candidate, and if elected next week asLiverpool City mayor, she will become the first black female leader of any major British city.

Over in Tees Valley, the Conservative incumbent Ben Houchen is seeking re-election and is defending his mayoral position from Labour’s candidate Jessie Joe Jacobs in a contest that will seen as a test of whether Sir Keir Starmer is beginning to make inroads on the “Red Wall” that helped Boris Johnson secure his Commons majority.

In the eight constituencies, which fall under the authority of the Tees Valley mayor, including Redcar, Sedgefield, and Darlington, five turned blue at the 2019 winter general election. At the 2017 vote Mr Houchen won the competition over his Labour rival by just over 2,000 votes. The prime minister will be hoping to retain a Tory mayor in the region in one of the first democratic tests since his landslide win in 2019. One to watch.

Another interesting battleground will be in the West Midlands where Tory incumbent, Andy Street, is also hoping to maintain his position as the region’s mayor. Labour rival Liam Byrne — a former government minister — was recently confident of victory, telling Sky News in a recent interview that many people in the Labour movement view the race in the West Midlands next week as “probably the most important race this year that Labour contends”. 

However, according to a recent poll, Mr Street, who has previously described the West Midlands as “where the Red Wall first crumbled”, is leading in the contest.

The Conservatives will also be defending their hold on the combined authority mayors of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and West of England — a region which entered the headlines recently after the prime minister failed to name the Tory candidate. For the first time in West Yorkshire, voters will have the chance to election a metro mayor.

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