From Sadiq Khan to Andy Street: All the metro mayors fighting for their posts on May 2

Ten mayoral posts are up for election on Thursday, representing 44 per cent of the English population

Albert Toth
Tuesday 30 April 2024 19:41 BST
Sadiq Khan taunts Donald Trump during Eid celebrations

On May 2, the country will go to the polls as local elections get underway.

Alongside the thousands of local councillors, many voters will also pick their candidate for regional metro mayor. Ten of 12 positions are up for grabs this year, representing around 44 per cent of the English population.

Metro mayors are directly-elected leaders who chair combined authorities in the UK. These authorities have powers that are devolved from central government, covering areas such as transport, business support, and sometimes housing, crime and health.

There are currently ten metro mayors in the UK, but this will rise to 12 after the May 2 elections. A new mayoral post has been created for the East Midlands, while the North of Tyne combined authority will be absorbed into the new larger North East authority.

Here’s everything you need to know about the UK’s eight metro mayors facing election battles on May 2:

Sadiq Khan, London

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan urged young people to vote on May 2 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan urged young people to vote on May 2 (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Sadiq Khan was first elected Mayor of London in 2016, following 11 years as the Labour MP for Tooting. He was re-elected in 2021 with 55 per cent of the vote, beating out Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith.

The Greater London Authority was the first combined authority established in the UK, forming in 2000. It remained the only authority of its kind until 2017, when six more mayors were elected across the country.

As an MP, Khan was appointed transport minister in 2009, becoming both the first Muslim and first Asian MP to attend cabinet.

During his two terms as London’s mayor, Khan has made transport and green policies a priority, bringing in several key reforms. These include periodic ‘freezes’ to TfL fares, reduced bus fares within an hour, and an ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ), which excludes high-pollution vehicles from central areas in the capital.

Born in London in 1970, 53-year-old Khan’s parents moved to the capital from Pakistan in the 1960s. He went to a state school in Tooting before studying law at the University of North London (now London Metropolitan University).

Khan subsequently worked as a solicitor specialising in human rights, chairing the advocacy group Liberty for three years. He was a councillor for the London borough of Wandsworth from 1994 to 2006.

Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham (PA Archive)

Andy Burnham was elected the first Mayor of Manchester during the 2017 local elections, securing re-election in 2021. The Labour politician gained over 60 per cent of the vote for both years.

A lifelong Labour member, Mr Burnhan was born in the Merseyside town of Aintree, and raised in Culcheth – a north Cheshire town located between Liverpool and Manchester. In 2001, he ran in the Greater Manchester seat of Leigh, winning with a majority of over 16,000.

After a first term on the backbenches, the Manchester MP would see a number of promotions from 2005 to 2008, eventually being appointed to the cabinet by then-prime minister Gordon Brown.

After Labour’s 2010 general election defeat, Mr Burnham remained in the Labour shadow cabinet from 2015 to 2017. During this time, he launched two unsuccessful Labour leadership campaigns, losing out to Ed Milliband in 2010, and Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

In 2016, the Labour MP announced that he was running as the party’s candidate for the newly-created position of Mayor of Greater Manchester. He secured a majority of 359,352 at the 2017 election.

Mr Burnham’s tenure as mayor has seen him focus on issues such as homelessness and public transport, donating 15 per cent of his salary to homeless charities, and making Manchester the first place in England to bring its buses into public control.

During the Covid pandemic, Mr Burnham engaged in a fierce public standoff with Boris Johnson’s government over funding for Greater Manchester as the area was placed under new lockdown restrictions. His handling of the situation earned him the title of “King of the North” from several media outlets.

Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region

Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram
Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram (Getty Images)

Steve Rotheram was elected Liverpool’s first mayor in 2017, and re-elected in 2021, both times securing just under 60 per cent of the vote.

The 62-year-old entered politics in 2002, serving as a Labour councillor in Liverpool for 18 years. In 2010, he became MP of Liverpool Walton, retaining his seat in 2015 before resigning in 2017 to take up his mayoral post.

As an MP, Mr Rotheram was often an advocate for Liverpool. In 2011, he read out the names of all 96 confirmed victims of the Hillsborough disaster in the House of Commons, and called on the government to release all papers relating to the disaster – which they did the following year.

During his tenure as mayor, Mr Rotheram has focused on improving Liverpool’s transport infrastructure and introducing green initiatives. In 2019, Liverpool beacome the first combined authority to declare a climate emergency and set net zero target of 2040.

Born in the Merseyside town of Kirkby in 1961, Mr Rotheram left school aged 16 to become a bricklayer, setting up his own construction company at 22. He later returned to education, studying at Liverpool Hope and Liverpool John Moores Universities and becoming a business manager before joining politics.

In 2009, then-Lord Mayor Rotheram revealed he was at the Hillsborough stadium during the 1989 disaster, saying: “I’m one of the fortunate ones, as I swapped my Leppings Lane ticket for a stand seat 15 minutes before kick-off”.

“If I can go from being a brickie in Kirkby to the Lord Mayor, who knows what these 96 people may have achieved in their lives?”

Andy Street, West Midlands

West Midlands mayor Andy Street
West Midlands mayor Andy Street (PA Wire)

Following a long and successful career in business, Andy Street became Mayor of the West Midlands in 2017. Born in 1963, he grew up around Birmingham before studying at Oxford and entering a line of jobs with high street retailer John Lewis.

Mr Street was the managing director of John Lewis for nine years, from 2007 to 2016. During this time, the company doubled both its sales and number of stores. He started his career at the John Lewis Partnership in 1985 as a graduate trainee, rising through the ranks over the next 22 years until his appointment to the top job.

The West Midlands mayor has been accredited for his business savvy in the past, advising David Cameron’s Conservative government on business, as well as receiving a CBE in 2015 for services to the economy.

During his tenure as mayor, Mr Street has said he wants to growing the regional economy and ensure spending between the West Midlands and London becomes more equal.

Some critics have accused Mr Street of attempting to distance himself from the Conservative party – which is trailing in the polls – as he has said he is promoting “Brand Andy, the individual”.

The mayor was recently embroiled in a row with Labour council chiefs across the West Midlands, accusing several of ‘gutter politics’ after they signed a loss of confidence letter in him for attacking cash-strapped local councils during his campaign.

Mr Street is the UK’s first and only openly gay metro mayor, and shares a holiday home with Lichfield’s Tory MP Michael Fabricant, who has described him as a ‘life partner’.

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen (PA Archive)

Ben Houchen was elected as Mayor of the Tees Valley after winning the 2017 mayoral election, securing a narrow victory of 51.1 per cent. Mr Houchen was re-elected in 2021, securing 72.8 per cent of the vote, a swing of 33.3.

Born and raised around Stockton-on-Tees, the 37-year-old is the youngest elected metro mayor in the country. Before his election, Mr Houchen had ran two unsuccessful political campaigns, coming fourth in the 2012 Middlesborough by-election for the Tories, and losing out to UKIP in the North East region for the 2014 European parliament electons.

As Tees Valley mayor, Mr Houchen has focused on regional development. In 2017, he brought Teeside International Airport back into public ownership, acquiring it for £40m. A further £30m was spent on the project when the airport subsequently operated at a severe loss in 2019/20.

In 2023, an independent review of the Teesworks regeneration scheme, overseen by Mr Houchen, found the project was lacking transparency and not providing value for public money. This came after it was found private companies owned 90 per cent of the shares – making over £100m in dividends and cash – despite hundreds of millions of taxpayer money going into the project.

Prior to entering politics, Mr Houchen launched a company which sells clothing to football clubs. He is a qualified solicitor, previously specialising in commercial litigation and employment law.

Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin
West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin (PA)

Elected in 2021, Tracy Brabin is the UK’s only female metro mayor. She started her political career in 2016 after working in British television for over 25 years.

Born in Batley, Ms Brabin has publicly supported the Labour party since 1997. In 2016, the 62-year-old ran as the sole candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election which was triggered by the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. She paid tribute to the late politician in her maiden speech in the House of Commons calling her “inspirational”.

Ms Brabin retained her seat at both the 2017 and 2019 general elections, holding frontbench positions in the Labour party under both Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer. She resigned in 2021 after her successful mayoral campaign.

During the 1990s, Ms Brabin became a well-known actress for her roles on British soap operas, particularly Coronation Street in which she featured for 195 episodes. From the 2000s onwards, she also found success in screen writing, penning episodes of popular TV shows such as Heartbeat, Crossroads and Hollyoaks.

As West Yorkshire mayor, Ms Brabin has pledged to improve the region’s transport network, and follow Manchester’s steps in bringing buses under public control. Her campaigning is focused on community projects and arts funding, as well as increasing opportunities for young people.

Oliver Coppard, South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard
South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard (Getty Images)

Oliver Coppard was elected as the Labour Co-op Mayor of South Yorkshire during the 2022 local elections. He previously ran unsuccessfully against former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg as Labour’s candidate for Sheffield Hallam in 2015.

During his tenure as Mayor, Mr Coppard has announced £2.2m funding to ensure all children aged 0-5 in have a safe place to sleep in the region. The 42-year-old also oversaw the authority’s move to bring the South Yorkshire supertram under public control.

Mr Coppard’s career outside of party politics has largely focused on policy development and campaigning. Since 2002 he has worked with the Labour party, for Barnsley Council, for Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and for the charity BookTrust. He is also the Board Chair at the Sheffield Hallam Students' Union.

In the past, Mr Coppard has worked for the pro-EU campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe, and also worked briefly on Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential re-election campaign in the US.

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne

North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll
North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll (PA Media)

Jamie Driscoll ran as the Labour Co-op candidate for North of Tyne mayor in 2019, securing 56 per cent of the vote. He was backed by left-wing figures like MP John McDonnell and Noam Chomsky, alongside several unions.

Despite his victory, Mr Driscoll quit the party last year. This came after he was barred by Labour officials from standing for re-election, a move the party says was simply due to the “very high standard” it sets for candidates.

Mr Driscoll will now stand as an independent candidate in the new North East combined authority, which expands the authority to include local authorities Gateshead, South Tyneside, Durham and Sunderland. He will run against Labour’s new candidate, Kim McGuinness.

On the day he was elected, Mr Driscoll declared a climate emergency. He has pledged to boost employment figures in the region, implement new green policies, and improve transport links in the area. He is a vocal supporter of progressive national policies such as public ownership of utilities, a wealth tax, and universal basic income.

Fellow metro mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram both criticised Labour’s decision to block Mr Driscoll from standing for the party again, calling it undemocratic.

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