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Conservative Ben Houchen holds on as mayor in key Tees Valley race



Conservative Ben Houchen holds on as mayor in key Tees Valley race

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Conservative Lord Ben Houchen has held on to the Tees Valley mayoralty, offering a glimmer of hope for the prime minister in an in any other case grim set of native election outcomes.

Houchen, who has been mayor of the north-east area since 2017, beat Labour rival Chris McEwan with about 54 per cent of the vote on Friday to win a 3rd time period in workplace.

Talking on the depend in Stockton-on-Tees, Houchen stated he was “completely humbled”.

“To be re-elected for a 3rd time period in my own residence group is completely the best honour that anyone might ever give me,” he stated, including that he had fought a “very optimistic marketing campaign” with a “clear imaginative and prescient for the world”.

“I’m not sat right here pretending it’s good, however we’re making progress,” Houchen stated of the influence of his tenure within the Tees Valley.

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Houchen’s majority was slashed on his earlier margin in 2021, when he stormed to victory with 73 per cent of the vote.

However his victory, even on a lowered margin, was a boon to the Conservative social gathering nationally, as native election outcomes elsewhere thus far point out heavy Tory losses in councils throughout the nation.

Labour additionally comfortably received the Blackpool South constituency from the Tories on Thursday night time in a separate by-election.

A loss to Labour within the Tees Valley would have piled strain on Sunak from Tory backbench MPs.

McEwan stated he had nonetheless achieved a 17 per cent swing, arguing that was significantly greater than the opposition social gathering would want nationally to safe a basic election majority.

“I used to be combating an incumbent,” McEwan added of the explanations for his loss, “and somebody who was portraying himself as an unbiased.”

Since first profitable the Tees Valley mayoralty unexpectedly in 2017, Houchen has efficiently carved out a model distinct from the nationwide Tory social gathering.

He continued in that vein throughout this 12 months’s marketing campaign, in opposition to the backdrop of a nationally unpopular Conservative social gathering. At Friday’s depend Houchen claimed he “forgot” his blue rosette and denied “making an attempt to fake I’m not Conservative”.

“Folks know spherical right here that I’m a Conservative, however fortunately what we’ve seen at present is additionally they know that I’m a Teessider, and I’ll put Teesside first, I’ll put native individuals first and I’ll do what’s greatest for the native space,” he added.

Houchen’s seven-year time period thus far has been characterised by vital state intervention and subsidy, at odds with the more moderen Conservative philosophy in Westminster underneath Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

His choice in 2019 to nationalise the world’s airport proved immensely standard and stays so, regardless of the necessity for repeated taxpayer bailouts.

Nonetheless questions on monetary transparency on the Teesworks metal website, an enormous regeneration mission overseen by the mayor and closely criticised by an unbiased report in January, forged a shadow over his marketing campaign.

A vocal grassroots on-line anti-Houchen marketing campaign sprang up in opposition to him in consequence, whereas commercials selling him have been additionally daubed with graffiti, reflecting a extremely polarised native political local weather.

Within the marketing campaign’s closing week, two businessmen concerned in organising Teesworks previous to Houchen’s first election, Middlesbrough Soccer Membership proprietor Steve Gibson and former SABIC UK chair Paul Sales space, additionally launched a scathing assault on the mayor.

Regardless of the controversy, Labour had considered a win within the Tees Valley as bold.

Whereas some within the native social gathering machine privately imagine Labour headquarters had not taken the race significantly sufficient, McEwan stated there had been “an ideal crew effort regionally and nationally”.

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