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Labour’s Historic Win in West Midlands Mayoral Race Signals Shift in Political Momentum

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Election outcomes: Labour's capture of a key Conservative stronghold signals a shift in dynamics

The victory in a critical area, once considered a Conservative bastion similar to Boris Johnson's 2021 triumph in Hartlepool, which was a significant setback for Sir Keir Starmer, now marks a severe blow for Andy Street as well as for Rishi Sunak.

Political editor @BethRigby

Sunday, May 5, 2024, 3:

The margin was razor-thin, yet the triumph was monumental.

The significance of Labour's capture of the West Midlands mayoralty, previously a stronghold for the Conservatives, resonated palpably among the Labour supporters who convened in Birmingham to rejoice in their victory alongside the newly elected mayor, Richard Parker, and the Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer.

During election campaigns, there are instances where the tide turns – and this victory seemed to be just that moment.

"Sir Keir expressed his gratitude at the victory rally, saying, 'We respectfully requested that [the voters] place their trust and confidence in a transformed Labour Party, and they responded. This marks a noteworthy moment in political history that we've created today.'"

"The key takeaway from these recent elections, the final ones before the upcoming general election, is that the nation is seeking change."

"It is my hope that the prime minister is paying attention and will allow the entire nation to participate in a general election at the earliest opportunity."

This victory provided the momentum they lacked after their triumph in the Blackpool South by-election, where they achieved a significant 26-point swing, yet fell short of securing the numerous council seats they had targeted.

What are the responsibilities of the Mayor of Birmingham?

During an appearance on the Electoral Dysfunction podcast, Jess Phillips, the Labour MP representing Birmingham Yardley, downplayed the significance of the mayoral duties:

She remarked, "Nobody cares that Birmingham has a mayor."

"It's completely and utterly irrelevant to all of us—I really can't emphasize that enough. In terms of political involvement in Birmingham, I'd say I'm among the top 10 most engaged individuals. Yet, I have no idea what Andy Street's responsibilities are.

In Birmingham, authority over the police is not within its remit, nor does it handle health-related issues. In contrast, Andy Burnham, similar to Transport for London, oversees a much larger organization.

"Our mayor's management of the bus system leaves much to be desired. Additionally, we have our own police and crime commissioner, who seems to have little influence over their responsibilities. It feels quite ineffective."

Tune into the Electoral Dysfunction podcast by clicking this link.

This victory, secured by a margin of only 1,508 votes or 0.25 percent of the total votes, dealt a significant setback to the Conservative party, which had hoped to narrowly maintain its hold. Ben Houchen, the mayor of Tees Valley, remains the sole Conservative representative still in office.

For the Labour Party, a moment to mark.

In a candid conversation this week, Sir Keir Starmer reflected on the 2021 Hartlepool by-election, describing it as a particularly tough moment. He admitted he contemplated stepping down after the defeat, believing he was hindering Labour's comeback. Similarly, this recent blow will not only be a setback for Andy Street, but also for the Prime Minister.

Labour has triumphed over him in a direct confrontation. He's left battered, with Sir Keir now more confident.

"A senior Labour member expressed, "This outcome was crucial for us. It has been our primary concern over the last week and represents a significant symbolic victory."

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Labour was in dire need of a positive shift, and as highlighted by Professor Michael Thrasher during his analysis on Sky News, the national vote share projections derived from local election outcomes showed that Sir Keir Starmer was not achieving the same level of voter support that Tony Blair secured prior to the 1997 Labour landslide victory.

His most recent estimate shows Labour at 35% and the Tories at 26% in voter support, positioning Sir Keir as likely to win a general election, though without a full majority.

For further details: Andy Street, a Conservative, faces an unexpected defeat. Graphs illustrate the downfall of the Conservatives. Analysis: The path ahead for Labour remains uncertain.

Stay ahead with the latest breaking news updates.

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The victory in the West Midlands mayoral race provided Sir Keir with a compelling narrative, signaling his determination to challenge the Tories and do whatever necessary to defeat them.

This situation inevitably leads to speculation about the future of Rishi Sunak. The prime minister found himself in a tight spot today, with no victories to his name. Following the poorest showing in local elections in four decades, the situation was already grim even before Andy Street's defeat. The ex-Conservative mayor, however, graciously absolved the prime minister of responsibility, claiming the defeat was solely his own.

However, fellow party members are less forgiving. A previous cabinet member described the defeat as "devastating." "We're finished, and there's no desire to challenge him," a high-ranking MP stated. Numerous Conservatives have expressed to me their acceptance of the impending loss, feeling that Mr. Sunak and his group must take responsibility, instead of placing the burden on the entire party.

In the days ahead, we can expect some turbulence, and the atmosphere may be quite tense. However, Conservatives assure me that there won't be significant shifts in their situation.

Sir Keir must now focus on promoting his plan for transforming the nation, rather than merely highlighting the transformations within the Labour Party. The victory of the West Midlands mayor was impressive, yet it was a close call. While Mr. Sunak struggles to maintain his position, Labour must continue to exert significant effort to secure a victory.

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