Labour have gained the regional ‘Metro’ mayor position for the West of England from the Conservatives, in a result that bucks the national trend.
The winning candidate, former Government minister and local MP Dan Norris, cruised to victory in a second preference vote run-off against his Conservative rival Samuel Williams.
Already ahead by more than 12,000 first preference votes, Mr Norris gained even more of the second preference votes from eliminated Liberal Democrat and Green candidates, to win an outright majority.
We are still waiting to hear who will be mayor of Bristol for the next three years – you can get live election updates here.
He was first elected as an MP in the Labour Landslide of 1997, after two previous defeats in constituencies around Bristol. He held North East Somerset for 13 years, and his political career looked to be over when he was beaten by Jacob Rees Mogg in the 2010 General Election.
An unsuccessful attempt to be the Labour candidate for Mayor in 2012 followed, and he has been out of front-line politics ever since.
But now the 61-year-old has arguably the most powerful political position in the region, overseeing the combined authority for Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with control over key areas like region-wide transport, housing and the economy.
After his victory, Mr Norris said: “It’s a huge honour to be elected as Metro Mayor for an amazing part of the world that I am so proud to call home.
“I will show the difference an active Metro Mayor makes for our region. This role is about collaboration and I will be a Metro Mayor who listens carefully and works cooperatively. I’m determined to hit the ground running with a Jobs and Skills summit in my first 100 days and my Green Recovery Plan.
“I also know that the pandemic has been tough and as we build back, invest in jobs and our high streets, we must learn key lessons. Together we can create a society where we keep looking out for each other and value what’s truly important,” he added.
The WECA mayor position has been held by Conservative Tim Bowles since it was created in 2017. He stood down and did not seek a second term in the job, leaving the way for Conservative candidate Samuel Williams to step forward.
One of the key issues in the inbox of the new West of England Metro Mayor will be the subject of whether Bristol Airport should expand or not.
It is not the WECA Mayor’s decision, but their position on it will be important. North Somerset planners turned down the application for a huge expansion of the airport at Lulsgate, but the airport has since appealed, and there will be a public inquiry this summer with a Government planning inspector set to decide the issue.
Both previous WECA Mayor Tim Bowles and Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said they supported the airport expansion, but in the election campaign, Labour’s Dan Norris said he opposed the idea.
Other key issues for the West of England Metro Mayor will be the question of whether or not North Somerset should be able to join the Combined Authority, where more than 100,000 new homes will be built in the coming decade, and also getting national and international support, backing and financing for a big transport project – dubbed the Bristol Underground – which has been promoted by Marvin Rees.
The victory, if it is followed by Labour Mayor Marvin Rees holding onto his position as the Mayor of Bristol later this evening will be a beacon of light for the Labour Party nationally, following a set of losses around the country in local council elections.
How the West of England voted
First Preferences in Bath and North East Somerset
1 Samuel Williams (CON) 15,278
2 Dan Norris (LAB) 15,135
3 Stephen Williams (LD) 9,451
4 Jerome Thomas (GRN) 7,603
First Preferences in South Gloucestershire
1 Samuel Williams (CON) 28,693
2 Dan Norris (LAB) 19,168
3 Stephen Williams (LD) 11,689
4 Jerome Thomas (GRN) 8,806
First preferences in Bristol
1 Dan Norris (LAB) 50,131
2 Jerome Thomas (Green) 38,510
3 Samuel Williams (CON) 28,444
4 Stephen Williams (LD) 20,053
First preferences total for West of England
1 Dan Norris (LAB) 84,434
2 Samuel Williams (CON) 72,415
3 Jerome Thomas (GRN) 54,919
4 Stephen Williams (LD) 41,193
At this point, Jerome Thomas and Stephen Williams were eliminated, and the second preference of voters who voted for them were counted.
Any second preference votes for Dan Norris and Samuel Williams were added to their total, and the final tally was as follows:
Final WECA Mayor result (1st and 2nd preferences)
1 Dan Norris (LAB) 84,434 + 41,048 – 125,482
2 Samuel Williams (CON) 72,415 + 12,974 – 85,389