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Prime Minister’s fate rests on ‘Brand Andy’

West Midlands local election countdown
Planning Communications and Consultation
local elections

In what will be a crucial set of elections for the Prime Minister, Conservative hopes rest on the only two mayoralties they hold, with incumbent mayors Ben Houchen and Andy Street up for election in Tees Valley and West Midlands.  

There is reportedly a feeling amongst Conservatives that Houchen is more likely to hold onto his seat simply due to the size of his win at the 2021 election which saw him secure a huge 73% of the vote. Andy Street’s margin of victory over Labour was lower than Houchen’s, with the Conservatives anxious over whether Street will be able to cling onto his region which, with a population of almost three million, is the biggest personal mandate outside London.   

Polls have varied their predictions for the West Midlands mayoral election results over the past month. It is currently on a knife edge, with the latest YouGov polling suggesting that Street is just two points ahead of his Labour opponent, Richard Parker. Given the margin of error on such surveys this effectively puts the two candidates neck and neck. This does, however, paint a slightly more positive picture than a Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll published last week which put Street on 37% and Parker ahead on 43%. 

A strong remainer and net zero advocate, Street has found himself at odds with the government in recent months, most notably on the decision to scrap plans for the HS2 railway connection between Birmingham and Manchester. In his campaign, Street has distanced himself from his party, promoting what he calls “Brand Andy, the individual” and urging voters to focus on him and his record, not the performance of the Conservative Party nationally. 

Much of Andy Street’s campaign material is in green, rather than the traditional Conservative blue, a trend this year with the party polling so badly nationally. However, it must be said that Street was something of an early adopter in this, using it since first being elected eight years ago. Equally, Street has said that responsibility lies with him and not Sunak if he loses the mayoralty.  

Enough parliamentary seats in the West Midlands are red-blue battlegrounds which the Conservatives will need to win to stand a fighting chance in the general election. Downing Street aides have rejected suggestions that the Prime Minister’s fate rests on the outcome of the West Midlands and Tees Valley mayoral races, but it’s hard to escape that this is the emerging consensus.  

Essentially, a win for Andy Street in difficult circumstances would mitigate against anticipated losses of up to half the seats Conservatives are defending, including in traditionally deeply blue areas. So, as voters in the West Midlands head to the polls tomorrow, it is possible that it’s not just Street’s fate but also Sunak’s that rests in their hands.