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Ben Houchen wins Tees Valley mayoral election, offering Rishi Sunak a lifeline | Mayor elections

One of the Conservative Party’s highest-profile metropolitan mayors, Ben Houchen, won Tees Valley, giving Rishi Sunak a potential political lifeline.

Houchen was elected with a very small majority. He obtained 81,930 votes against 63,141 for Labor and 7,679 for the Liberal Democrats. Participation was 30%. His previous majority was 76,323 votes.

Houchen bucked the anti-Tory trend by being elected to a third term in a region that was once a solid Labor heartland.

The mayoral election was one of the most closely watched of all local elections on Thursday.

Campaigners have predicted that the results of the Tees Valley and West Midlands mayoralties, announced on Saturday, will define how UK politics will play out for the rest of 2024.

Houchen’s defeat might have spurred conservative rebels to move against their leader.

Houchen’s victory gives the prime minister and his supporters a glimmer of hope, able to say that the Conservatives can still win seats if they get the right message across and they just need more time.

Others will say the victory is due to Houchen’s strong personal brand and his continued popularity locally. He won a remarkable 73% of the vote in 2021 and voters on Thursday were supporting Houchen, not the Conservative Party, activists said.

Houchen has also been helped by the fact that there is no reformist candidate.

Labor candidate Chris McEwan, a former NHS chief and deputy leader of Darlington council, was also helped when Green candidate Sally Bunce withdrew, saying she did not want to split the vote against Houchen.

The Mayor of Tees Valley represents 670,000 people in five local authority areas: Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool.

More details soon…