Great Britain

Labour MP Tracy Brabin wins West Yorkshire mayoral race — setting stage for second tricky by-election

Labour MP Tracy Brabin has won the West Yorkshire mayoral contest, setting the stage for another potentially difficult by-election for Sir Keir Starmer in the summer months.

In the region’s inaugural election of a metro mayor, Ms Brabin won against her Conservative rival Matt Robinson after second preference ballots were counted, by 310,923 votes to 209,137.

It comes after Labour secured victories in other metro mayor contests in England, including the West of England and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, where the party defeated the Conservative incumbents, despite disappointing results in the council elections and the critical Hartlepool by-election.

Senior Labour figures Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham were also re-elected in the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester while Boris Johnson’s party held on to the Tees Valley and West Midlands, re-electing mayors Ben Houchen and Andy Street respectively.

Ms Brabin, who was elected as the Batley and Spen MP in 2016 after the murder of Jo Cox in the constituency during the EU referendum campaign, has previously suggested she will stand down as an MP if she won the mayoral contest.

The former Coronation Street actress told The Guardian at the end of 2020  the role as West Yorkshire mayor was a “24/7 job”, and was running because she was “sick of all the metro mayors being men”.

It means a by-election will be triggered in Batley and Spen when Labour decides to move the writ in the House of Commons — something which is typically done by the chief whip of a party within three months of the Westminster seat becoming vacant.

At the 2019 general election, Ms Brabin won 22,594 votes, ahead of the Conservative candidate, by just 3,525 votes, while her vote share dropped by nearly 13 per cent as Labour suffered considerable losses across the country.

The Brexit Party candidate during the election picked up just three per cent of the vote share at the last general election, but independent rival Paul Halloran, whose manifesto included a “clean” Brexit, won 12 per cent, with 6,432 votes. 

But despite the Conservatives’ recent success in Hartlepool, winning the seat for the first time since the 1960s, it is rare for the governing party to win by-elections. It has happened on just two occasions since the Tories came to power in 2010.

Following her election on Sunday evening, Ms Brabin said in a tweet: “We did it! I’m proud to be the first West Yorkshire metro mayor and I’m incredibly humbled and grateful for every single vote.

“I will fight for every single resident so everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Thank you.”

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