Richard Parker elected West Midlands mayor in blow for Tories

Richard Parker addresses the crowd
Richard Parker won by just 1,500 votes [PA Media]

Labour's Richard Parker has been elected mayor of the West Midlands in dramatic fashion.

Six out of seven local authorities conducted vote checks and a full recount was ordered in Coventry with the race too close to call.

It will come as a huge blow to the Conservatives, who suffered heavy losses in English local elections.

Incumbent Andy Street had been in office since 2017 and was seeking a third term.

Richard Parker told the crowd at Birmingham's International Convention Centre (ICC): "This is the most important thing I will ever do.

"This week people voted for the person and the party. They recognised that a Labour mayor can make a positive difference in this region."

Mr Parker secured 225,590 votes with Mr Street coming a close second with 224,082 a margin of just 1508.

Pro-Palestine candidate Akhmed Yakoob, dubbed the TikTok lawyer, came a comfortable third place with 69,621 votes due to a healthy showing in Birmingham.

Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Green) secured 31,036 votes, Sunny Virk (Liberal Democrats) totalled 12,176 and Elaine Williams (Reform) got 34,471.

Overall turnout was down slightly on three years ago at 29.81%. That figured ranged from 34.95% in Solihull to 28.47% in Birmingham.

The outgoing mayor thanked election staff and his political opponents, his campaign team and those who voted for him.

He wished Mr Parker "all strength and wisdom" as he took over the reins.

He said: "It has been my honour to serve and to lead this place for the last seven years.

"I hope I've done it with dignity and integrity, and I hope I've bequeathed to Richard a combined authority - and indeed a role - to which young, aspiring leaders will want to aspire one day."

Cheering supporters
Labour activists in the crowd at the ICC celebrated [PA Media]

Solihull was the first of seven local authorities in the West Midlands to declare.

The borough gave the first indication of a tricky afternoon for Mr Street, who saw his 2021 majority there slashed by about 5,000 votes.

The next big shock came as it was revealed Mr Parker had beaten the incumbent mayor in Wolverhampton by almost 8,000 votes, Labour having lost there in 2021.

Drama continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening with the race looking too close to call on multiple occasions.

All seven local authorities took part in a partial inspection of some votes, known as a bundle check.

Mr Parker won Birmingham, the largest voting district, with 80,251 votes to Mr Street's 66,296.

The incumbent mayor picked up Wallsall and Dudley while his successor won Coventry after a full recount and, decisively, Sandwell.

"I've covered dozens of election counts in my time and can't remember one as tense as this," said the BBC's Rob Mayor as counting continued hours after a result was expected.

Hard fought race

It was a contest fought over local issues including housing and transport.

Cash-strapped council budgets also defined the race after Birmingham City Council declared itself effectively bankrupt and announced dramatic cost cutting measures.

Mr Street had said the situation in Birmingham was unique, calling the financial crisis the result of a failure of the local authority's Labour leadership.

But a gloomy national picture saw him swept from power by the party's candidate in what will be a bitterly disappointing result for prime minister Rishi Sunak ahead of an upcoming general election.

Mr Parker will lead the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and represent 2.9 million people.

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