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Andy Burnham re-elected as Greater Manchester Mayor on grim election day for Labour

  • Andy Burnham has won the Greater Manchester Mayoral Election with 67.3% against Conservative candidate Laura Evans
  • He sends warning to Westminster: "Don't give us devolution and be surprised if we answer back"
  • Voter turnout was 25% higher than 2017
  • Green Party celebrates successes in local elections

Andy Burnham has been re-elected as Greater Manchester Mayor with 67.3% of votes.

He said in his speech after the count: “This vote sends a clear message to Westminster. People are buying in to English devolution. They are telling you to deliver more of it, not less.”

The 51-year-old Mayor brings home a remarkable victory for Labour on an otherwise disappointing day of elections for the party. The BBC calculated that had it been a general election, the Conservatives would have won with 36% against Labour with 29%.

While Tories all over the country celebrate the party’s success in Hartlepool, a Labour stronghold since its creation in 1974, Burnham’s Conservative opponent Laura Evans fell short securing 19.6%

 

Promises of more police did not win amid weeks of anti-police-bill protests

During a campaign debate, Evans promised to “get policing back on track”.  

This strategy did not pay off.

Policing has been a thorn in Burnham’s side during his first term, which reached a peak when Greater Manchester Police were placed in special measures in December for failing to respond to one in five crimes. While the Greater Manchester Mayor has no direct control over GMP, he has political oversight over the forces.   

However, the police have not been popular over the past few months. Since March Manchester has seen protests against the new police bill, videos of officers pushing a young man against a van for shaking his head at them, and images of policemen dragging a woman across the street in her underwear.

Kill the Bill, Sarah Everard, protest, Manchester
Protesters hold signs saying "Kill the Bill" in Manchester

Burnham summarised his priorities for his second term as “better jobs, better homes, better transport”. This includes plans such as the “Good Landlord Charter” and bringing the Manchester bus systems back under public control.

 

“King of the North” Burnham distances himself from Westminster – and Labour

Evans also said unlike Burnham she would work with the government to create new jobs in Manchester, not against it.

The Conservatives have had nationwide success off the back of a successful vaccine rollout and a functioning path out of lockdown.

But in Manchester a different sentiment has carried over from last October, when Burnham picked a public fight with Westminster over restriction tiers. Twitter crowned him “King of the North”, and one Vogue writer even went so far as to declare her attraction to the Mayor “from the eyelashes to the cagoule and the anti-government ire“.

In his speech, Burnham warned: “Don’t give us devolution and be surprised if we answer back. Particularly when you try things here which you wouldn’t dare in London.”

On occasion it seems like Burnham not only distances himself from the government, but also from prominent Labour figures. He promises to continue to adopt “a place-first, not party-first approach”.

 

London is not off the table

For all the distancing and devolution, the question is frequently raised if Andy Burnham still has ambitions in London.  Laura Evans recently claimed in an interview with The Mill: “He's a stale Labour party politician who clearly wants to go on and be the next Labour leader.

"I would like to relieve him of his role here so he can go and do what he wants to do.”

Burnham usually emphasises his disillusion with Westminster politics, and says he has found the role he wants in being Mayor of Greater Manchester.

He reiterated this when asked about it by The Mill, but he does not rule it out either.

He said: “I would go back to play a leadership role — and that doesn't mean leader by the way, I want to stress that — if the party, in the end, made some sort of suggestion of that kind. But I can't see it, and I don't necessarily want it. I want this job.” 

On Sky News, he sends a similar message:

 

High turnout and a Green success

The turnout of the Greater Manchester Mayoral Election was almost 25% higher this year than in 2017 (715,000 voters in 2021 vs. 573,500 in 2017). Back then, Burnham won with 63%.

The election was also a relative success for Green candidate Melanie Horrocks, who overtook the LibDems this year, securing 4.4% of the votes. Liberal Democrat Simon Lepori came fourth with 3.18%.

The Green Party also managed to secure its first seat on the Manchester City Council with a close victory of Rob Nunney over Labour long-time incumbent Brian O’Neil in Woodhouse Park.

Gary Lawson has won the first Green seat on Stockport Council.

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