Ex-MP Dan Norris has gained the West of England mayoralty from the Tories, securing 59.1% of the vote in the second round of counting to beat Conservative candidate Samuel Williams, who was backed by 40.9% of residents.
Norris secured 84,434 first preferences, a share of 33.4%, while Williams placed second with 72,415, 28.6%. As nobody secured over 50%, it went to a second round of counting, and Labour’s candidate won 125,482 votes, 59.5%.
Norris, who previously worked as a scaffolder’s assistant, factory worker and teacher, has now taken the mayoralty from the Tories. The first election in 2017 was won by Tory candidate Tim Bowles, who did not seek re-election.
The ex-MP was selected in November last year as the Labour Party’s candidate for the West of England mayoral election. It was a closely fought internal contest between the ex-MP and Bristol councillor Helen Godwin.
There was controversy in the selection as Labour members complained that other applicants who received more nominations – including Lesley Mansell, who narrowly lost the race in 2017 – were excluded from the shortlist.
The party rejected calls to restart the selection process, however, with the south west regional director saying that “none of the irregularities which occurred had any material impact on the final shortlist”.
Norris served as the Labour MP for Wansdyke from 1997 until the seat was abolished in 2010. This saw him lose the subsequent North East Somerset race to Jacob Rees-Mogg, now leader of the House of Commons.
During his campaign, he emphasised pledges on improving local transport, addressing inadequate access to skills training, meeting the challenges of dementia and reducing animal cruelty. He was interviewed by LabourList.
Norris worked on David Miliband’s Labour leadership bid in 2010 and was a critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. He was shortlisted in Labour’s Bristol mayor selection in 2012 but did not secure the candidacy.
While an MP, he served as an assistant whip for two years and was later parliamentary private secretary to Foreign Secretary David Miliband. He became a minister in 2009 in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The West of England result is an important one for Labour, representing one of few gains in the May 2021 elections. The party has lost the Hartlepool parliamentary seat and several councils in England.