Labour’s Jessie Joe Jacobs has been defeated by the Tories in the Tees Valley election, as the incumbent Conservative mayor Ben Houchen was re-elected this week by a landslide with 73% of the vote.
The 2017 result that first offered victory to Houchen came as a shock, with the area being seen as a ‘Labour heartland’, but this year the opposition party had expected another defeat due to internal polling.
The combined authority mayor won 51% of the vote on the second round of counting four years ago, versus Labour’s Sue Jeffrey who placed second. He did significantly better than that on Thursday.
Houchen secured 121,964 votes in this election, a share of 73%, up 22 percentage points on his previous result. Jessie Joe Jacobs received 45,641 votes, a share of 27%, and a total of 168,661 votes were cast.
The Tory mayor has proved popular in the area. He promised in his 2017 campaign to bring Teesside International Airport back into public ownership, and the following year he reached a deal to buy the airport.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also decided to pick Teesside as one of the eight ‘free port’ locations in England. Some on the left have criticised the flagship policy, with the tax-free zones termed ‘mini tax havens’ by critics.
Jessie Joe Jacobs, a charity founder who was selected to be Labour’s candidate in October 2019, had hoped to become the UK’s first female directly-elected metro mayor. She had a focus on jobs, transport and climate.