Steve Rotheram has been re-elected as mayor of Liverpool city region after a difficult campaign marred by controversies in the local Labour party.
He won 58.3% of the vote, down from 59.3% in 2017. He described his victory as “a massive vote of confidence in the power of devolution and the work I’ve done so far – now the government has to back further devolution”.
Rotheram, like his friend Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester, campaigned on a platform of introducing a “London-style” public transport system and accelerating a green industrial revolution.
He also sought to capitalise on his raised public profile during Covid, telling voters: “Throughout the pandemic, I stood up for our region, taking on Boris Johnson to win more funding and support for our councils, improved testing and a proper furlough scheme.”
Persuading the region’s 1.5 million residents to give him a second term was made substantially harder after the arrest of Joe Anderson, the mayor of the city of Liverpool, in December.
Anderson, who denies all wrongdoing, is being investigated alongside his son and various Liverpool city council executives in a police probe into corrupt regeneration projects.
A report by Max Caller, a local government executive, found multiple failures at the local authority, including the awarding of “dubious contracts”, a lack of record-keeping and “an environment of intimidation” in one of its main departments.
The fact that there are two Liverpool mayors with different remits but very similar job titles was confusing to some voters. But Anderson led just one of the city region’s six councils, whereas Rotheram has oversight of the entire combined authority.
To add to the confusion, on Thursday Anderson was replaced by a new Labour mayor with almost exactly the same name: Joanne Anderson, the first black directly elected female mayor.
But by winning again on first preferences with only a very slightly reduced vote share, Rotheram can claim a strong personal mandate.
According to his team, his final result of 58.2% of the vote was 12% up on Labour’s overall vote share in the local council elections across the city region on Thursday. Joanne Anderson scored just 38.5% of first preference votes, winning on second preferences.
Before becoming mayor in 2017, Rotheram was MP for Liverpool Walton, the safest Labour seat in the UK.
One of eight children, Rotheram left school with few formal qualifications, and began a bricklaying apprenticeship. He went on to run his own building company before working for the Learning and Skills Council.
He began his political career when he was elected to serve as a councillor in 2002, before swapping his council seat for Westminster in 2010.
There, he led a campaign for justice for the Hillsborough families, alongside his good friend Burnham, who became mayor of Greater Manchester in 2017.
From 2015, he was parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to Jeremy Corbyn.