The Tories’ Andy Street is on course to regain the West Midlands for Boris Johnson in a major blow to Keir Starmer’s efforts to erode the Conservatives’ “red wall” powerbase outside London.
An exclusive poll shows Mr Street is four points ahead of former Labour Cabinet minister LIam Byrne in the race to be mayor of the West Midlands even when second preference votes from “left-wing” parties are taken into account.
The survey of 1,000 adults by pollster Find out Now and election experts Electoral Calculus shows Mr Street is seven points ahead on the first poll, by 52 pr cent to 45 per cent.
When second preference votes from the LIbDems Jenny Wilkinson, Greens Steve Caudwell and a local independent candidate Ashvir Sangha, Mr Street is still ahead 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
Martin Baxter, chief executive of Electoral Calculus said: “It’s another tight race for West Midlands Mayor, with Andy Street just ahead again according to our poll. But his lead is less than the margin of error, so it’s not done and dusted yet.”
Mr Street, 57, came to politics after a career at the helm of John Lewis and his victory in the West Midlands mayoral election in September 2016 was seen as a major upset.
In an interview last week, Mr Street suggested it was a harbinger of the political earthquake that saw Boris Johnson seize traditional Labour strongholds in the Midlands and the North in the 2019 general election. 'The West Midlands was where the Red Wall first crumbled,' he told the Daily Mail.
“In 2005 we had just one MP in the Black Country, we've now got ten of the 13. “Some people on the Left like to make out this was an aberration in 2019 which occurred over the twin points of Brexit and Corbyn, and I simply reject that. This has been a much more long-term phenomenon here.
“We moved forward in 2010, 2015, 2017, 2019. My election in 2017 was the first real breakthrough point in it. What happened after is history.
“I do believe that what we will see at this next election is that the support for the Conservatives across some of those areas is much, much more deep-seated than the Labour Party would like us to believe.”
It is a major test for the new Labour leader Mr Starmer and the result will provide an insight into whether he has managed to restore the party’s appeal with its grassroots voters disillusioned by the London-centric radical policies of Mr Corbyn.
Chris Holbrook, chief executive of Find Out Now, said: “Politics in the West Midlands is an important part of the national picture, so we’re glad to be able to shine the spotlight on it with our polling.”