There was a glimmer of optimism for Labour in the south-west of England where the former Labour government minister Dan Norris got the better of the Tories in the contest for West of England mayor.
In his acceptance speech, Norris said Keir Starmer had “unlocked” the area, which includes Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, and South Gloucestershire.
The race for the West of England mayoralty was one of those being closely watched by Starmer’s office for evidence of possible green shoots in areas not seen as traditional Labour heartlands.
Norris won 125,482 votes, ahead of his Tory opponent, Samuel Williams, who took 85,389. Norris replaces Conservative Tim Bowles, who stepped down.
Speaking after the result was declared on board Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s steamship SS Great Britain in Bristol, Norris said: “I’m very proud of our region. But it could be even better. I want to thank Keir Starmer, who has unlocked this election for Labour in the west of England.
“Without him and his skills, his determination and him being who he is, we could not have got this result. People were able to listen to our arguments and be persuaded by them because of Keir Starmer.
“I’ll hit the ground running with a jobs and skills summit in my first 100 days and launch my green recovery plan.
“As we build back from the pandemic, invest in jobs and our high streets, let’s create a society where we keep looking out for each other and value what’s truly important.”
Jerome Thomas, who came in third for the Green party, said he was pleased to pick up more than 54,000 votes. “It shows just how many people in our region care about environmental and social justice and have the confidence that Greens can deliver this.”
There was some joy for the Tories in the region with the party’s candidate, Mark Shelford, elected as Avon and Somerset’s police and crime commissioner. He replaces an independent, Sue Mountstevens, who stood down before the election.
Elsewhere in the south-west of England, the Labour group leader in Gloucester city council, Kevin Stephens, lost his seat as the Tories remained in control.
He said: “If the Labour left and right continue to wage nuclear war against each other this is the result. Let’s concentrate on fighting the Tories rather than each other.”
The Tories took charge of Cornwall council, the first party to take full control since it became a unitary authority in 2009. Labour retained control of Exeter but lost its majority in another Devon city, Plymouth.