Claire Ward wins race to become East Midlands mayor

The count at the Nottingham Tennis Centre

Claire Ward

Claire Ward, the former Labour MP, has been crowned the first directly elected mayor of the East Midlands this afternoon (May 3).

Labour candidate Ward captured 181,040 votes, comfortably beating the Conservative MP for Mansfield and leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, Ben Bradley, who came in a distant second place with 129,332.

Before the result was announced, a Labour source told journalists that the East Midlands is “the beating heart of the General Election battleground.”

In her acceptance speech, Ward said: “I am truly humbled that the people of Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire have elected me as the very first East Midlands mayor. The region has an incredible amount to offer.

“I’ve heard your message loud and clear – you are ready to change. I can now say with conviction that the Labour Party is ready to deliver.”

Ward will now head up the newly-formed East Midlands Combined County Authority (EMCCA) and be in charge of a £4bn investment drive in the region.

The results were revealed this afternoon after a count at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. Fears about a low turnout at the election proved warranted in some areas. In Nottingham city, for example, just 24.93% of people voted for a new mayor. Derby was only just higher at 25.5%. Rushcliffe boasted the highest turnout of 37.7%, while only 22.3% of people voted in Bolsover – the lowest across the region. In Bradley’s home turf of Mansfield just one in four people turned out to cast their ballot. Overall turnout was a lowly 27.6%.

The various borough results were revealing. In the Nottinghamshire Tory stronghold of Rushcliffe – Ken Clarke’s former seat – Ward pipped Bradley by 227 votes.

Ward also won in Ashfield, the Parliamentary constituency of former Conservative MP Lee Anderson, beating Bradley by around 1,500 votes. Anderson’s new party, Reform, came in fourth place, behind the two main parties and Matt Relf, the independent candidate.

The news capped a deeply disappointing 24 hours for the Conservative Party, which suffered huge losses in council elections across the country and a humiliating defeat in the Blackpool South by-election.

Before the result was announced, Bradley said he realised the “national situation” was “difficult” – but told Notts TV that, as leader of Nottinghamshire County Council he would “be on the board of the EMCCA anyway” and would “hold the new mayor to account”.

Bradley admitted that the defeat meant “there were lessons to be learnt”.

The full results: