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Conservative MP Dame Andrea Leadsom has lashed out at claims that Ben Houchen won the Tees Valley mayoral race partly due distancing himself from the Tories. 

Houchen was re-elected as the Tory Tees Valley mayor to the delight of Rishi Sunak, after winning 53.6% of the vote. However his vote share was a huge reduction since 2021, falling by 19%. 

While support for the Conservatives in the area has been polled 21% below what was recorded for Houchen, marking a stark difference between his personal ratings, and that towards his party. 

This has meant some have put Houchen’s victory down to his strong personal brand as campaigners have said voters were supporting Houchen, not the Conservative Party. In the election run-up Houchen had dropped the Conservative label from some of his campaign leaflets, while Politico reported Houchen admitted being used to voters saying they would vote for him despite not liking the Tories. 

In Labour’s response to the Tees Valley results, the party said: “The Conservatives should be extremely worried that their candidate had to run as an independent to win.”

Speaking on BBC Politics Live, Tory MP Andrea Leadsom was irked by the suggestion from the presenter that Houchen may have won the election by distancing himself from his party. 

Leadsom said the discussion was “absolutely pathetic” and accused the presenter of taking away from Houchen’s victory as she insisted the win was “testament to the Conservative government”. 

“I am indignant.. this is all credit to a mayor who has done an absolutely brilliant job”, said Leadsom.

She claimed: “This is an absolute testament to the Conservative government and the levelling up agenda that have backed Ben Houchen.”

Although it was also noted by political journalists that Houchen didn’t mention or thank the Conservative party or the Prime Minister in his winning speech, and also wasn’t wearing his party’s rosette on stage. 

However Houchen denied distancing himself from Rishi Sunak and told Sky News today, “we absolutely don’t shy away from that at all, and Rishi’s been up during the campaign and we have always said Rishi’s been a great friend to the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”

Guardian columnist John Crace commented: “Andrea Leadsom having a major strop on Politics Live.  Adorable.”

Politico Editor Adam Payne said: “Andrea Leadsom on PoliticsLive brands the BBC “pathetic” for suggesting Houchen has sought to distance himself from the national Tory brand, but the evidence — today and throughout the campaign — is pretty clear.”

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward

The post Tory MP vexed at suggestion Ben Houchen distanced himself from Tory Party to win mayoral race appeared first on Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate.

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