People in Hartlepool showed their disinterest in the Tees Valley Mayoral election as only a fraction turned out to vote.
Only 17.72% of the electorate used their vote in the election for a Mayor for the Tees Valley who with run the area’s combined authority.
Hartlepool councillor John Tennant, who stood as the UKIP candidate, said the town had already voted against having a mayor on the council and did not want one for the Tees Valley.
The vote was won by Conservative Ben Houchen, the nephew of former Pools legend Keith Houchen, with Labour candidate Sue Jeffrey in second place.
Coun Tennant came fourth, behind the Liberal Democrat Chris Foote Wood.
The newly-elected Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley pulled off a remarkable victory, just as his uncle Keith did scoring for Coventry City in the 1987 FA Cup Final, in beating his Labour rival Sue Jeffrey after a run-off.
It saw the top two candidates go head-to-head while the second votes were counted for the losing candidates.
After the count at Thornaby Pavilion, he described the result as a “political earthquake”.
He said: “What we have seen in recent years is fantastic trends towards the Conservatives across the Tees Valley and today is, I believe, a tipping point.
“We have seen a political earthquake that’s happening right here for the Conservatives across the North East.
“It’s the first time anybody would expect a Conservative mayor for the Tees Valley and it is the start of five genuine target seats for the Conservatives in the upcoming General Election, and I genuinely believe this is a starting point for turning the Tees Valley blue.”
In Hartlepool, the Labour candidate was voters’ first choice.
The combined authority released Hartlepool voters’ first choice results for the four candidates, where Labour’s Sue Jeffrey received the most with 4,242, followed by UKIP candidate John Tennant with 3,486. Conservative candidate Ben Houchen received 3,233 of first preference votes in Hartlepool, and Chris Foote-Wood of the Lib Dems received 1,102.
Hartlepool had the lowest turnout of the five local authority areas voting in the election at 17.72%.
Stockton had the highest at 24.4% and the overall turnout across the five Tees Valley areas of HArtlepool, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington and Redcar and Cleveland, was 21.31%.
UKIP candidate John Tenant from Hartlepool said: “It’s a surprise that the Conservatives have taken it, but at the same time this election has been completely overshadowed by the calling of the General Election.
“As soon as people went into the polling station, the first thing they would have thought of was Jeremy Corbyn versus Theresa May even though this particular mayoral election had nothing to do with either of them and that’s definitely affected the result. I’m pleased to say I came a strong second in the Hartlepool count for first preference and shows UKIP really is a strength in Hartlepool.”
Regarding the low turnout in Hartlepool at just 17.72%, he said: “Hartlepool voted to get rid of a mayor, the North East voted against having a mayor.
“This combined authority mayor is something that nobody wants and I think the turnout speaks volumes on that score.”
Ms Jeffrey was “disappointed” with the result, but said she won more votes in three of the five boroughs.
Asked what the message was for Mr Corbyn from the result, she said: “I think what it shows is during the General Election campaign we need to bring to the fore the whole austerity programme that the Tories have been implementing over the last number of years.
“We need to talk to people about the disinvestment in the health service and the disinvestment in schools, the fact that our services have been decimated at local level, and make sure they know about that.”
The Mayor will work alongside the five councils as part of a £450m devolution deal.