Conservative Mayor Andy Street Takes Unorthodox Approach in Local Campaign

The imperative to distance himself from Sunak's government has intensified, especially given the Conservatives' significant polling deficit compared to Labour.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak anticipates significant setbacks in a series of local elections next week. Among the Conservatives, one of the strongest prospects for success is a prominent mayor who notably avoids associating his campaign with his party or its leader.

Andy Street, serving as mayor of the West Midlands since 2017, has cultivated a personal brand that downplays his party allegiance in a region traditionally supportive of the opposition Labour Party.

Street, a former managing director of John Lewis, maintains a website using green rather than the Conservatives’ blue, and his “About Andy Street” section omits any mention of his party affiliation.

The imperative to distance himself from Sunak’s government has intensified, especially given the Conservatives’ significant polling deficit compared to Labour.

“We did have a serious row, and I disagreed with what (Sunak) did… It was a very good example of putting the place I represent before the party label,” Street affirmed to Reuters.

He steadfastly defends downplaying his Conservative allegiance, considering it consistent with the responsibilities of a mayor rather than a lawmaker in London.

Sunak’s attempts to revive Conservative fortunes nationally have faltered following scandals and economic mismanagement that led to the downfall of former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss in 2022, severely impacting their party’s ratings.

A widespread Conservative defeat in the May 2 local council elections could increase pressure on Sunak’s leadership, potentially necessitating an earlier national election than initially planned.

When most councils were last contested in 2021, the Conservatives secured around 40% of the national equivalent vote, with Labour at 30%, according to parliamentary figures.

Akash Paun from the Institute for Government describes this election as “defensive” for the Conservatives due to their higher stakes compared to 2021.

The omission of Conservative branding from some leaflets by Street and another Conservative mayor, Ben Houchen, prompts questions about the party’s reputation. Sunak, however, commends their accomplishments, emphasizing the tangible results delivered by Conservative leadership.

Polls present a mixed outlook for Street, suggesting a potential tarnishing of the Conservative brand in his campaign despite his positive personal approval ratings.

At a recent debate in Birmingham, some voters expressed openness to Street’s promises of investment, improved transport, and training, despite their usual allegiance to Labour.

Labour candidate Richard Parker seeks to associate Street with the unpopular national government, emphasizing the region’s perceived stagnation under Conservative leadership.

While national polls favor Labour, the unpredictability of local races offers Street a fighting chance, which could provide Sunak with some relief.

“It’s going to be very close, isn’t it?” Street remarked, relieved that there’s no concurrent national election.