Tees Valley Green Party candidate quit race to stop Ben Houchen from winning

The Green Party candidate for Tees Valley mayor has told The Yorkshire Post she withdrew from the election because she didn’t want to split the vote and allow Ben Houchen to win a third term in office.

After announcing her intention to stand down as candidate last Friday, Sally Bunce told The Yorkshire Post, “I just couldn’t allow myself to be responsible for allowing [Ben Houchen] back in.”

“The main reason I stepped back,” she said, “was because it was becoming clear that votes I would win could potentially take away from other candidates and allow Lord Houchen a third term in office. That’s something I can’t allow to happen.

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“Let’s say I got eight per cent and Houchen won by seven, I would never have been able to live with myself. I just couldn’t allow myself to be responsible for allowing him back in.”

Sally Bunce withdrew as Green Party candidate for Tees Valley mayor last week.Sally Bunce withdrew as Green Party candidate for Tees Valley mayor last week.
Sally Bunce withdrew as Green Party candidate for Tees Valley mayor last week.

Ms Bunce, who is originally from Elland in West Yorkshire, and is a former police officer with 17 years’ experience at both North Yorkshire and Cleveland Police, was announced as the Green Party’s candidate in December.

A prominent environmental campaigner in the Tees Valley region, Ms Bunce has been a supporter of fishers whose livelihoods have been impacted since a huge die-off of crustaceans affected the Tees coastline in October 2021.

On her selection as candidate she said: “I’ve worked tirelessly to combat social and environmental injustice since moving to the East Cleveland coast almost six years ago. I decided to stand for Tees Valley mayor to bring the transparency, honesty and integrity that’s been lacking from the role so far.”

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According to Ms Bunce, it’s the “transparency, honesty and integrity” at the heart of her campaign that has seen her speak out about the reasons she chose to withdraw from the race.

“I was looking forward to the next hustings, but then I started seeing more and more people being positive about Houchen, and it’s the people who vote who were being positive, not the people I fight for. I fight for people who are in the gutter,” she said.

“I’m a single parent, I work full time, and have so many volunteer roles rescuing seals, teaching about ocean pollution in schools, crewing a lifeboat, and as part of a women’s streetwatch team in Middlesbrough.

“I don’t do anything half-cocked, that’s just not who I am. I was in this campaign to win it, and to a lot of people I was just a paper candidate.

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“Currently there’s a lack of resources in The Green Party to support a campaign of this size,” she added.

After her withdrawal from the election, which leaves three candidates on the ballot paper on May 2 - Conservative Ben Houchen, Labour’s Chris McEwan and Liberal Democrat Simon Thorley - The Green Party released a statement saying: “We are disappointed that Sally Bunce has chosen to withdraw as Tees Valley Mayor candidate at short notice. Sadly, the timing of the withdrawal means that we did not have time to stand an alternative candidate.”

Politics is a very dirty game, it’s nothing more than a toxic pantomime, and part of me is relieved that I’m no longer a part of it. I’m a do-er, not a sayer. As it is now, I’m back to doing,” said Ms Bunce.

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