AFTER a historic 24 hours, we congratulate Ben Houchen on his election as the first Tees Valley mayor.

The Northern Echo has consistently stressed the importance of this week’s vote, and Mr Houchen clearly shares our opinion of the post he will now fill for the next three years.

He promised big things during his election campaign – buying back Durham Tees Valley Airport, building a new town, abolishing Cleveland Police. Now it is time for him to deliver.

There has been plenty of scepticism about the need for a mayor, and Thursday’s low turnout hardly suggests widespread public support for the role. It is up to Mr Houchen to convince the residents of the Tees Valley that he can make a difference to their lives.

He also faces the task of uniting the disparate elements of the Tees Valley to transform the political creation into an entity people can identify with. We wish him good luck.

He has already been able to celebrate one notable achievement. Until very recently, and notwithstanding the presence of James Wharton as MP for Stockton South, the North-East was still regarded as something of a no-go area for the Conservative party. Not anymore.

Mr Houchen described his win as a “political earthquake”, yet the aftershocks could be even more powerful with the General Election now just over a month away.

Could the Tories triumph in Darlington or Middlesbrough South? Might they prise away Bishop Auckland and Sedgefield too?

Labour retained control of Durham County Council yesterday, but having suffered losses right across the country, this is a party – and a leader – in deep trouble.