IT SAYS MUCH FOR LABOUR’S vice-like grip over the north of England that one of the most disappointing results on 5 May was in Manchester. For the first time in several years, a Labour seat was lost to a Liberal Democrat. Manchester has 96 councillors. Now only 95 of them are Labour.
Some 2,604 council seats for 124 councils across the country were up for grabs – but despite the dire predictions of the Labour right for weeks beforehand that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour would haemorrhage hundreds of seats, the overall loss nationally was just 18 seats. Only a handful of these were in the North and in most places there were gains to compensate for the losses.
In Stockport, for the first time in over 20 years, Labour became the largest single party. Lib Dem council leader Sue Derbyshire lost her seat to Labour’s Charlie Stewart by 437 votes. And before the results were even announced there was another Labour ‘gain’ as a councillor who was not up for election defected from the Lib Dems to Labour.
Hung councils in West Yorkshire like Calderdale and Kirklees again returned Labour as the biggest group with a minority administration. Some 26 of the 32 Metropolitan boroughs at stake this year were in northern strongholds like Leeds, Liverpool, Barnsley, and Newcastle. Not one of them changed hands. One of the few Conservative boroughs is Trafford in Greater Manchester, where the Tories had expected to make gains. Even here Labour gained a seat from an Independent.
Salford stayed solidly Labour and also had its mayoral elections with left wing councillor and Corbyn supporter Paul Dennett easily defeating Conservative Robin Garrido with over 66% of the vote after second preferences were counted. Cllr Dennett almost won on the first round of voting, where he got 49.56%. In the North-East, cities like Newcastle have no Conservative councillors at all and Labour’s vote share at 45% was way ahead of the Lib Dems at 23%. Labour also retained control of Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside councils, gaining a seat in Sunderland, and two in Newcastle. In South Tyneside Labour won all seats, including the only Conservative one.
Perhaps the most telling indication of Labour’s domination of the North is in Liverpool, the Tories coming in fourth behind the Greens with just 4.4%.