LABOUR is celebrating a night of victory in the local elections in Wigan.
The borough’s ruling party held all of the 14 wards it was defending, then went on to increase an already commanding majority in the town hall voting chamber with SIX gains, including victories over the Tories, Lib Dems and the Independents
The ‘jewel in the crown’ was unseating Mayor of Wigan and former Conservative Leader Michael Winstanley by just 132 votes in Orrell after a tense re-count.
Some of the loudest Labour cheers were saved for his vanquisher, ex-Wigan miner and former Police Authority chairman Stephen Murphy.
In a black day for the Coalition Parties nationally and locally, NHS logistics manager Mr Winstanley had prepared himself for a tough night.
He said: “I certainly don’t take defeat personally because my share of the vote has actually gone up.”
But deputy leader of the Labour Group Coun David Molyneux – who has been acting council chief during Lord Smith enforced absence due to illness – hailed the hard work Labour’s campaigners had put in across the whole of the Metro and their refusal to take a bedrock solid vote for granted.
He said : “It is an absolutely superb night. The people of Wigan, Leigh and Makerfield have shown that they are sick of this Con-Dem Government.
“To beat the Mayor, who is the leader of the Tory Party, is a tremendous victory for us, while the Lib Dem vote has collapsed spectacularly.”
The defeat of the Mayor also means that Wigan is waking up to a new official Opposition – the Independents, with leader Coun Gary Wilkes retaining Bryn for them.
The only council cabinet member facing the voters – Aspull New Springs Whelley’s Chris Ready romped home.
Community Action Party founder and leader Peter Franzen failed in his bid to return to the council, while Barry Fagan was also unsuccessful for CAP in fighting to retain the Hindley Green seat held by his daughter Louise, who has decided to step down due to ill health.
But the election saw long-standing Winstanley councillor and former Mayor Rona Winkworth claiming victory, despite being at the centre of a bitter planning wrangle over a football club base.
The AV referendum vote won’t be known until later today.
FULL RESULTS, REACTION AND PICTURES IN THE WIGAN EVENING POST TODAY (FRIDAY) ...