Big names fall in local elections

The Westminster whirlwind swept though Wigan's council elections last night and it showed in the polls.

Labour candidates across the borough had warned party chiefs that Premier Gordon Brown's controversial 10p tax and his handling of the credit crunch had been dominating canvassing on the door steps, rather than council plans for the future – and so it was reflected in the polls.

With all seats declared, Labour lost four seats to the Tories and Independents – including the shock defeat of high profile Cabinet member for children and young people's services Brian Wilson and Standish veteran George Davies.

It was also a disastrous night for the six-year-old Community Action Party.

They saw two sitting councillors unseated including controversial founder and leader Peter Franzen and have now lost the right to form the official Democratic Alliance opposition in coalition with the Lib Dems.

But Wigan's increasingly rejuvenated Tories are celebrating their strongest position for decades.

Leader Coun Mike Winstanley now heads a group of 14 councillors, up four, while the independents won two more seats to give them seven.

BNP, which had fielded seven candidates across the borough, again failed to make significant progress in increasing their core vote.

Labour leader Lord Smith put a brave face on the evening, despite his party's losses.

Their town hall majority has now been reduced to 27, but he could not conceal his satisfaction at Franzen's defeat.

He said: "We've lost good councillors but at the end of the evening we had a result to put the smile back on our faces."

But the defeated leader of the opposition, Peter Franzen, warned that he will remain the thorn in Labour's side, whether in the town hall or banished from it.

He said: "I've done my best in spite of opposition smears led by New Labour.

"They've now gained full control of Golborne and Lowton and the council, and they cannot now blame anyone else for the problems in Wigan.

"But it has taken the entire Wigan Labour party machine, backed by the New Labour Government, to get rid of me."

Victorious Tory leader coun Mike Winstanley said: "I think our success is down to the fact that we are providing critical but constructive and robust opposition to the Labour party and providing a real alternative rather than the name calling and gesture politics we have seen from some councillors on the CAP side."


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