Race is on with likely vacancy to be Leigh’s MP

MP Andy Burnham
MP Andy Burnham

One political race may have ended but its conclusion has triggered the start of another with Leigh’s parliamentary seat potentially up for grabs.

The confirmation of Andy Burnham as Labour’s GM mayoral candidate means it will take a huge upset for him not to be installed in city hall next year.

And the Observer understands the manoeuvring behind the scenes for who will take up the Leigh seat is already underway.

Inevitably, as is the case in recent years when a Commons place becomes available in a Labour stronghold, David Miliband has been mentioned as a possibility with the former MP and leadership hopeful said to be considering a return to politics.

But this high-profile candidate should be viewed as a distinct outside chance with local Labour members puzzled by the suggestion he could be in contention.

Another option, according to some political commentators, is Leigh born media man and television journalist Paul Mason who is a supporter of party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But it remains to be seen whether it is the right time for Mr Mason, who has in the past not ruled out a move into politics.

Possibilities closer to the borough’s political scene can be found inside the council chamber with prominent members of the cabinet understood to be considering their options.

Astley, Mosley Common representative Jo Platt is thought to be an early front-runner having been viewed as a rising star within the party.

Currently the cabinet member for young people, Coun Platt has risen quickly through the ranks since being first elected to the chamber in 2012.

Colleague Coun Keith Cunliffe, who represents Leigh East, could also be in the running, the Observer understands.

The portfolio holder for adults and social care has just started his third term in the council chamber.

If the party hierarchy looks beyond the council chamber for an option with parliamentary experience then former MP Julie Hilling may be viewed as a safe pair of hands.

Ms Hilling represented nearby Bolton West constituency up until 2015 and is an Atherton resident.

Having lost out by a narrow margin to the Conservative’s Chris Green, the popular 61-year-old former youth worker is understood to have been considering contesting the seat again in 2020 meaning the possibility of the vacant seat in Leigh offers a quicker route for a return to the Commons.