Shock as Tories take Leigh for first time in almost a century

The Conservatives have caused a major upset in Labour’s heartland after breaking the party’s 97-year hold on Leigh.

Friday, 13th December 2019, 7:04 am
The new Leigh MP James Grundy

Tory councillor James Grundy secured just under half of the votes to oust Jo Platt from the seat she has held since 2017.

Concerns over Brexit, and indifference towards Jeremy Corbyn, had been aired in the run-up to the election, which prompted concern within Labour ranks that it was losing its grip on Leigh.

And Mr Grundy, the town’s first ever Tory MP, said the Labour leader was to blame for Ms Platt being unable to keep the seat she inherited from Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

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Jo Platt after losing her Leigh seat

“This shouldn’t be considered a fault on Jo’s behalf,” he said.

“Ninety-nine times out of a hundred Jo would have carried Leigh. On this occasion it was not to be because of anger over Brexit and anger at Jeremy Corbyn.

“Let us be clear – it’s his fault that Jo lost.”

The 21,226 votes secured by Mr Grundy was a marked improvement on the 2017 election, where he received 16,793 – then the highest number of votes for the Tories in Leigh since 1979.

Candidates in a huddle at the Leigh count as the results come in

Speaking after his victory, the councillor for Lowton East thanked his campaign team and his opponents for running positive campaigns.

“I stood on a campaign promising to get Brexit done and to fix the town,” said Mr Grundy.

“I intend to stand by that promise and work will start tomorrow.

“My door will be open to anyone from any party because this is no longer a one-party town.”

Chris Green has retained his Westminster seat for the Conservatives in Bolton West

Ms Platt saw her vote share cut by more than a quarter, dropping from 26,347 in 2017 to 19,301 at this election.

While on the campaign trail the former councillor said it was apparent that there was a ‘lot of anger’ in communities in Leigh.

With the exit polls predicting a ‘traumatic’ night for Labour, Ms Platt urged colleagues to stop "navel-gazing" and to start understanding why people were turning away from the party.

Reacting to the outcome of the result, she added: “I’m devastated for the people of Leigh.”

Behind the two main parties James Melly of the Brexit Party came third having received 3,161 votes, while Mark Clayton, of the Liberal Democrats, recorded 2,252.

Independent Maureen O’Bern earned 551 votes with UKIP’s Leon Peters receiving 448.

Turn-out in Leigh was 60.9 per cent compared to 61.5 per cent in 2017, but the number of votes rose from 46,978 to 47,150.

Meanwhile in traditional swing seat Bolton West, part of whose constituency includes Atherton, the Conservatives' Chris Green held his seat with an increased majority of 8,855.

Speaking following his victory, Mr Green said he was "delighted" by the result.

He added: "This result is about respecting democracy.

"That's why there are so many Labour seats they have held for decades, where they are clearly no longer representing the communities they claim to.

"Brexit has cut through and it's quite clear they have been failing to deliver."

He said he believed Labour activists' role in the cancellation of a planned visit by Boris Johnson to Westhoughton Market at the weekend had contributed to the result.

Mr Johnson had planned to visit the area to speak to voters on Saturday, but was forced to cancel after a fracas broke out at the market.

Former Labour MP for the area Julie Hilling said: "One of the biggest things on the door was Brexit. We tried very hard to tell people this was a Parliament for five years and there was a great deal more at stake. So many people could not hear that.

"After three and a half years people are sick of it and saw that this was the way to get it done."