Elections 2019: Fringe parties score massive Bolton wins – including ousting Labour after 100 years in Kearsley

Local parties Farnworth and Kearsley (FKF) and Horwich and Blackrod First (HBF) made considerable gains in the Bolton Council elections last night on a night where the Labour Party suffered a series of major blows.

FKF’s most notable triumph was in Kearsley, a historic Labour stronghold for over one hundred years and a result that demonstrated the strength of feeling behind the hyper-local fringe party.

Labour were always expecting a difficult night, but the loss of such a traditionally safe seat will surely send shockwaves across the city and leave many somewhat perplexed at the staggering rise of the FKF.

The party also won Farnworth, while the similarly parochial HBF won seats in Horwich and Blackrod and Horwich North East to leave no party in overall control of the council this morning.

Councillor Lisa Weatherby, who displaced Labour’s Jean Gillies in Farnworth, said: “The people of Farnworth have spoken out – they’ve had enough.

“They’ve had enough of everything being taken away from them and it’s time we fought back for things that belong to Farnworth.”

The results were pivotal in inflicting a crushing night on Labour, whose seats being contested on the council shrunk from 13 to seven and left veteran Council Leader Linda Thomas – who was in her 24th year as a councillor – despondent.

Speaking after the results had been announced, she said: “We’re disappointed – we felt we had a good manifesto and we listened to a lot of people.

“But we understand that many people are feeling very angry, very let down and very left behind – it is sad.”

The results were symptomatic of the broader and growing division between Labour’s traditional northern support-base and the PLP over Brexit, with disillusioned voters in Bolton turning to more alternative solutions.

The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives were further beneficiaries of Labour’s marked demise, gaining three and one seats respectively and triggering some raucous scenes amongst the town hall’s partisan crowd.

The Lib Dems won seats in Westhoughton North & Chew Moor, Westhoughton South and Smithills, assuaging any potential fears its supporters in the north-west may have had over the party’s future as a political force.

Meanwhile, the Tories gained Breightmet and Hulton from Labour in a night of unabating misery for Jeremy Corbyn’s seemingly politically paralysed party.

The dynamic of Bolton’s council became more open on Thursday night, with Labour and the Tories holding six seats each among the contested wards and the Lib Dems, KFK, HBF and UKIP sharing the remaining eight.

Councillor Paul Heslop, who won the seat for the FKF in Kearsley from Labour, said: “Tonight’s result should be incredibly worrying for the Labour Party – we’re delighted.

“We fought very hard – the fact is that we’ve removed the Labour Party from the wards of Farnworth and Kearsley for the first time in over 100 years.”

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