Elections 2019: Oldham stays loyal to Labour but smaller parties begin to bloom

Silver ribbons and a disco ball sparkled above Oldham’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on election night – but which of the candidates would come away feeling like prom queens?

The town is a Labour stronghold, and not much was expected to change on that front. But with 102 candidates across 20 wards there were certainly an interesting mix of opposition parties in the running.

Greens had candidates in 13 seats, while UKIP were in the running for 14 – a shift from last year where they didn’t contest a single seat. While they didn’t manage a win, they came second in a handful of wards.

Paul Goldring, candidate for UKIP Royton North, stated that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was doing its best to turn the public against them but their support was still undeniable.

“We got very positive reactions – we had people crying and saying thank you for coming back,” he said.

Results came thick and fast with Labour winning across the board, but some surprising losses peppered the evening. In Failsworth East, incumbent Paul Jacques was defeated by independent Brian Hobin, while they lost Saddleworth West and Lees to the Lib Dems.

Tensions were high as Coldhurst seat’s winner was announced, with ex-Labour Montaz Ali Azad attempting to hold on to his seat as an independent after he was suspended by the party.

The result garnered the loudest cheers of the night, as Ruji Sapna Surjan for Labour defeated Azad 2031-1700. It was an emotional victory, with the winner surrounded by friends and family who had come to support her.

Her achievement is an important milestone, as she’ll be the first female Bangladeshi councillor in Oldham – and perhaps she’ll pave the way for more to follow.

There were also some interesting candidates in the three Saddleworth wards, with candidates standing for grassroots party Saddleworth First! Their localised message must have resounded with voters, as they lost to Labour in Saddleworth North by only 54 votes.

The final results stood at 15 seats for Labour, 3 Lib Dem, 1 Independent, and 1 Conservative.

Nothing too groundbreaking – but below the surface, it seems like change is stirring.

“This next time next year, we’ll be here,” said undeterred UKIP candidate Anthony Prince for Royton South.

It’s hard not to wonder who else will be.

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