Labour comfortably held on to its majority in Bury last night despite worries that the Jewish community would turn its back on the party over anti-semitism.
The party now has 31 of the council’s 51 seats having lost two but gained one from the Conservatives.
With a turnout of 37%, the overall result came as no surprise, but continued Labour support in several wards with sizeable Jewish populations was a relief for the party.
Amongst issues that typically dominate council elections such as potholes, local development and spending cuts, candidates said that anti-Semitism in the Labour party was the standout concern on the doorstep in and around Prestwich.
Bury South MP Ivan Lewis, who is Jewish and was elected in the area on five occasions as a Labour candidate, told MM that many Jews in his borough are “anxious” and “insecure” about the party.
He said: “It’s a very good night for Labour. In my part of the borough we have a serious challenge in the Jewish community. Therefore, we were quite concerned about several wards tonight.”
One of those wards was Sedgley in which Cllr Alan Quinn’s victory surpassed expectations with a majority of almost 1,000.
Cllr Alan Quinn, first elected in Sedgley 8 years ago: “When I was first elected, Prestwich was the forgotten Borough, but we’ve got millions invested in Prestwich” #LocalElections #bury #LE2018 #MMElections2018 pic.twitter.com/RibDpUU2EI
— Joseph Timan (@josephtiman) May 3, 2018
He told MM that he has had a very good relationship with his Jewish constituents over the last eight years and unequivocally condemned the response from the Labour leadership over anti-Semitism allegations.
Cllr Quinn said: “I’m not afraid to criticise elements of the Labour Party like Ken Livingstone. There’s no place for anti-semites in the Labour Party.
“If the leadership want to pick up the phone and talk to me about how I’ve engaged with the Jewish community, I’m more than willing to help them.”
He also spoke about the impact that cuts are having on the council, saying voters have realised that austerity has failed.
His fellow cabinet member, Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, who also has a large number of Jewish constituents, called Cllr Quinn one of the most “dedicated” and “committed” councillors.
Before the results were in, Cllr O’Brien told MM: “We’ve said repeatedly in Prestwich that the Labour Party has to do a lot more in a very short space of time to rebuild these relationships with the Jewish community.”
His victory was much narrower, with a majority of 57 following a recount.
— Joseph Timan (@josephtiman) May 4, 2018
Labour’s first loss of the night came in Pilkington Park where Conservative candidate Nicholas Jones beat incumbent John Mallon convincingly with a majority that was four times higher than Mallon in 2014.
He said that he was “delighted” with the result, but put the victory down to “Labour’s neglect of Whitefield, the libraries and the lack of investment and potholes.”
The other Conservative gain came in Radcliffe North where Paul Cropper took the Labour seat previously held by Jane Lewis with a majority of 441.
Speaking about his victory, he said: “It’s a wonderful feeling. We suspected it was going well right through the campaign. The majority was higher than I thought.”
Labour’s only gain came in Ramsbottom, the ward which infamously required candidates to draw straws in 2011 to determine which party would gain overall control.
Twenty-year-old Jamie Hoyle was hoping to keep the seat previously held by Ian Bevan for the Conservatives but was beaten by Labour’s Kevin Thomas.
Ramsbottom’s new councillor is the partner of Labour Cllr Karen Leach who was re-elected in Radcliffe East.
He said: “People want that empathetic understanding. People wanted someone that is proactive and I’m going to be a proactive councillor.”