A Mexican wave of red hugs filled the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford last night as Labour snatched seats from the Conservatives.
Despite turnout being significantly down – just 25.89% of those eligible – Labour finished with 17 of the 20 seats up for grabs. The Tories took home three seats.
Gains were made by Labour across the board, but most interestingly was in the marginal ward of Walkden South, where 19-year-old Laura Edwards won the seat for Labour, with 1,460 votes.
Before the results, she talked of nerves in spite of a “really good campaign” that had created a wave of new Labour voters.
But following her success, Edwards changed her tune and opened up, admitting: “I didn’t think I would win.”
Walkden South goes to 19 y-o Labour candidate, Laura Edwards with 1460
Conservative Anne Broomhead just behind with 1157
— Laura FitzPatrick (@laurarfitz) May 4, 2018
She campaigned hard, with a focus on young people, to snatch the seat from the Conservatives, who trawled closely behind with an impressive 1157 votes.
That said, the previous Conservative councillor for Walkden South, Les Turner, was still celebrating as he remains in post just down the road in Worsley, having switched to a notoriously safe seat for the party.
However, it wasn’t all rosy for Labour, who lost Kersal to the Conservatives. This was their biggest blow for the night, and understandably so in a predominantly Jewish area, with a nod to the Labour party’s anti-Semitic problem.
UKIP’S FADING RELEVANCE
But it was feared beforehand by Labour campaigners in the room who predicted they would lose the seat from what they had heard on the doorstep.
The mood after was slightly sombre: a number of candidates’ heads hung in shame, with whisperings of “obviously” reverberating throughout the night. It was Ari Leitner who snatched this seat, gaining a huge 1660 votes.
All 12 UKIP candidates lost out significantly, with most gaining sub-100 votes perhaps due to a fading relevance for the party in the wake of their Brexit success, which Seamus Martin, candidate for Pendlebury, described as “the glue that held the party together.”
Martin felt the voting system particularly dealt UKIP a bad hand, adding: “If we didn’t have First Past the Post we would we in with a better chance.”
This sentiment resonated with the Greens also, who didn’t manage to make any gains, but remained “optimistic”.
Daniel Towers, who stood in Claremont, also regretted that they lost a number of voters to “Corbyn fever” which has had a weighty effect on their party since the last local election.
Labour continue to dominate the council with 50 seats. The Conservatives have nine after last night’s count and there is a single Independent.