Elections 2018: Our man in Oldham enjoys piles of biscuits and the buzz of the count

It was a wonderful night of excitement as election fever hit Oldham’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

There were huge boxes of biscuits and the air was buzzing with pre-count nerves with the most animated people a team of journalists broadcasting to Bangladesh.

Labour retained overall control of the council, winning 16 out of 20 wards on the night and having 47 out of 60 councillors overall. The Lib Dems and Tories each won two.

There was some great gossip on the night too, one highlight being a Labour councillor with a fake degree.

Labour gained in Failsworth West, as Peter Davis took a seat, making the ward fully red. Cllr Warren Bates was up for re-election as an independent candidate, but couldn’t get half as many votes as Labour’s Davis.

The hills of Saddleworth proved to be Oldham’s main local battleground.

Pam Byrne gained for the Conservatives in Saddleworth North, sneaking the win by just 51 votes to beat the Lib Dems’ John Eccles.

Saddleworth South became fully blue, as the Conservatives’ Jamie Curley took Lib Dem Cllr John McCann’s seat from him.

Meanwhile Labour also gained, Saddleworth West & Lees being taken by Valerie Leach.

Oldham was always going to be tough for the Tories, but they doubled their overall number of councillors at these local elections.

The Conservatives by no means ran away with it, but wins are wins.

They will definitely take heart from their Saddleworth successes, especially in the wake of the recent bad publicity inflicted by the Windrush scandal, which could have influenced local voting.

Although more than 60% of Oldhamers voted to leave the EU in 2016, they do seem to have somewhat bucked the national trend in these local elections of ‘leave areas’ voting the Tories in.

Yes, the Conservatives gained one more seat than Labour in Oldham, but their victory margins were small in comparison with Labour’s.

My taxi home in the wee hours involved the driver Aqeel and I shouting over each other about City and United. He also asked, “why the f*** should I vote?” saying that the councillors don’t do anything for him. Is this a prevailing attitude across Oldham? Some of the turnouts were very low, the worst being in St James at only 18.59%.

Overall most of Oldham’s 20 wards had turnouts of around 30%, which is the expected amount for local elections. Perhaps though, there is a general lack of political engagement in Oldham. Brexit, Windrush and other high-profile issues could be to blame.

The Lib Dems may feel disappointed with some shockingly low totals across Oldham, despite winning in two wards. In Werneth they only got 17 votes, Failsworth West 29, Failsworth East 23 and Chadderton South 69.

Labour remain strong in Oldham with some blistering results and unsurprisingly retain overall control of the council.

Oldham’s next battle is in the football at Northampton on Saturday, as OAFC fight on the final day of the season to avoid dropping out of League 1.

Whilst the picture for Oldham after these elections may appear mixed, their future will definitely be decided on Saturday against the Cobblers.

From the Queen Elizabeth Hall to the Sixfields Stadium, good luck Oldham.

Related Articles