Labour were set for a landslide from the start in Salford tonight, with confident councillors nodding towards a victory before the night had even begun.
Ballot boxes started to arrive at Buile Hill Visual Arts College at 10:30pm but the counting did not begin until around 1:30am.
Rumours of only 40 out of 700 voters turning out in one ward supported early indications that turnout would be low at this election coming in at 33.5% – considerably lower than last year.
Labour expected a huge swing in their favour and correctly predicted 17 out of the 20 seats would be theirs to take.
The Conservatives successfully retained their three strongholds in Worsley, Walkden South and Boothstown and Ellenbrook but sorely lost their long-held Eccles seat to Labour’s Lisa Stone.
Liberal Democrat losses in Swinton South and Claremont contributed to their over-night national demise.
The renewed council leader, John Merry, initiated his victory speech with a brief rant over the delay caused by the AV referendum votes taking priority in the counting.
He added: “Tonight’s results were a clear reflection of a nasty vindictive government.”
But for all the waiting around in a packed gymnasium, the results soon poured in, rapidly presenting Labour as the clear overall winner of the evening.
Conservative leader Karen Garrido praised Tory candidates for standing strong and keeping their ground in the election.
She said: “Without you there is no democracy, you have to stand whoever you are and for whatever you believe in.”
PARTY TIME: Salford Labour supporters celebrate their successes on a night to remember for the party (MM)
Salford’s Liberal Democrat leader, Norman Owen, wrapped up the evening by conceding it had ultimately been a bad night for his party.
He said: “The party’s got to do some soul searching – the grass roots of the party needs to do some soul searching too.
“It’s going to be difficult to turn round because we’ve got to do it nationally as well as locally – I’m brave enough to take Labour on and we will be back.”
Most embarrassingly for the Liberal Democrats, they were beaten in votes by the BNP in several wards.
Stuart Henshaw, Winton’s BNP candidate was clear that any foothold in Salford or Manchester was highly unlikely.
He believed that Labour would probably sweep up most of the votes by stirring up anger towards the Tories.
He said: “Labour have been sowing seeds of discontent – we know they would be making the same cuts just slower, and unfortunately the cuts are necessary to balance the books.
“The gap between those three parties is just a slip of paper.”