Arrogance on behalf of the Liberal Democrat leadership was to blame for a whitewash in the Rochdale Metropolitan Council election, suggested the leader of the local Conservatives.
Councillor Ashley Dearnley placed the blame for the losses of their five seats squarely in front of the Liberal Democrat’s leadership.
He said: “I think one of the major reasons for the defections from the Liberal Democrats is due to arrogance in their leadership.
“I think that has definitely been a factor in their demise here, even before any of the unpopular decisions the party has partaken in at a national level.”
The Tories experienced some strong successes with surprise wins in Bamford and Littleborough Lakeside.
Even before the results were in, Colin Lambert, the leader of Rochdale’s Labour group, was seen doing a triumphant lap of the counting hall and confidently telling several councillors that Labour had won their targeted seats and possibly even exceeded their ambitions.
He said: “This is only possible because of the mess the Lib Dems and Tories have made. It would have been unthinkable to take so many seats a year ago.
“The Lib Dems need to learn you can’t break election promises.”
Labour won seats in Balderstone and Fairholt, Castleton, Kingsway, Milnrow and Newhey, North Heywood, Smallbridge and Firgrove and Spotland and Falinge.
Results were slow coming in after the driver delivering the ballot boxes from West Middleton was involved in a car accident in Heywood and taken to Fairfield Hospital.
After contacting the man’s wife and learning of the incident, police were sent to retrieve his keys and the ballot boxes, which finally arrived at around 10.30pm.
There was early scandal in the area too when allegations of electoral fraud came in from six different wards, with voters claiming they had been pressured into handing over blank signed postal votes.
Police reinforcements were called in to accompany the ballot boxes securely from Rochdale in order to protect them from any possible tampering.
Shah Wazir, for Milkstone and Deeplish, who recently defected from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives, said: “There have been issues surrounding the postal votes ever since they were introduced.
“It is really not on that some parties go and apply such pressure on constituents.
“It is sometimes also a case of party members and campaigners trying to call back favours from voters, telling them they have earned their vote in some way and then pressuring them to hand over their postal vote.”