General Election 2017: Labour rule central Manchester by increasing majorities

Labour won all five of their contests in central Manchester, in what proved to be a predictable outcome in an election night that was otherwise full of surprises.

Former Lord Mayor of Manchester Afzal Khan was elected to Manchester Gorton, a seat left vacant by the death of Gerald Kaufman, with majority of 31,730.

The familiar faces of Manchester Labour – Jeff Smith, Lucy Powell, Mike Kane and Graham Stringer – all retained their seats, with increased majorities.

Manchester Withington’s Jeff Smith beat his Liberal Democrat rival John Leech with a whopping 71.1% of the vote.

Mr. Smith, a former Hacienda DJ, put his success down to the strength of his local campaign, but also praised his party leader Jeremy Corbyn for his unexpectedly successful national result overnight.

“We’ve done well nationally, yes, but we worked extremely hard locally. The mood was very positive on the doorstep today, and I’m pleased to say that it reflected in a fantastic result,” he said.

“I think Jeremy Corbyn has performed very well in this campaign. To be honest, the results speak for themselves!

“Right now, I’m going to focus on serving the people of Manchester Withington – whether that’s in or out of Government!”

Manchester Withington is a constituency that contains a great proportion of Manchester’s large student population. Last year, the seat saw a significant show of support for the Remain side of the EU Referendum.

Mr. Smith was keen to stress why he thought that Manchester’s students had chosen to back his party over the Liberal Democrats, despite the latter running on a manifesto that committed to remaining in the single European market.

“I think we offered a positive vision for Manchester and the nation. The Lib Dems won a very negative campaign,” he asserted.

“We were offering a campaign that provided great policies for young people, as well as hope for the future.”

Mr. Leech was attempting to win the seat back from Labour, after losing it in 2015 during his party’s annus horribilis.

In a somewhat bizarre display, Mr. Leech offered a concession speech to a bemused audience of Labour supporters, after standing solemnly to hear Mr. Smith celebrate his re-election in Withington.

“Don’t say anything! Take the hint from the voters!” jeered one Labour party activist as Mr. Leech took to the podium.

“So much for the ‘no negative campaigning’!” he quipped back, with a sly smile.

Lucy Powell comfortably beat her closest opponent, Conservative Xingang Wang, to retain control of Manchester Central.

Ms. Powell was one of a number of Shadow Cabinet ministers to resign from their front bench positions in June 2016, as part of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s attempt to oust leader Jeremy Corbyn after the Referendum result last year.

When asked if she regretted turning against her leader, who has defied all expectations and stands as the big winner of the night, despite not standing at the head of the largest party, Ms. Powell offered no comment.

It will remain a mystery just how well Labour may have done nationally if the likes of Ms. Powell hadn’t spent so many months trying to remove their leader, instead of focusing on becoming a government in waiting.

Afzal Khan, a former police officer who in the past few years has been serving as a Member of the European Parliament, convincingly beat former-MP George Galloway – running as an independent and tipped as Mr. Khan’s closest rival – into third place.

Mr. Galloway chose not to attend the final count, to the amusement of many of Mr. Khan’s supporters.

Mr. Khan offered a tribute to the Greater Manchester Police, both for their work protecting the election counts across the region, as well as for the bravery that they showed during the awful terror attack in Manchester last month.

“The response which our city gave to this attack made me proud to be a Mancunian and to live in this wonderful and beautiful city of Manchester,” he said.

Speaking to MM, Mr. Khan explained why he thought that voters had chosen him over his opponents.

“We ran a positive campaign. We stood on a platform of putting Manchester Gorton first,” he said.

“This is precisely what I’ll be doing. Fighting the cuts to our schools, hospitals and police services. These are the things I will deliver on.

“I want to also pay my tribute to late Sir Gerald,” Mr. Khan told the crowd, referring to his late predecessor.

“The way he served for 47 years the people of Manchester Gorton – he was a tireless champion for each and every one of them. I promise to work every day to live up to his unique legacy.”

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