Labour’s Joanne Platt spells end of ‘Lexit’ plans by claiming empty seat in Leigh

Andy Burnham is a distant memory in Leigh tonight as Labour consolidate control of Wigan Borough with an emphatic victory that resulted in all women MPs elected to the Wigan, Makerfield and Leigh seats for the first time in history.

Newcomer and Burnham protégé, Joanne Platt, took the empty Leigh seat for Labour with 56.2 %, whilst Conservative candidate James Grundy came in second place with 35.8% and UKIP followed in third with 5.9% of the vote.

Platt is the town’s first woman MP and will join re-elected Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and re-elected Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue in a historic triumvirate of all-women Wigan MPs.

Platt said: “We’ve made a historic landmark here tonight. I’m honoured to be elected the first woman Labour MP for Leigh. I think this is the way forward.”

Conservative candidate James Grundy was gracious in defeat and was the first to congratulate Platt. Speaking to MM after the results, he was confident the Conservatives, whose vote share has increased 15% since 2015, are on the ascendancy in Leigh.

He said: “Labour couldn’t afford to take Leigh for granted. The Labour Party machine has been in full force in Leigh through the whole campaign as they’ve tried to pin it down. We’ve made them work for their seat.

He continued: “Leigh is now a two-horse race. UKIP have collapsed and are no longer our competition. There is a clear divide between Labour and Conservatives and equally between Conservatives and UKIP. We’ve taken their votes and we’ve improved our local presence. We’ve got a lot to be proud of.”

UKIP took 5.9% of the vote, a drastic reduction from the 19.7% at the pre-Brexit 2015 general election.

UKIP candidate Mark Bradley remains defiant about the party’s future despite their vote share being reduced by two-thirds.

He told MM: “UKIP will remain relevant and I think we’ll see a resurgence in UKIP post-Brexit. I was Labour for 20 years but I can’t forgive them for what they’ve done to my hometown.

“I’m a local man and like many UKIP candidates I’m fighting not only for Brexit but for local issues. There’ll always be people in Leigh who want an alternative to Labour or Conservatives and we’ll be their voice.”

The Liberal Democrats remain marginalised with a mere 2% share of the vote. Candidate Richard Kilpatrick was deflated but resolute.

He said: “This election is about rebuilding. We were realistic coming into this election and if we can make small incremental growth in places like Leigh then we’ll build on that for the future.”

The result is a resounding rejection of the Conservative and UKIP pledge of seeking a ‘Lexit’ to take Leigh out of Wigan Metropolitan Borough.

Grundy (Cons.) appeared to distance himself from the idea immediately after the result was announced, stating that there is a ‘seed of truth’ in the case for ‘Lexit’.

Jo Platt settled the question of ‘Lexit’ before disappearing into the night to celebrate her new status as MP for Leigh.

She said: “Let’s leave the rivalry between Wigan and Leigh on the rugby pitch where it belongs. And let’s hope that Leigh come out on top!”

Earlier in the evening Lord Peter Smith, the Labour leader of Wigan Council, told MM that he has worn the same fading red rosette since 1978 and Labour have won every election since.

In this part of Greater Manchester, Labour don’t need lady luck on their side. Not when they have three women MPs fighting their corner in Westminster.

The turnout was 61.6%, a slight increase from the 2015 election of 59.54.

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