Just 402 votes separated Labour and the Conservatives in Bury South as the latter gained the Greater Manchester seat from Jeremy Corbyn’s party during what was a truly abysmal night for Labour.
Turnout was down in Bury South from 2017, where the figure was 69.34%, but only 66.64% decided to come out in this year’s election.
Christian Wakeford, the new Conservative Member of Parliament, was visibly shocked after finding out his 22,034 votes had won him the seat, which he was predicted to lose to Labour’s Lucy Burke in the exit poll.
Wakeford told MM that the result is going “to take a few days to sink in” after the announcement at Bury’s Castle Leisure Centre.
The announcement itself took an unusual tone, gathering all the political candidates aside whilst telling them quietly the results before revealing them on the stage to the onlooking public.
Nevertheless, the Conservatives now have their first Member of Parliament in the constituency since 1997.
— Joe Hagan-Duckers (@JoeHDuckers) December 13, 2019
Crucially, Wakeford credited his party’s Brexit policy, helping him gain votes in an area which voted 54.51% in favour of leave in 2016.
The new Tory MP also revealed that he will be supporting any Brexit issue that his leader Boris Johnson will put to parliament in order to ensure the United Kingdom leave the European Union.
Whereas his party was very repeatedly calling for Brexit to be done as quickly as possible, Wakeford believes the Labour Party’s policy on the matter and the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn helped shift voters towards the Tories.
Wakeford will be taking over from Ivan Lewis, who stood as an Independent in this election after resigning from the Labour Party.
Lewis won only 1,366 votes and was understandably disappointed with the result after being the Bury South MP since 1997.
The former Labour MP resigned from the party following their handling of his sexual harassment case and problems with anti-Semitism, which prompted calls from the Chief Rabbi urging British Jews to not vote Labour.
Bury South is home to one of the largest Jewish communities outside of London and Wakeford believes the Labour party’s problem with the issue had a massive impact on voters.
He said: “Certainly, in the Jewish community there was real fear of anti-Semitism and what that could mean under a Jeremy Corbyn government, so they’ve resoundingly supported the Conservatives.
“Some of them, for the first time ever.”
Nevertheless, the exit poll did initially have some promising signs for Labour.
It was predicting a 74% chance of holding the Bury South, in a night where they lost their grip on so many traditional Labour seats. But just like so many other seats it lost marginally, handing Boris Johnson’s Conservatives with a majority.
Richard Kilpatrick, the Liberal Democrat candidate, finished in third place with 2,315 votes and issued a clear warning to the incoming Wakeford.
He said: “I just really hope that the new Conservative Member of Parliament goes down to Westminster and remember the people that elected him tonight.
“A large universal population, a large number of people who didn’t necessarily in a very hard Brexit and represents the people of Bury South in the best possible way.”
Glyn Heath was the Green Party candidate in Bury South finishing with 848 votes, ending up in last place but conceded he was realistically hoping for a Labour hold.
He explained: “I was hoping Labour would hold Bury South, it’s been a very difficult campaign because it was a many horse race.
“Ivan Lewis was standing as an independent and there are strong Liberal Democrat areas, but, if any party was going to win, I wanted it to be Labour.”
The Brexit Party candidate Andrea Livesey only managed to win 1,672 votes in a constituency clearly concerned with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.