The Conservatives have ended 36 years of Labour rule in Heywood and Middleton after winning by 663 votes in tonight’s general election.
Chris Clarkson, a former Salford councillor, received 20,453 of the votes, equating to 43.1%. He surpassed the 38% of the vote that he achieved just over two years ago in June 2017. The turnout was 59.6%, which was down on 62.4% of June 2017.
The result meant that there was an 8.3% swing from Labour to Conservatives.
Ever since 1983, the seat has never returned anything other than a Labour MP. However, history was not on incumbent’s Liz McInnes’ side as Clarkson overturned a 7,617 majority.
McInnes had held the seat since a September 2014 by-election, following the death of long-serving MP Jim Dobbin where she defeated UKIP by 617 votes.
Met with heckling from Labour activists after the result was announced, Clarkson said: “I am looking forward to going back to London to get Brexit done so we can get on with the priorities in the area.”
The result could be described as a political earthquake. Heywood and Middleton was not projected to swing to the Conservatives. Tuesday’s updated YouGov MRP projected Labour to retain the seat by 9%.
Brexit Party candidate, Colin Lambert, a former Labour councillor and former leader of Rochdale Council between 2010 and 2014 said: “I hope that Boris sticks to his promise and we get a proper Brexit free-trade deal.”
Conservative candidate for Norden Peter Winkler, Clarkson’s agent, noticed a generational shift on the doorstep.
“Traditional Labour voters had voted Labour for three generations, but we’re going to vote Tory this time.”
Despite this election being dubbed the so-called Brexit election, Europe was not on everyone’s lips. McInnes raised the importance of the NHS, school funding and crime on the doorstep
She said: “Brexit came up at some points but the Tories have been doing the negotiations. In all conscience, I could not accept the May or Johnson deal.”
She derided Johnson’s decision to call the December general election. She admitted that this made canvassing very difficult and people did not want to be thinking about politics.
She was in defiant mood amidst Labour’s punishing night at the polls. Heywood and Middleton was not an anomaly. What were previously traditional Labour heartlands such as Leigh, Burnley, Redcar, Blyth Valley and Don Valley to name a few swung to the Conservatives.
“I want to see a return to a sense of social justice, helping the weakest and vulnerable – not telling them to go to a food bank which seems to be the Tory way.”
The results in full (vote share compared to 2017):
Change versus 2017
Nigel Ainsworth Barnes, Green Party
Chris Clarkson, Conservative
Colin William Lambert, Brexit Party
Liz McInnes, Labour
Anthony John Smith, Liberal Democrats