General Election 2019: ‘Labour has always recovered’ says veteran Manchester winner Jeff Smith

In a rout, there are sometimes people who stand firm and do not give ground. In Manchester this morning, the Labour supporters in Manchester Withington did just that.

Labour’s Jeff Smith has held his seat with a slightly reduced majority.

Unlike in other constituencies which saw big swings to the Conservatives, it was the Liberal Democrats who responsible for chipping away at Labour here, coming second.

This is perhaps not surprising given that Withington has previously returned a Liberal Democrat in the 2005 and 2010 elections. 

A high turnout worked in Labour’s favour here today, with Manchester Withington boasting a 69% turnout, the highest of any constituency at the Manchester Central count today.

However, this island of hope for Labour remained an exception. Smith began his victory speech on a sombre note by thanking the people of Withington.

“I had hoped that the rest of the country would follow their lead, vote for hope, vote for change, and vote for a Labour government. That’s not been the case. Clearly it has been a terrible night for the Labour Party.”

Nonetheless, Smith, a veteran Labour Party member, went on to drew solace and courage from the experiences of the past.

“I joined the Labour Party when I was 16. I’ve seen some pretty tough times. The Labour Party has always recovered. We lost in 1983, we came back to introduce the minimum wage.”

He is not however, in any doubt about the challenges ahead, stating flatly: “This will be a difficult few years for many people.”

When questioned after his victory speech about his plans for the future, Smith elaborated further, telling MM: “I think the plan is to take some time to assess what’s gone wrong for the Labour Party. It’s been a great result for Manchester, but desperately disappointing for the rest of the country.

“We need to take some time and learn the lessons of this national defeat.

“I don’t think we should leap to any conclusions, we need to look at the data and do a proper analysis, and talk to the voters and talk to the people who have not put their confidence in the party nationally.”

His tone echoed that of his colleague and Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell, calling for reasoned, thought out investigation into Labour’s defeat.

Powell said: “We’ve got to take a long, hard look at ourselves here, there are many issues at play that will need profoundly addressing if we are set ourselves back on a course for being electable again.”

Meanwhile Dr. Shengke Zie, the Conservative Party candidate for Manchester Withington, whilst disappointed today to not be elected to Parliament, was understandably content with the overall result.

“I’ve got to be happy about the results nationally, because it just shows that our programme seems to be on its way to being accepted by a very large margin,” he told MM.

The magnitude of this margin leaves the future of Britain almost entirely in the hands of a Conservative majority.

There is little doubt, in spite of scoring a precious victory in Withington, Labour faces an uncertain future in the UK.

Smith however, believes that Labour is up to the challenge. When asked if he believed that Labour will return, he resolutely declared: “Absolutely. We’ve come back before, we’ll come back again.”

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