Bolton local election 2024: Disappointment for Labour as council remains in no overall control

Bolton Council remains in no overall control after a night of disappointment for Labour but success for independents.

Labour gained three new councillors but lost five, reducing Labour’s strength on the council down to 26 seats, with the losses being blamed largely on the conflict in Gaza.

This is followed by the Conservatives on 14, Horwich and Blackrod Independents on 7, the Lib Dems on 6, and Farnworth and Kearsley Independents on 5.

Leader of Bolton Labour Cllr Nick Peel summarized his feelings as ‘disappointed’.

He said: “Undoubtedly the effects of Palestine and the ongoing crisis in Gaza affected a lot of our core vote, and so so many inner wards lost votes because of that. 

Bolton Labour leader Cllr Nick Peel

“People went to smaller parties in order to send a message and I can totally understand that.

“I think Sir Keir Starmer and the national party needs to understand the real anguish and concern felt by people of all races and cultures over the ongoing crisis in Palestine.

“We’ll carry on, hopefully with the support of the minor parties, keep the Conservatives out, and we’ll carry on and bring prosperity and regeneration to this borough.”

Apprehension over Gaza among Labour members was a common theme through the night, with many would-be Labour voters boycotting the party over comments made by Sir Keir Starmer. 

This is despite Bolton Labour proposing and passing a motion to call for a ceasefire.

Ayyub Chota Patel, an independent who gained a seat in Rumworth from Labour, was clear that his election was all about the situation in Gaza.

Ayyub Chota Patel (credit – Tom Bryden)

When asked about the next general election, he said: “Labour should be worried.”

He added: “If Labour don’t take [the war in Gaza] seriously, then obviously they don’t value the Muslims and diversity of our ward.”

Elsewhere, hyperlocal parties Farnworth and Kearsley Independents and Horwich and Blackrod Independents made further inroads into the council.

The Conservatives gained one seat but lost another, leaving their position as second-largest party in the council unchanged. 

The party won the ward of Astley Bridge by only one vote more than Labour, prompting victor Toby Hewitt to remind that “every vote counts” in his victory speech.

Reacting to how the election went, Cllr Martyn Cox, leader of Bolton Conservatives said: “We performed well tonight. Many people expected us to not only lose seats but to not even be competitive. 

“Given the national polling I’m relatively pleased with that.”

When pressed on what things were looking like for the Conservative MP for Bolton West, Chris Green, he remained confident that the party would be able to put up a “phenomenal fight”. 

He surmised: “I’m just pleased we finished the night on the same number of seats, and I’m really pleased with my team who performed terrifically well under the circumstances.”

(Featured image credit: Tom Bryden)

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