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Labour 'have to work at it' in Bolton as national swing not replicated locally

No change in control of Bolton - but plenty of isolated drama, and the Green Party winning its first ever seat

May 03 2024, 06.18am

Labour failed tonight to win the seats it needed for an overall majority on Bolton Council, despite the swing to the party in national polls.

But if there was no change in control of the borough, the elections contained a number of mini-dramas, with a contest in the Astley Bridge ward decided by just one vote, and the Green Party winning its first ever seat in Bolton.

Labour started the night needing to add three seats to the 28 with which it had formed a minority administration after elections last year. By the time the results of the contest were finalised at 5am this morning, it had a net loss of one seat.

The Conservatives were defending three and emerged with three – but not the same ones. And the Lib Dems retained two seats they were fighting in Smithills and Westhoughton North and Hunger Hill, but lost Westhoughton South.

Speculation that the Israel-Palestine conflict would play a part in local politics was confirmed when independent candidate Chota Ayyub Patel beat Labour Hanif Adia in the Rumworth ward, which has a high number of Muslim voters. The seat had been held until shortly before the election by Labour’s Jack Khan, but he resigned in protest over Keir Starmer’s stance on Gaza.

Although Patel had previously been a Conservative councillor in Rumworth, he declared tonight’s win, in which he gained 1990 votes to Adia’s 1244, as being “for Gaza”.

Labour lost Farnworth South and Kearsley to Farnworth and Kearsley First Party, and Halliwell to the Greens. But it won Westhoughton South from the Lib Dems, Bradshaw from the Conservatives and Hulton from independent councillor Derek Bullock, who had been ejected from the Conservative party over allegations of a racist Facebook post, which he denies.


The most dramatic contest of the night was in Astley Bridge, where Tory Toby Hewitt won 1560 votes to Kate Taylor’s 1559. The one-vote margin drew whoops of joy from Tory supporters crowded round the count as they realised they had regained the seat some believed was its natural territory. 

Council cabinet member Sue Haworth retained her Farnworth North seat but admitted that Farnworth & Kearsley First Party had hurt Labour. Her winning total of votes was less than four figures, at 904, with her hyper-local opponent taking 700.

Howarth told The Bolton Lead the night had shown that the “offer’s got to be good from Labour and we’ve just got to work at it. We have to get a good relationship with the residents.”

Martyn Cox, leader of the Conservative opposition since it lost control of the council in 2023, said his party had come close to winning other seats as well.

“Nobody was expecting when you’re 20 behind in the polls to be competitive and quite tough wards. So we’re thrilled about Astley Bridge, disappointed about Bradshaw but it was a really strong performance by the Conservative group.”

In retaining his Bromley Cross seat, Cox’s colleague Nadim Muslim had sought to emulate Conservative local election candidates across the country by distancing himself from Rishi Sunak’s Westminster party, putting his success down to being a non-ideological “community champion”.

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