The party suffered damaging losses in Thursday’s elections, particularly in Oldham and Stockport, but held firm in Liverpool, Manchester and Salford and even managed to increase its majority in Sefton.
Oldham’s leader was usurped in Failsworth West by Failsworth Independent Party candidate Mark Wilkinson by a margin of fewer than 200 votes and, while Labour still holds a majority in Oldham, the party will now have to choose a new leader from its ranks.
Said Fielding: “While tonight is obviously disappointing, the electorate of Failsworth West has spoken.”
He added that he had been “saddened by the tone of the campaign both politically and personally”, but was proud of what he had achieved in his nine years as a councillor and three years as leader.
“It is a loss, Oldham had made big strides in three years,” said Kevin Whitmore, director at built environment communications consultancy BECG. “I don’t think there is an obvious successor within Oldham Labour.”
In Stockport, the Lib Dems now hold 26 seats, one more than Labour, after the latter lost its seat in Reddish South to Green Party candidate Gary Lawson, who beat Labour incumbent Yvonne Guariento.
The Lib Dems will now have to strike a deal with a rival party to take minority control of the council, something Whitmore said will not be straightforward. A Labour/Conservative coalition is a more likely outcome than a deal being struck between the Lib Dems and Tories, Whitmore noted.
However, if the party is successful in forming a coalition, Stockport’s Lib Dem leader Mark Hunter could take over from Labour’s Elise Wilson as leader of the council.
Labour’s loosening grip
Losses for Labour in Greater Manchester, plus a defeat for Keir Starmer’s party in the Hartlepool by-election where the Conservatives won out, were not the only bad news for the party.
Labour lost four seats in Burnley, leaving the party five seats shy of an overall majority, while in Carlisle the Conservatives snatched two out of the three seats up for grabs from Labour.
In Wirral, whose council has no overall majority, Labour lost three seats to the Green Party and a fourth to the Tories, loosening the party’s grip on the council leadership.
Some good news for Labour
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Kier Starmer’s party. Labour’s incumbent city region mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham earned second terms as metro mayor of Liverpool City Region and mayor of Greater Manchester respectively.
The winning mayoral candidates were announced after voters flocked to the polls on Thursday. This year’s elections saw landslide victories for the two mayors, with Burnham scooping up 473,024 of the votes – 67% of the total 702,784 cast – and Rotheram winning 198,726 votes.
In Manchester, Labour lost one seat and gained another following Thursday’s election and the party now holds 94 of the 96 seats within the city council.
Lib Dem incumbent Richard Kilpatrick lost his seat in Didsbury West by 241 votes to Labour’s Debbie Hilal, while the Green Party’s Rob Nunney replaced Labour’s Brian O’Neil in Woodhouse Park to become the Green’s first Manchester city councillor since 2007.
Labour was also successful in Sefton where the party gained five seats to boost its overall majority within the council.
In Bury, Labour’s performance was less emphatic than in Sefton but the party clung on to its majority despite losing seats in Elton and the three Radcliffe wards. However, Labour also managed to wrestle back control in Ramsbottom and Sedgley where they defeated incumbent Tories.
Elsewhere in Greater Manchester, Rochdale’s Labour held on to all 15 seats that it was defending on an uneventful night in the borough, while Salford mayor Paul Dennett was reelected, securing 59% of the vote.
A new mayor for Liverpool
After much wrangling and controversy, Labour’s Joanne Anderson has been elected as Mayor of Liverpool, replacing Joe Anderson who resigned from his post after being arrested in relation to Operation Aloft, a Merseyside Police investigation into the award of development contracts in the city.
The former mayor denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged by the police. Investigations are ongoing.
Joanne Anderson beat off competition from independent candidate Stephen Yip by 46,493 votes to 32,079.