Behind the broken ‘Red Wall’ – the election aftermath
As UK voters woke to a Conservative majority in the House of Commons, there was little to celebrate for any parties at the General Election count in Manchester's conference centre
There was more weariness than celebration in the Manchester Conference Centre as the votes were tallied.
Conservative candidates and activists saw historic triumphs in nearby seats outside the city, such as Leigh or Bury South, but they made no substantial inroads in the central Manchester constituencies.
Labour returned its five MPs for Blackley and Broughton, Manchester Central, Manchester Gorton, Manchester Withington, and Wythenshawe & Sale East.
Yet Labour activists and candidates sat stunned, only feet away from their Brexit opponents as both groups watched Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn announce on the live TV feed from Islington North that he would not stand as leader in a future General Election.
Minutes later, Liberal Democrats throughout the cavernous conference hall shied away from commenting on the defeat of their newly-installed leader Jo Swinson before an SNP onslaught in the West of Scotland.
There were some lessons from the night which all seemed to agree on, however.
Blackley and Broughton MP Graham Stringer said: “In those areas that had Labour MPs and voted for Brexit, we did less well.
“There were other factors: the manifesto, whether it was credible or not.
“The leadership itself was mentioned on the doorstep.
“All those issues have to be analysed in full – and we have to reconnect with the electorate.”
Labour’s Lucy Powell, re-elected MP for Manchester Central, told activists: “Boris Johnson getting such a big majority means that we really do need to look deeply and profoundly at what has gone wrong.”
So, there are questions now for all sides over whether the causes of this breach in Labour’s historic “Red Wall” across the North of England is a short-term result of disappointment with Labour over Brexit in those constituencies, combined with a wider trust of Jeremy Corbyn, or whether there is something longer term, and potentially seismic at issue.
Jonathan Rodwell, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Manchester Metropolitan University said: “There are two versions here: one hopeful. The other not so.
“First, Brexit was a factor, but also Corbyn. But if it is these two things it is not a realignment, it is short-term stuff.
“The process of leaving the EU could make people realise the mess that comes next, and Labour do well next time without Corbyn.
“The other – depressing – version is that this is a realignment, not around Brexit, but around ideological and social issues, like in the USA – worrying ideas which others refer to as ‘Prioritising the nation’ and ‘reform migration’, euphemisms for ethno-nationalism.”