Barbara Keeley Worsely MP

The story of Worsley and Eccles South in Salford helps us understand why Labour lost the general election.

Before the Conservative candidate for Worsley and Eccles South, Rabbi Arnie Saunders, arrived at the AJ Bell stadium for the count, Tory officials said he was “quietly confident.”

The BBC exit poll had predicted a 61% chance of a swing to the Tories in a seat that hasn’t had a Conservative MP in its history.

The incumbent Labour MP Barbara Keeley couldn’t be drawn on the exit poll and afterwards said she “took nothing for granted.”

Rabbi Saunders had previous in beating Labour candidates. In 2017 he won the council ward of Kersal and Broughton Park after it had been in Labour control for 25 years.

The Conservative candidate for Salford and Eccles, Attika Choudhary, speaking at the time felt her colleague was in with a real chance:

“Worsley and Eccles deserve that. I feel that people in this area want a change, and this speaks volumes. People in this area wanted to leave (the EU).”

It was this strong Eurosceptic feeling within the area that almost carried Rabbi Saunders to victory.

Worsley and Eccles South voted 59.79% in favour of leaving the EU at the 2016 referendum and produced a 18.3% vote for UKIP in the 2015 general election.

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There was also the issue of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party that had helped him get elected as a Councillor.

However, it wasn’t to be. In fact, the Tory vote marginally shrunk from 17,667 to 17,227. The Brexit Party got 3,224 and the irony is, if these votes had gone to the Conservatives, they would have defeated Barbara Keeley’s total 20,446 by just six votes.

Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s best efforts, this election was about Brexit and although he didn’t feel it in Worsley and Eccles South, the message was heard loud and clear on the doorsteps.

Bryan Blears, the Green candidate for Salford and Eccles said: “Brexit is the forefront of everyone’s agendas at the moment.”

This was echoed by the Liberal Democrat candidate for Salford and Eccles, Jake Overend: “It’s been pretty much all about Brexit.”

Jeremy Corbyn painted himself as a man of principle and the Labour Party as the party of principle but on Brexit, the biggest issue of the day, he, and they, had no principle and it cost them.

For more information on the election, check out our live blog for our running coverage throughout the night.

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