Chorley by-elections: Labour leader says party's county win points to 'red tsunami' in Lancashire at the general election

Labour swept to victory in one of two by-elections held in Chorley on Thursday, ousting the Tories from a seat that they had held for 14 years.
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The party snatched the Lancashire County Council division of Chorley Rural West from the Conservatives, with a 9.5 percent swing which the Labour opposition group leader at County Hall predicted would lead to a “red tsunami” across Lancashire’s parliamentary constituencies if it were replicated at the next general election.

However, the Tories retained the smaller Croston, Mawdesley and Euxton South ward on Chorley Council.

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Both seats had been left vacant after the sudden passing of long-serving councillor Keith Iddon in June. He had held Chorley Rural West since 2009, been the deputy leader of the county council between 2019 and 2021 and sat on Chorley Council since 2006.

Alan Whittaker first became a councillor in Chorley more than 40 years ago (image: Matt Price Photography)Alan Whittaker first became a councillor in Chorley more than 40 years ago (image: Matt Price Photography)
Alan Whittaker first became a councillor in Chorley more than 40 years ago (image: Matt Price Photography)

Labour county leader Azhar Ali told the Lancashire Post that the county division his party had reclaimed had long been considered a Tory stronghold.

“After the sad death of Keith Iddon, for Labour to increase its vote share by 11 percent to 52 percent [is remarkable].

“One in two people in a Tory heartland voted Labour. That just says it all - people in Chorley and across Lancashire are sick and tired of the lame excuses that are coming out from the government and they want change.

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“This is a big signal for a general election - it shows that in [some Lancashire constituencies] sitting Tory MPs will be out and there’ll be a red tsunami across Lancashire,” County Cllr Ali predicted.

More immediately, it means a return to County Hall for veteran councillor Alan Whittaker after a 14-year absence. Now 80, he is back representing the division he held between 1997 and 2009. For part of that period, he was also County Hall’s cabinet member for education.

County Cllr Whittaker also currently sits on Chorley Council, to which he was first elected in 1982 and where has served for 33 of the last 41 years.

He insists that his appetite to be a so-called “two-hatted” councillor is undimmed - and told the Post that he would even be happy to serve on committees at County Hall, in addition to his role on the planning committee at borough level.

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“It’s not really politics - you do it to serve the community. I enjoy doing that and there are lots of issues [to tackle] like footpaths, drainage and all sorts of things like that.

“Somebody asked me how old I was when I was out campaigning - and when I said 80, they told me to get a life,” County Cllr Whittaker laughs.

Meanwhile, on Chorley Council, the by-election result for Croston, Mawdesley and Euxton South heralded the return of Debra Platt to the authority - after the briefest of hiatuses.

She lost her previous seat of Euxton during a brutal night for the Tories at the elections back in May. The former Tory deputy group leader told the Post that while she was delighted to be back, her return was tempered with sadness because of the reason that the opportunity had arisen.

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She added: “It must be the shortest sabbatical ever - most people have to wait at least a year until they can get back on the council. It feels like I’ve just had a cheeky holiday.”

Following the by-election results, the ruling Conservatives hold 48 seats on the county council, down one, while Labour have increased their tally to 32. There are two Liberal Democrats and one Green Party member, while the Burnley Central West division is currently vacant and due its own by-election.

On Chorley Council, there is no change from May, with Labour holding 37 seats and the Conservatives five.


Chorley Rural West division (Lancashire County Council)

Val Caunce - Conservative - 1,279

Rowan Power - Liberal Democrats - 231

Alan Whittaker - Labour - 1,642

Turnout - 29.4 percent

Croston Mawdesley and Euxton South ward (Chorley Council)

Ian Cardwell - Labour - 710

Debra Platt - Conservative - 878

Rowan Power - Liberal Democrats - 244

Turnout - 29.6 percent