Posted by: Richard Frost | June 9, 2017

Labour’s Jeff Smith wins Manchester Withington

Labour's Jeff Smith and the Liberal Democrats' John Leech await the poll results in Manchester Withington

Manchester Withington’s declaration

In the early hours of this morning, it was revealed that Labour’s Jeff Smith had beaten the Lib Dem’s John Leech in the race to become MP of Manchester Withington – the constituency that covers Chorlton, Didsbury, Withington, Old Moat and Burnage in south Manchester.

Not only that, Smith massively increased his majority in a seat that he first took from Leech in 2015.

Smith’s total of 38,424 votes was a long way ahead of Leech’s 8,549 votes, giving Labour a hefty majority of 29,875 on an impressive turnout of 71.9 per cent. That’s around double the majority of 14,873 that he secured on a turnout of 67.5 per cent in 2015.

I caught up with him during the count at Manchester Central.

Jeff Smith hails “rejection of negativity”

Jeff Smith's Manchester Withington victory speech with John Leech and Sarah Heald in the background

Jeff Smith’s victory speech

Smith said: “The majority’s about doubled so we’re obviously very pleased. It’s a vindication of the campaign that we ran both locally and nationally.

“This has been a remarkable rejection of negativity in politics from the Lib Dems in Withington and the Tories nationally.

“We offered a vision for the country that offered hope and the Tories didn’t offer anything.

“I’m hoping to carry on as a Labour whip – I’d be happy to do that again if I’m asked. Jeremy Corbyn’s fought a really good campaign and what’s important now is that the Labour Party comes together.”

John Leech promises Lib Dem fightback

The Liberal Democrats' John Leech concedes defeat in the Manchester Withington constituency

John Leech addresses supporters

Smith’s re-election came at the expense of Leech who had hoped to take back the seat that he previously held from 2005 to 2015. Leech, who is also a councillor for Didsbury West on Manchester City Council, remains the official opposition to the Labour-held council.

He said: “The election campaign feels more like seven years than seven weeks.

“It’s been another difficult night for the Lib Dems in this general election. But we will be back.”

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