Election 97

North West England

North West 92 North West 97
The English North-West, dominated by the two great urban complexes of Liverpool and Manchester, has shown an overall long-term trend towards Labour over the past few decades - it was one of the worst regions for the Conservatives in 1992. This was amplified in the 1997 election to turn the region into yet another via dolorosa for the Tories.

On Merseyside, the last few Conservative outposts were mopped up by Labour and the Lib Dems. Besides retaining their by-election gain of Wirral South, Labour - perhaps unexpectedly - removed the Tories completely from the Wirral peninsula by taking Wirral West. On the other side of the river, middle-class Crosby fell to Labour, while the Lib Dems picked up a long-awaited win in Southport, removing the last traces of blue from Merseyside.

The Tories fared little better in and around Greater Manchester, although they did hold on to two suburban seats. All of Labour's target seats of Bolton West, Bolton North East, Bury North and Bury South fell to them, and the national swing to Labour gave them an additional gain at Oldham East and Saddleworth, ironically a Lib Dem target, where the Tories are now in third place. The Lib Dems, indeed, must have had mixed feelings about Manchester, losing Rochdale - a seat they have held for decades, and their only loss in England in this election. They did, however, gain a consolation prize at Hazel Grove, a seat they were very confident of winning.

In semi-rural Lancashire, the Labour onslaught gave them all of their target seats of Blackpool South, Chorley and South Ribble plus - unexpected gains - the 'safe' Tory seats of Blackpool North, Lancaster and Wyre and Morecambe and Lunesdale. Tory holdings in this county are now confined to rural Fylde and Ribble Valley.

All eyes were on Cheshire for the extraordinary contest at Tatton, where ex-war correspondent Martin Bell stood on an anti-corruption ticket against Tory Neil Hamilton. Bell, unopposed by Labour and the Lib Dems, swept in to become the first true Independent MP since 1945. Elsewhere in the county, Labour picked up their expected gains of Chester City and Warrington South.