THE FORCE was certainly with Tameside’s Labour Party as on May the fourth – Star Wars Day – voters said, ‘Ged? Aye.’
Now leader of an even stronger ruling group, Cllr Gerald Cooney, has vowed to tackle the local issues he believes made election night such a success.
Before the votes were counted, much talk centred around whether the borough’s own red wall would show signs of crumbling.
However, it has been reinforced. A status of 48 Labour councillors, eight Conservative and one Green is now 51 Labour and six Tories.
And after taking three seats in Ashton Hurst, Ashton Waterloo and Hyde Werneth, Cllr Cooney believes seeing ‘national’ issues affect what is on people’s doorstep contributed to the success.
He also hinted blaming the national Government for a downturn in simple services may soon be a thing of the past.
The Droylsden West representative, who received four more years by toping that ward’s poll, said: “National issues, like the cost of living crisis, are now local.
“You see it everywhere. You see queues for food banks growing and growing, you see people worried about their heating bills. Can they afford to put the heating on?
“It’s caused by a national Government and a period that was unbelievable. Liz Truss has moved on but we’re seeing the effects.
“People here are thousands of pounds in debt and you’re talking about families where both parents have jobs.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, that was the issue for a lot of people. People aren’t eating so their children can. You have a lot of organisations trying to help out and it’s wrong.
“It’s all over – not just in Tameside but the country. Everything has shot up after a mad period and some mad policies.
“It may be a national problem but we’re seeing it locally – how it effects people in Mossley, Stalybridge, Droylsden, Hyde, Denton and everywhere else.
“At the back of my church, St Stephen’s, we collect for the food bank. The goodness of people, how they will help others, is the most inspiring thing.
“Just recently, The Trussell Trust told how much demand for them had grown. This is a phenomenon of a Tory Government, no-one else. It’s an industry in itself that wasn’t there before they came in, let’s hope that if they go, we can get rid of it.
“But we’re trying to get back to local. We’re councillors in Tameside and it’s important we talk about where you live and what your problems are.
“I can’t keep going to people and say, ‘The Government hasn’t given us this or that.’ People want to know, ‘What about my bin collection? What about my street cleaning?’
“I’m leader of Tameside Council and local issues elect us. We ourselves can argue with Government but people want to know, ‘Is my bin going to be collected? Is my pothole going to be fixed?’ I have the same issues.
“I’m a Droylsden West councillor first and always will be while people still want to bring me back. I get a lot of emails from all areas of Tameside either wanting to vent or looking for help – but I’m a Droylsden West councillor first and foremost.
“However, we were the only party to put a candidate for every single seat and we fought for everything, that was important to us.”
While many wearing red rosettes had smiling faces, the same could not be said for those wearing blue on a poor night.
A quarter of the Conservative opposition lost their seat and in a sign of their performance, Labour came just 199 votes from claiming a seat in the normally rock-solid Stalybridge South ward.
Andrea Colbourne’s dramatic victory in Hyde Godley at least provided some late cheer but group leader Cllr Doreen Dickinson now has questions to ponder – not least who will be her deputy after Ruth Welsh lost her seat in Hyde Werneth.
Tameside is now back to a two-party system after Green councillor Lee Huntbach lost out in Ashton Waterloo, polling fewer votes than colleague Christine Clark as Labour took all three seats.
But the late night – a finish shortly before 6.30am – took its toll on some.
One candidate had to leave as they literally had school in the morning and another kissed his declaration because he fell asleep!