Four very different election battlegrounds in Greater Manchester

Labour are hoping to make gains across Greater Manchester
-Credit: (Image: Adam Vaughan)

Party activists, candidates and campaigners have been pounding the streets of Greater Manchester over the last few weeks ahead of the general election. There are 188 candidates standing to be the MP in one of the 27 constituencies across the region on July 4.

At the last general eleciton in 2019, Labour won two-thirds of the seats available in Greater Manchester but lost five constituencies to the Conservatives who won some seats - such as Leigh - which had never elected a Tory MP before. But a lot has changed since then.

Polls predict the Conservatives could be wiped out in Greater Manchester with Labour winning all but two seats where the Lib Dems are expected to finish in first place. But this would require a Labour win in Rochdale where George Galloway is running for re-election.

READ MORE: After 14 years of Tory rule, is Manchester any Greater?

Labour sources expect the result to be close in Rochdale where the Workers Party leader is hoping to hold onto the seat he won at a by-election earlier this year. The result is also expected to be close in Bury North, which was the most marginal seat in Britain last time.

Labour expect to lose voters in these seats due to the war in Gaza. But this could be balanced out if the Tories lose votes to Reform.

In Altrincham and Sale West, where Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady is standing down, Labour believe they can win the seat for the first time ever. And in Hazel Grove, the vote could be split three ways with the Lib Dems, Tories and Lib Dems all in with a chance.

Altrincham and Sale West

The Conservatives have held the Altrincham constituency - including in all of its previous incarnations - for almost a century. But with Tory incumbent Sir Graham not running for re-election, Labour is hoping to make history by winning the seat for the first time ever.

Altrincham town centre
Altrincham town centre -Credit:Manchester Evening News

This affluent part of Trafford, which includes the leafy suburbs of Bowdon, Hale Barns and Timperley, has seen some demographic change in recent years. Labour sources say this influx of young families could prove to be pivotal at the polls - in fact, it already has.

The Tories lost control of Trafford council in 2018 and now hold just eight seats at the town hall while Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens gain ground. But even in the areas with a clean sweep of Conservative councillors still, some Tory voters have had enough.

Last month, the Manchester Evening News spoke to several former Tory voters in the constituency who were no longer planning to vote for the Conservatives. However, there was little enthusiasm to vote for Labour among voters who spoke to the M.E.N. either.

One issue that could cost Labour votes is the party's policy on private schools of which there are several in the constituency. The party plans to end tax breaks for fee-paying schools and use the extra cash generated to recruit 6,500 new teachers in state schools.

One mother, whose daughter attends a preparatory school in the area, told the M.E.N. that this has become a 'hot topic' in the area. A focus group by pollsters More in Common also found that, while some voters in Altrincham were not against the idea of taxing private schools, there are concerns about the impact the policy could have on state schools if they have to take more students.

Bury North

At every general election since the Bury North constituency was created, the seat has been won by the party that comes to power. The only exception to this came in 2017 when Labour's James Frith - who is standing again - stole the seat from the Conservatives.

Bury town centre
Bury town centre -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Mr Frith was ousted by the Tories in 2019 with James Daly - who is running for re-election - winning by the smallest margin in Britain. With just 105 votes separating the two last time, the national swing in the polls towards Labour would suggest the Tories are toast.

However, sources from both parties have told the M.E.N. that they expect the contest to be close. Labour are expecting to lose votes, particularly among Muslim voters, because of the party's previous stance on the war in Gaza, but believe that they will still win overall.

Nigel Farage's Reform UK is also expected to pick up some votes in this constituency which could work against the Tories. When the M.E.N. spoke to voters in Bury North last week, several people - including ex-Labour voters - said they were planning to vote Reform.

Mr Daly is the only one of five Tories from the 2019-intake of Greater Manchester MPs who is standing for re-election in Greater Manchester. Christian Wakeford, who was elected as the Conservative MP for Bury South, has defected to Labour and is now running for re-election with a red rosette, while Bolton North East's former MP Mark Logan is standing down and backing Labour this time.

Conservative Chris Clarkson, who beat Labour for the first time in Heywood and Middleton in 2019, is now standing in Stratford-on-Avon, while James Grandy, who became Leigh's first ever Tory MP at the last election, is standing down. With Labour hopeful that they can win back all these seats, all eyes will be on Bury North and Bolton West - another bellwether seat the Tories won last time.

Hazel Grove

Another place where both Tory and Labour sources say the Conservatives could cling on is Hazel Grove. The constituency has been held by the Conservatives since 2015 when William Wragg won the seat from the Liberal Democrats for the first time since 1997.

Technically the Tories already lost this seat before the election. Mr Wragg - who is not standing for re-election this time around - quit the party earlier this year following a parliamentary sexting scandal and spent his last few months as a sitting MP as an independent.

The Lib Dems are now hoping to win the seat at this election, alongside the neighbouring Cheadle constituency which has also been held by the Conservatives since 2015. But some sources have suggested that the contest in Hazel Grove could be closer of the two.

That's because Labour is expected to pick up a sizeable chunk of the votes in Hazel Grove which could see the result split three ways. Both Labour and Conservative sources have said that this could help Tory candidate Paul Athans come through the middle and win.

However, when the M.E.N. asked Lib Dem candidate Lisa Smart whether she is worried about losing votes to Labour, she insisted that it is a two-horse race. She pointed to Labour campaigners being sent to Macclesfield to argue that Hazel Grove is not a Labour target.

The comments came during a visit from Lib Dem leader Ed Davey who was in Mill Brow last week. During the visit, Sir Ed defended his candidate who he said made 'a very bad joke' when she was caught on camera asking a voter from Liverpool if she was 'nicking stuff'.


Capitalising on anger over the war in Gaza, George Galloway won the race to become Rochdale's MP at a by-election earlier this year. It came after Labour - which had previously held the seat since 2010 - dropped its candidate over 'deeply offensive' comments he made about Israel, meaning that the party was not campaigning in the constituency despite its candidate still appearing on the ballot.

Rochdale Town Hall
Hazel Grove

This time, Labour has chosen political journalist Paul Waugh to stand in the seat. Labour sources suggest it will be a close contest.

The war in Gaza still seems to be a big issue for some voters in the constituency. But when the M.E.N. spoke to voters in Rochdale last month, it was clear that the economy and the cost of living are also big factors that will influence who residents will elect on July 4.

Mr Galloway's Workers Party have fielded candidates across Greater Manchester, identifying seats in Bury, Oldham and Ashton as target seats. While his party is not expected to win in any of these seats, Labour losing votes to the party could be consequential.

In Oldham East and Saddleworth, for example, Labour won by just 1,503 votes last time. However, Labour sources do not seem worried about losing this seat where several independent candidates are also standing which could split the anti-Labour vote.

Meanwhile, Mr Galloway told the media last month that Reform is gaining some ground in Rochdale. The Workers Party leader said that in one part of the constituency his team found that half of those who had already decided who to vote for were backing Reform.