Heywood wakes up to a new government, but they won’t be holding their breath for change

Date published: 08 July 2024

Sunshine beamed down on Heywood as the town awoke to find it had a new MP and a new Prime Minister in Sir Keir Starmer.

For many the weather reflected their mood after Labour took a landslide victory in the general election just hours earlier. The Heywood and Middleton North constituency was once again under the control of the Labour Party and their new MP Elsie Blundell who took 15,069 votes.

The area turned Conservative for the first time back in 2019, but that was certainly a thing of the past five years on.

Following the news they had a new MP, there were many on the streets of the market town delighted about change.

Geoff Bickerton said: “It’s brilliant news. I’m a Labour supporter and I’ve seen what the Tories have done whenever they get a strong majority – they do damage. I’m hoping Labour can bring real change.

“I’m glad they’ve gone, let’s give the new ones a chance.”

From reading the data, thousands of voters in the constituency would be feeling similar elation as the Heywood Market man, but the reality isn’t quite so clear cut. When you ask around town, Labour feel like the best of a bad bunch.


Stephanie Delamare, 26, sitting in Heywood town centre
Stephanie Delamare, 26, sitting in Heywood town centre


Stephanie Delamare had just come back from a work shift in Manchester city centre, she took the time to share her thoughts on her tactical voting.

“I think Conservatives have been in so long, it’s a tough one to vote on,” the 26-year-old explained. “Really I would’ve voted green but it felt like a wasted vote.

“I think anything other than Labour and it would’ve been a vote for Tories. I don’t believe in everything they do, but I feel it’s a better option than the Conservatives.

“I think overall this was a vote to get Tories out. But this is Labour’s chance to prove themselves, hopefully they can do that (and bring positive change).”

If this style of tactical voting was common in the Greater Manchester area, it worked. Across the city-region’s 27 constituencies, the general election has eradicated any sign of the Conservatives – with Reform UK coming second in many places, including Heywood and Middleton.

But one worrisome aspect of the election politicians will notice is the drop in voter turnout. Heywood and Middleton North had 51 per cent of those eligible to vote actually show up to polling stations – which is low for a general election.

The feeling of political apathy was rife on Friday afternoon, with ‘I don’t care about those politicians’ or ‘I don’t trust them lot’ almost a common phrase amongst many.


Simon and Christine Haylock out in town to do some shopping
Simon and Christine Haylock out in town to do some shopping


Christine Haycock, out for a shopping trip with husband Simon told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We don’t trust any of them. We’re in the middle of moving so we were too busy to vote anyway.

“Everyone of the parties makes false promises. They say they’ll do this and that but nothing changes. I don’t trust either of them.”

Simon added that if they did feel the urge to vote, it would’ve been Reform – because Nigel Farage put out a clear stance to sort out immigration and border control. Many in the area felt the same as Reform’s local candidate Steve Potter came second in the race with 8,987 votes.

Garth McKee, an army veteran originally from Northern Ireland, felt the big parties have their priorities all wrong. He didn’t vote because he can’t relate to Labour and Conservative policies – he wants to see people who live in the UK actually looked after before they start worrying about foreign policy.

“I’m a vet and they’ve done nothing for us – lots of us are living on the street. Their priorities aren’t in order, they’re not looking after our own people.

“I have friends abroad that are laughing at us. It’s a sad state of affairs when people can’t trust their own politicians.”

However, Garth remains hopeful, he said if they stick to their promises and deliver then he would change his mind and support Labour.


Phil Brandon, walking along Market Street in Heywood
Phil Brandon, walking along Market Street in Heywood


Phil Brandon was, like many in this election, politically homeless – but his disillusionment didn’t stop him voting for the Lib Dems. He admitted this was only because the Green didn’t field a candidate.

He didn’t think Rishi Sunak was good enough, but the idea of Keir Starmer is no better prospect in his eyes.

“I was going to do a tactical vote but the Greens didn’t have a candidate. I’m not in favour of Keir. I’m somewhere between Labour and Conservatives politically.

“I can’t stand him (Keir Starmer), and in a few weeks time people will see why. He’s basically a new Tony Blair, not true to his cause.”

Before polling day on July 4, voters told the LDRS that they wanted a local champion to take them forward. That has been delivered in part with Councillor Elsie Blundell – who has served as an elected member of Rochdale Council for years, but in the Balderstone and Kirkholt ward.

During her victory speech, she proclaimed: “There will be many people who voted Labour for the first time in this election. Thank you. I will do everything in my power to deliver the change that you have voted for.

“For everyone here who voted for me, those who voted differently, and those who stayed at home I promise to represent you and be your voice in Parliament. I will always be on your side.”

What that change will be is still a mystery in Heywood though. There is £20m of levelling up funding which is waiting to be spent. Heading into the market, some stall holders feel there are good ways to spend them money – with transport infrastructure a recurring topic.


Geoff Bickerton in his market stall in Heywood Market
Geoff Bickerton in his market stall in Heywood Market


Geoff Bickerton said: “Cash injections and improving transport infrastructure could be a big boost. This cost of living crisis has led things in the market to go downhill, there needs to be an overhaul.

“There has been no growth in the last decade, what we need to do is start producing again.”

Going from the photo framer over to Jenna Collins’ food stall, she feels sorting transport infrastructure could be a great start. Although confessing she knows little about politics, she feels investing in towns and giving people reasons to come in would be a better use of public money than the usual titivation to make it look a bit prettier.

“I know this town needs a cash injection, it needs to go into small businesses to help them grow. I feel like Middleton has more for them as they have more franchises due to better transport infrastructure.

“You can get to a lot of places directly there. To get to a lot of places from here, you have to get two buses which is a faff.

“All these ideas to make the place look pretty are nice, but you need to have something for people to come here for before they will actually see it. Public transport will be key to getting more shoppers/punters.”

How the town will change over the next five years under a new MP and government remains unknown. But the message is clear from locals, it will take genuine change in order to get that make into the polling stations in 2029.

George Lythgoe, Local Democracy Reporter

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