Andy Burnham’s victory in Labour’s Manchester mayoral selection – and with it, near-certain victory in next year’s mayoral race – opens up the prospect of a battle for the safe seat of Leigh, which has been Labour-held since 1922.
The chatter in Westminster is that Paul Mason, formerly of Newsnight and Channel 4 News, now one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most forceful advocates in the press, who was born in Leigh, is being lined up for the seat.
But despite his name recognition, Mason will face well-established local opposition. Local councillors have been eyeing up the seat since Burnham announced his bid for the mayoralty, and council leaders have proved hard to beat in parliamentary selections. Lord Smith of Leigh, the leader of Wigan Council, which includes Leigh, represents a ward in Burnham’s constituency and while not a candidate, is said to be likely to throw his weight behind someone from the Labour group on the council. Also tipped for the role is Joanne Platt, a Leigh councillor who served as Burnham’s agent, as well as working on his re-election bid. Having spent the last few months campaigning solidly to turn voters out for Burnham in Leigh, she may inherit much of his campaign’s local infrastructure.