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Wednesday, May 5, 1999 Published at 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK


Trafford reflects national scene

A local pub proudly bearing the Trafford name

By BBC Local Government Correspondent Rory Maclean.

As home to Manchester United football club, Trafford's claim to fame is already set. But come the local elections on Thursday, its reputation could be further enhanced.

Trafford is the setting for a local political battle that reflects the wider national hopes and fears of the three main parties.


[ image: Leafy suburbs: One side to Trafford's diversity]
Leafy suburbs: One side to Trafford's diversity
It is a mix of the urban, post-industrial and the leafy suburban. And such diversity has led to solid islands of support for the Labour party and the Conservatives with outcrops for the Liberal Democrats.

It could be a microcosm of the rest of England. There's been a lot of redevelopment in the area, including the themed shopping and leisure complex, the Trafford Centre.

It is here among the shoppers that the problem that faces all councillors in local elections rears its head. A large number of them appear to be completely unaware that there are local elections. Some of those who do know say they will not be voting.

Last time round, the turnout in Trafford was 35% of those eligible to vote, lower than normal in this area where the two main parties are often neck and neck.

A low turnout and voter apathy is something that Labour needs to avoid, not just in Trafford, a key target for the Conservatives.


[ image: Inside the high-tech Trafford Centre]
Inside the high-tech Trafford Centre
The Labour run council is part of the modernising element in local government. It is moving ahead with plans to try to make itself more relevant to people.

This is to be achieved by the creation of a cabinet style system where many councillors take on a role more familiar to backbench MPs' scrutiny of the executive.

This, it is suggested, will give councillors more time to listen to and respond to the needs of the people they represent.

Labour is sounding confident of holding Trafford but then the local Conservatives are also sounding confident of taking it.

They need an 8% swing to stop Labour being in control and nine seats to take control themselves. The Liberal Democrats could possibly end up holding the balance of power.


[ image: Grammar schools could score points for the Tories]
Grammar schools could score points for the Tories
Locally, the fate of the area's grammar schools is an issue which may benefit the Conservatives. But overall, the local election in Trafford, as elsewhere, contains a large element of an opinion poll on the parties.

In Trafford, the Liberal Democrats will be hoping to maintain their position.

The Conservatives will be looking for wins to show they aren't still bumping along the bottom.

While New Labour needs to show that it has firm foothold in areas that were once Tory.



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