The Conservatives held Manchester Withington from 1945 to 1987 until Keith Bradley took it for Labour for the first time in the party’s history. His winning total of 3,391 votes was boosted up to a shade below five figures in 1992, before doubling to 18,581 votes in 1997.
Most observers agree that Mr Bradley owes a debt of thanks for his 1987 breakthrough to an unusual source - Mrs Thatcher, whose policies speeded up the party’s exit from many cities. On a local level the Tories do not hold a single seat of the 99 that make-up Manchester Metropolitan Borough Council.
Gradual changes of political allegiance in Withington stem from gradual changes to the character of this mainly residential seat, situated to the south of Manchester city centre. The wards of Didsbury, Withington, Barlow Moor and Chorlton, once considered highly desirable for Manchester’s middle-aged, middle classes, are dominated nowadays by converted flats and Homes of Multiple Occupancy for students and young professionals. As a result, levels of owner-occupation are very low and the percentage of those renting privately is twice the national average.