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Election 2017: Labour gains and Conservative pains in the North West

Clockwise from left: James Frith, Faisal Rashid, Chris Matheson and Mike Amesbury
Image caption Labour took five seats from the Conservatives in the North West

"Of course we're surprised. We never expected the results that we've got."

Ivan Lewis has held Bury South since 1997 and yet even on polling day, he'd called in other Labour MPs for a desperate door knock.

One told me she was certain it would swing blue. It didn't.

Even more surprising was Bury North, a Labour gain for James Frith.

He was chasing a majority of 378, but goes to parliament with one ten times that.

That leaves just two Conservative MPs in Greater Manchester, but that did not mean outgoing David Nuttall was blaming Theresa May.

"She worked hard. We all did," he said, visibly shaken.

In Ribble Valley, the victorious Nigel Evans was not so forgiving.

"We torpedoed our own campaign - we helped the Labour party with the Conservative manifesto.

"It was the worst one I've fought in my 25 years of parliament.

"There was a triple assault on the elderly and whoever was responsible for that should be utterly ashamed."

Increased majorities

Perhaps the biggest story for the North West came from the South, with chunks of Cheshire swinging to Labour.

Warrington South saw a government minister scalped - Hello Faisal Rashid, goodbye Health Minister David Mowat - while Jeremy Corbyn's decision to spend the last day of his campaign in Weaver Vale was a blatant reflection of how his party's confidence had grown.

They started the campaign keen to defend marginals in Chester and Lancaster, but ended on the attack.

And it worked - Weaver Vale joined the wave of swings to Labour, as Mike Amesbury gathered in a majority of just under 4,000.

It was a similar story in High Peak and Crewe and Nantwich; both Labour gains.

And the party held Chester, the Conservatives' number one target. In fact, Chris Matheson increased his majority hundredfold.

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Media caption'Worst Conservative manifesto' to blame for losses, says Ribble Valley MP

Labour was left delighted in Lancashire too - Cat Smith got the cream, increasing her tiny majority in Lancaster and Fleetwood fivefold.

She is best friends with Jeremy Corbyn, so won't need to eat humble pie, but John Woodcock will.

Explicitly distancing himself from the party leader and blaming him in advance for the loss of the seat, he ended up winning with a firm margin.

Where did it all go so right? "I have no idea," he said.

"I honestly don't. I bet nobody you speak to does."

'They were over Brexit'

Also left scratching his head will be Tim Farron, who saw his own constituency lead cut to a tenth.

A 777 majority will surely leave him asking whether pushing for a second Brexit vote was a mistake.

And did it cost them Southport too?

This was the only Conservative win in the area, with the Liberal Democrats coming third.

John Pugh - who held the seat since 2001 before deciding not to stand said: "They told us on the doorstep they were over Brexit."

"We should have been talking to voters about the money in their pockets and the state of their hospitals."

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Media captionTories win Southport but 'historic occasion' for Labour

The truth is the North West's election journey had more twists and turns than seven weeks ever should.

We started out wondering if the 1997 Labour gains would be totally wiped out but the opposite happened.

If you took out a calculator, Labour's numerical gains correlate with UKIP's losses.

They went from 13.6% of the region's vote, to just over 3%.

People assumed those votes would go to the Conservatives but how wrong they were.

And while those people mused on where those votes would go, few predicted five Labour gains from the Conservatives. Hats off to those who did.

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