THE general election on December 12 has been dubbed the most unpredictable for generations. Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN looks at what could happen here in Bolton and how that could affect the national picture.

NO seat is safe in the forthcoming pre-Christmas election as all three of Bolton’s constituencies will be in the spotlight.

Two are swing seats considered to be “bellwether” constituencies with historically slim majorities.

The third has been identified as a “high risk” area as 63 per cent of its constituents voted to leave the European Union while their MP supported remain.

Since the last general election, the Conservatives have taken control of Bolton Council, ending four decades of Labour dominance – but they campaigned on local issues and distanced themselves from the government at the time.

This will be the first general election which the Brexit Party will contest after it stormed the European vote in the North West, coming out on top in Bolton.

But whether Nigel Farage’s new party will attract more Labour or Conservative voters at this election is anyone’s guess.

It will also be the first general election since 2001 that UKIP will not have any candidates in Bolton.

The Lib Dems, who doubled in size at the local elections in May, will focus their attention on Bolton West where Conservative candidate Chris Green won by fewer than 1,000 votes two years ago – creating a potential four-way contest in the constituency.

Mr Green was Bolton’s only MP to campaign for Brexit during the referendum, but his constituency had the highest Remain vote in the borough at 44.5 per cent.

Former Labour MP Julie Hilling will be fighting to win back the seat which she lost to him in 2015.

She was the first to be elected in the constituency while not being on the winning side nationally since Margaret Thatcher first became Prime Minister in 1979.

Horwich councillor Kevin McKeon said: “If Labour can win Bolton West, the odds are we can form a government.”

However, other Labour sources have admitted that just holding on to the other two seats in Bolton would be seen as a victory in itself.

Bolton North East, where Sir David Crausby has been the MP for Labour since 1997, will be another seat to watch.

He won by fewer than 4,000 votes in the last general election with the Tories coming second.

One Lib Dem source predicted that of the three seats, this one is the most likely to change hands.

Conservative councillor Andy Morgan confirmed that Bolton North East is “definitely” a target for the Tories.

But he admitted that his party had not expected Sir David to stand again this year – how that affects the Conservative’s chances remains to be seen.

The constituency, which is home to most of the safe Tory seats at the council, has returned even more Conservative councillors in recent local elections.

In Breightmet, Labour have gone from three councillors to none, all in the course of 12 months, as the Tories won there in both local elections since 2017 and one councillor left Labour.

In Bolton South East, Labour have lost a further seven councillors since the last general election.

However, Labour activists say that these local results are not likely to be mirrored in the general election.

The is partly because the change of leadership at the council in May was a result of the rise of hyper-local parties, such as Farnworth and Kearsley First, who have expressed no interest in parliamentary elections.

Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi, who won in Bolton South East by more 13,000 votes in 2017, will face a challenge from the Brexit Party.

Kearsley councillor Mark Cunningham, who left UKIP earlier this year, will be the Brexit Party candidate and could come second in the race, according to his former group’s leader.

Cllr Sean Hornby said that UKIP will not be fielding any candidates this year because they fear it would split the vote. He urged voters to back pro-Brexit candidates.

He said: “I think the problem in this election is that people are fed up. I’m an avid 24-hour news viewer, but even I’ve turned off.

“We’ve got to remember that this is not just about Brexit. The domestic agenda has been neglected for three and a half years and that’s a shame.”