IN the third and final part of this series of special reports looking at all the candidates standing for election across Bolton, Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN finds out more about those vying for the votes in Bolton West...

BOLTON West has long been considered a “bellwether” seat where the winner is often on the winning side nationally.

Out of the 650 parliamentary constituencies in the UK, it was the 51st closest contested with a majority of less than one thousand.

But one political forecasting website puts the Conservatives out on top with a majority of 22 per cent predicted.

Electoral Calculus, a quantitative political consultancy, founded by data expert Martin Baxter, gives the Tories an 85 per cent chance of winning.

We have asked every candidate standing across Bolton borough for a statement outlining why people should vote for them.

Today, in the third part of a series of special reports, we are looking at the candidates standing in Bolton West.

Usually, the party which wins this seat forms a government. There was only one exception to this rule in the last 40 years – when Labour’s Julie Hilling won in 2010 but the Tories and Lib Dems formed a coalition government.

Conservative candidate Chris Green beat her after a recount in 2015 when his party increased its majority in parliament.

At the snap general election in 2017, the incumbent candidate retained his seat, winning by 936 votes, and beating the former Labour MP for the second time.

She achieved a higher portion of the vote than in 2015, but Mr Green’s majority increased by 135. The ex-MP, who succeeded former government minister Ruth Kelly when she won in 2010, will be standing as the Labour candidate in Bolton West again this year.

UKIP came third in 2017, narrowly beating the Lib Dem candidate Rebecca Forrest. She will appear on the ballot paper for Bolton West for a second time in the marginal constituency which the Lib Dems will be campaigning in more than any other part of the borough.

At the last local election in May, the Lib Dems made gains in Westhoughton while Labour have also lost council seats in Horwich and Blackrod.

The Brexit Party was also expected to stand in this seat before its leader Nigel Farage announced that his new party would not contest any of the seats won by the Conservatives in 2017.

Paul Brierley, who was previously selected for the seat, is now standing in Oldham East and Saddleworth instead.

The Green Party’s Paris Hayes is one of the youngest candidates to ever stand in a general election in Bolton.

The teenager hit the headlines earlier this year when he demanded that the council does more to tackle climate change.

Chris Green, Conservative Party

The Bolton News:

CHRIS Green has been the MP in Bolton West since 2015. He is an political aid in the Department for Education.

He said: “As Bolton West’s MP over the last four years, I have often said that in order for me to serve your interests in Parliament, I must get to know your local views. This is why I have held numerous public meetings, over 600 advice surgeries and sent over 30,000 pieces of correspondence on the behalf of local people.

“One of the main concerns people have raised with me is law & order, which is why I urged Boris Johnson and the Policing Minister to recruit more police when I met them earlier this year. They have listened, recruiting 347 new officers for GMP over the next year, with more to come over the following two years. Not only this, sentences are also being toughened and we are creating 10,000 new prison places, to ensure that people are suitably reprimanded for the crimes that they commit.

“I will also continue my fight against the development of local green spaces, by urging the government to change planning rules. I want to ensure that when the local community rejects a large planning application, such as Horwich Golf Course or Hulton Park, developers can’t resubmit the application with minor changes in order to push it through the planning process.

“My other local priorities include investing in local health services, so you and your family can get a GP appointment when you need it, and levelling up education spending, so that every child across Bolton can get the best start in life.

“However, in order to do achieve this, we must get Brexit done, which is why I will use my vote in Parliament to support Boris’s great new deal. That way, we can get on and focus on the priorities of the people of Bolton West and of the country.”

Julie Hilling, Labour Party

The Bolton News:

JULIE Hilling was the Bolton West MP from 2010 until 2015 and served on two select committees.

She said: “Bolton West has been my home for over 30 years. I’ve spent a lifetime fighting for my community, and I’ve seen first hand the cost of the Tory Government on this area.

“The Tories have failed for nine years on the economy, on public services and on Europe. Now their last-minute gamble is to put a border in the Irish Sea, and to sell off our NHS in a broken trade deal with Donald Trump. No one voted in 2016 for Britain to become America’s lapdog, but that’s the future this Tory party wants for the working people of this country. With a Johnson government we will end up with American drug prices and American healthcare costs.

“Boris Johnson lies. He lied to his employer, he lied to his party, he lied to his wife, he lied to his mistress and he lied to the Queen. Now he’s lying to us.

“Bolton West is a straight fight between Labour and the Tories. Only one of us can win here. If people really want to take back control, they have to vote Labour. We will take Rail, Mail, Water and the National Grid back into public ownership. We will invest properly in our young people, and build a million homes so they can get a proper start in life. We will raise the minimum wage and forge a Green New Deal that creates good, unionised jobs while protecting our environment. We will have free care for the disabled and elderly and reform the benefits system so that there is a safety net when we need it. We will reverse the Tory cuts to police and local government. Above all, 95 per cent of households will not see any tax rises, not in income tax, National Insurance or VAT.”

"Vote Labour on December 12. Once the Tories give away the NHS it's gone forever."

Rebecca Forrest, Lib Dems

The Bolton News:

REBECCA Forrest was the Lib Dem candidate in 2017.

She said: "The result of the referendum was the prompt for me. I decided that I wasn’t being represented by the old boys’ club of Parliament and would stand for election myself, bringing real life experience to policies which affect ordinary people. Quite simply, I want to help everyone in the Bolton West communities build a brighter future.

"My first priority is stopping Brexit; day one, with a Liberal Democrats majority and otherwise fighting for a final say with a people’s vote. Brexit could dominate our political landscape for years, just with the negotiation of trade deals replacing those we already have through EU membership. Drawing a line under Brexit will allow us to tackle the important issues currently ignored. We could be growing our economy, tackling the climate emergency and addressing the crises in our NHS and schools.

"As the largest remain party in Bolton West, the Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservatives’ extreme Brexit – supported by Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson - threatening the very union of the UK and the Labour version of Brexit. The Labour candidate here has repeatedly failed to state her position when asked so cannot be relied on to vote for remain or a people’s vote.

"The bursting infrastructure around Bolton West has led to increasing pollution; we need ambitious targets and a proper plan to help reduce it as well as a review of infrastructure. Banning fracking, regulation of public transport, electric car charging points and electric vehicle incentive schemes, alongside other measures, need urgent implementation.

"The NHS deserves proper funding and protection which the Liberal Democrats plan of 1p on income tax will provide. Any form of Brexit will harm the NHS, if you don’t have a position on Brexit, you can’t have a position on the NHS."

Paris Hayes, Green Party

The Bolton News:

PARIS Hayes is a student from Westhoughton.

He said: “The Green Party offers big, bold ideas to create a country that works for everyone. We aren’t afraid to hope for a better future or to be honest about how we get there. We believe in being brave, speaking our minds and standing up for what matters. We are proud to do politics differently.

“We want an economy that works for everyone which means introducing a four-day working week, reducing the pay gap and investing in areas like Bolton.

“Environmental protection is at the heart of our party, this means recognising the ongoing climate chaos this government has failed to deal with and introducing radical new initiatives to ensure our country becomes carbon net-zero by 2030, setting the global standard.

“We will fix our broken transport system by taking public ownership of our rail and bus networks, investing in our region to ensure a transport system that works for all, this includes an integrated ticket system similar to that of the Oyster system in London, this will not only increase convenience but increase value for money.

“We want to build a better, more positive future for everyone and in particular young people. We want that future to be safer, happier, more equal and more secure. As a young candidate in this election my promise to you is that we will invest in education and opportunities along with lowering the voting age, protecting the environment, tackling the housing crisis and building a strong economy.

“Politics must change. We must have the courage and compassion to do politics differently. I along with my fellow Greens can deliver that much needed transformative change for Bolton and our country. If there was ever a time to choose hope and vote Green, that time is now.”