WITH its reputation as a ‘bell-weather’ region, Bolton has long been a key battleground when it comes to General Elections with big name politicians flocking to the town in the hope of securing those all important votes.

When it comes to the constituency of Bolton West, it’s usually been the case that the party winning the 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 Conservatives and Lib Dems formed a coalition government. The following election, Conservative candidate Chris Green beat her in 2015 when his party increased its majority in parliament and at the last general election, the incumbent candidate retained his seat, winning by 936 votes.

This weekend’s no show by Prime Minister Boris Johnson wasn’t the first time the country’s leader has planned a trip to Bolton, but as our first photograph here depicts back in 1950, Prime Minister Clement Atlee did actually show up. Mr Atlee is shown, accompanied by his wife, Violet, addressing an enthusiastic crowd at the Technical College in Bolton. Mr Atlee served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955. Often rated as one of the greatest British prime ministers, Attlee’s reputation among scholars has grown, thanks to his creation of the modern welfare state and involvement in building the coalition against Stalin in the Cold War. He remains the longest-serving Labour leader in British history.

From October, 1930, we have a photograph of Bolton Liberal Party at a meeting tom open the party’s municipal campaign for elections the following month. From left were: Mr A Pilling, Cllt Beswick, Miss Bromiley. Cllr Taylor, Ald JF Steele, Cllr J Booth and Cllr Winkley. At the meeting Cllr Taylor stressed the importance of Bolton acquiring an aerodrome - ‘I am convinced,” he said, ‘that it will be necessary for the town to consider this question very carefully, because in the future aeroplanes will be used for long distance travel far more extensively’. Wise words.

18 years later and it is October 1948 and the opening of the new headquarters of the Rumworth and Hulton Liberal Association in Randal Street, Bolton. Included in this photograph are Alan Tillotson (prospective Parliamentary candidate for Bolton), W.A.B Tarbuck (agent), Fred Markland (chairman), W Brooks (secretary), and James Booth (prospective candidate for Darwen).

April 1967 and another party leader was visiting Bolton with the arrival of colourful and controversial Liberal Jeremy Thorpe who was speaking to a large audience at the Albert Hall. He is pictured here with, from left: Roger Cuss, Doris Robinson , Arthur Holt and Dr Michael Winstanley, MP for Cheadle. In May 1979, Mr Thorpe’s political career ended when he was tried at the Old Bailey on charges of conspiracy and incitement to murder, arising from an earlier relationship with Norman Scott, a former model.

Robert Howarth remains one of Bolton’s best-known MPs and he is pictured here in November 1964 at Westminster alongside fellow Bolton MP Gordon Oakes. Mr Howarth was Labour MP for Bolton East from 1964 to 1970. In the 1970 general election, he unexpectedly lost his seat by 471 votes, but remained involved in local politics in Bolton and was elected to Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council; he was Leader of the Labour Group from 1975, and then Leader of Bolton Council from 1980. Mr Oakes served as MP for Bolton West from 1964 to 1970, when he was beaten by the Conservative Robert Redmond by 1,244 votes. He was re-elected for Widnes from a 1971 by-election until 1983, and for Halton from 1983 until 1997. He died in 2005, aged 74.

Mr Oakes is shown again alongside Alfred Morris, Labour MP for Wythenshawe, in our photo from August 1965, where he is speaking to workers outside Hawker Siddley’s Lostock works.

Our picture from November 1971 shows another big name MP visiting Bolton with Eric Heffer the guest speaker at a meeting organised by Bolton Labour Party and attended by about 150 people. Mr Heffer was Labour MP for Liverpool Walton from 1964 until his death in 1991, during which time he was an outspoken opponent of the Common Market, and served a brief period in government in the mid-1970s.

The final picture shows ‘a cross party meeting’ from November 1964 at Westminster, as Charles Fletcher-Cooke, MP for Darwen and the only Conservative member in the area, chatting to Ernest Thornton, MP for Farnworth, who would serve until 1970.