LABOUR’S former deputy council leader Guy Harkin has made a triumphant return to front line politics, winning the Crompton by-election.

Cllr Harkin, who spent more than 20 years as a councillor before losing his Bolton Council seat in 2004, polled 1,538 of the votes, beating Conservative candidate Kath Kavanagh into second place.

Ms Kavanagh, in her first election campaign, took 935 votes, giving Cllr Harkin a majority of 593.

Cllr Harkin said he was delighted for the Labour Party.

“This shows that the people out there still want Labour,” he said.

“I am delighted to be back and I cannot wait to get to work.

“This could be the first signs of a recovery for the party. Sometimes you have to reach the bottom, and maybe we have done that and now we are back on the up.

“It has been a very good campaign and we have worked very hard. It is just reward for all that hard work.”

It was a night of high drama at Bolton Town Hall as the count, which took just over an hour to complete, got under way with the five candidates and their supporters looking on nervously.

Independent candidate Mohmed Hanif Alli came third with 377 votes, while the Lib Dem candidate Anne Warren was fourth with 284 votes.

The Green Party’s Angela Tibke, the youngest candidate at 24, polled 99 votes on a disappointing night for the party, which had been encouraged by gains in this year’s European elections.

Cllr Cliff Morris, Labour Party group leader and council leader, said: “It has been a disastrous night for the Conservatives and I think it shows the people still want a Labour council.

“We will go into next year’s council elections with a lot of confidence now.”

But his Conservative counterpart Cllr John Walsh refused to be downhearted.

He said: “The Labour majority is less than it was and I think on a bigger turnout we could have done it. We had people ringing us up today to support the Conservative Party and asking for lifts to the polling stations, so we are not downbeat.”

Ms Kavanagh said the defeat would make her more determined to come back stronger at the elections next year.

She said: “I have met a lot of wonderful people on this campaign and, of course, this has not put me off. If anything it will make me stronger and more determined.”

The turnout was 31 per cent and there were 17 rejected ballot papers.