ONE of the beneficial side effects of coronavirus restrictions was moving the count for the borough council elections to Saturday.

And thanks to the Guardian’s live blog, I spent an interesting and entertaining couple of hours after lunch watching the results roll in.

To be honest, after reviewing what had happened in other parts of the country, I fully expected something much more dramatic to happen at our town hall.

Given the size of the Labour majority going into the election, I did wonder if the Tories would ride the wave of support the vaccination programme has given them and perhaps see Warrington go to no overall control. For what it’s worth, I never thought the Tories had a chance of taking complete control.

But I did have a nightmare scenario where things got so tight that the independents held the balance of power.

But in the end, Labour – despite losing seven seats – stays firmly in control of the town’s destiny, bin collections and finances.

But on a relatively dramatic day, the Tories picked up 10 seats to take their total to 11 and become the official opposition.

So here are my takeaways from Thursday’s elections.

Firstly, I am genuinely surprised Tory Wendy Maisey was allowed to stand as a candidate in the first instance after being caught in a controversy over leaked WhatsApp messages that made rather unpleasant comments about Warrington North Labour MP Charlotte Nichols.

Such was the furore, a Conservative Party spokeswoman had to make a public statement saying: “Wendy Maisey has apologised for any offence caused and has undertaken thorough diversity training.”

Having said that, given Prime Minister Boris Johnson is alleged to have said “no more f****** lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands” and Tory supporters were happy to let that slide by, we shouldn’t be surprised that Ms Maisey not only got away with her comments but was actually elected to the council.

Then we come to the battle in Rixton and Woolston. The ‘big name’ standing there was former Mayor and former Labour MP for Warrington South Faisal Rashid.

He failed.

Now the Warrington Guardian’s live blog described Mr Rashid’s failure as a ‘big shock’.

Really? Does anyone really think this was a big shock? I don’t. People across the town have had an opportunity to look closely at Mr Rashid in action and came to the conclusion they weren’t too impressed with what they saw.

He was elected in the 2017 general election but only lasted a couple of years, losing his seat to Tory Andy Carter in the 2019 election.

Despite his brief sojourn in Westminster, Mr Rashid wasn’t one to let the grass grow under his feet. In October 2018, it was reported that he had been on five freebie overseas trips, worth almost £10,000 in total, after being elected. The trips were to Azad Kashmir, China, Germany, Qatar and the West Bank and Israel and the cost was met by NGOs, companies or overseas governments.

Mr Rashid, to be fair, said they were ‘educational’.

At this point, I’m really rather hoping to continue my ‘education’ on a Mallorcan beach in the not too distant future.

Another big name bowing out of borough council politics is former Labour Mayor Linda Dirir, who lost her seat in the Penketh and Cuerdley ward.

This, again, wouldn’t have come as any surprise to students of Penketh politics. Mrs Dirir has been the victim of sustained ad hominem attacks on social media over many, many months. Frankly, some of the things written about her have been disgusting, unpleasant and untrue but I suppose if you throw enough mud, some will stick.

While we’re in Penketh, my final takeaway from the elections is the fact that all three seats in that ward went to independent candidates, the only ones in the town.

I can’t help but wonder exactly what they will be bringing to the table, what kind of power and influence they believe they can wield and what they stand for.

I know one of them used to be Labour before ‘crossing the floor’ to become an independent but other than ‘working for the people of Penketh’ and standing for ‘openness and transparency’ they remain a mystery to me.

Let’s just hope they can get those pot holes filled and litter picked up. Maybe they will be good ward councillors but I suspect they will have little or no wider influence on the direction the town will take. Only time will tell.