Jeremy Corbyn has held a victory rally in one of the few places Labour actually won - but the winner didn’t show up.
After a disastrous performance in local elections across the UK, Corbyn staged a rally on Friday evening on the steps of the Manchester Convention Centre, after Andy Burnham easily won the race for Greater Manchester’s newly created mayoralty.
This led people to assume, logically enough, that Burnham would be there.
But he wasn’t.
Journalists reported the Labour leader’s arrival - without the man who had just won an election.
As Corbyn settled into addressng a comfortable crowd on familiar themes, it emerged Lucy Powell, who is seeking re-election as the area’s Labour MP, was also not invited.
Conflicting explanations began to fly as to why Burnham wasn’t there.
A Labour source told Rigby he had other commitments.
But HuffPost UK’s Paul Waugh was told Burnham knew nothing of Corbyn’s visit until he was shown en email to members of Momentum, the pro-Corbyn group within the party.
While Kevin Schofield, editor of Politics Home, heard Burnham had told Labour colleagues he wouldn’t be photographed with Corbyn after such a bad set of results for the party.
Waugh reported that the sudden Corbyn visit went ahead in the expectation Burnham would have no choice but to show up.
Corbyn told the crowd of around 200 supporters: “I have been in touch with Andy to congratulate him and he’s already hard at work on behalf of the people of the Greater Manchester region.
“And I congratulate all our mayoral candidates for the work they did.
“Our message now has to be to challenge the Tories. Absolutely challenge them.”
When asked later about Burnham’s absence, Corbyn said: “Andy’s busy working for Manchester already, don’t worry about that. We’ll be here again this week.”
Powell said Corbyn’s office apologised for the failure to invite her which was a “simple mistake”.
Tory James Cleverly, who is also seeking re-election, called it a “level of discourtesy is unforgivable” and mocked the rally going ahead without Burnham.
Labour won the uncompetitive Greater Manchester and Liverpool mayoralties but lost in traditional strongholds such as the Tees Valley.
The West Midlands, which covers cities where Labour has historically done well, narrowly elected Tory Andy Street as mayor.
In a thinly-veiled swipe at Corbyn, defeated Labour candidate Sion Simon said: “We can’t duck the reality of what we heard in the places we won on the streets of cities and towns like Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton and Sandwell.
“Traditional working class voters, who we were born to serve, quite simply want to hear a clearer, stronger message about traditional values like patriotism, hard work and a defence of decency, law and order.”