Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A Look @: Knowsley, Liverpool and St. Helens

The area in and around Liverpool is a Labour heartland, and notably anti-conservative, with the Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party (formed from a group of Liberals who opposed the merger with the SDP into the Lib Dems) forming the opposition here. On Liverpool City Council sits 46 Labour, 39 Lib Dem, 3 Liberal and 2 Green councillors. In 2008 Knowsley council elected 15 Labour councillors (elected on 53% of the vote) and 6 Liberal Democrat councillors (elected on 32% of the vote) on a turnout of 25% (typically low turnouts are bad for Labour). The same year St. Helens council elected 9 Labour, 5 Liberal Democrat and 2 Conservative councillors.



Notional Majority

Swing Needed



Garston and Halewood

Maria Eagle




LAB Hold


Edward O'Hara




LAB Hold

Liverpool Riverside

Louise Ellman




LAB Hold

Liverpool Walton

Peter Kilfoyle




LAD Hold

Liverpool Wavertree

Jane Kennedy




LD Gain

Liverpool West Derby

Robert Wareing*




LAB Hold

St. Helens North

Dave Watts




LAB Hold

St. Helens South and Whiston

Shaun Woodward




LAB Hold

*Robert Wareing was elected as a Labour MP but has since resigned the whip.

Garston and Halewood is held by Maria Eagle, whose twin sister Angela Eagle holds Wallesey, which is also in Merseyside. A former junior minister Eagle was embroiled in the expenses scandal, claiming thousands of pounds to renovate her bathroom before 'flipping' her second home. Liberal Democrat PPC Paula Keavenay has the best chance of unseating Eagle. Keavenay stood in the former Liverpool Garston seat, which this seat is the successor to, in both 2001 and 2005. Across two elections she took the Lib Dems from 19% in 1997 to 33.5% in 2005. The constituency includes parts of Knowsley and Liverpool council. Of the three wards from Knowsley two elected Lib Dems and one elected a Labour councillor in 2008. Of the five wards in Liverpool, three elected Lib Dems and two elected Labour councillors. However, low turnout advantaged the Liberal Democrats. However, considering the local government situation, 'Cleggmania' and Eagle's expenses situation this seat is within distance of the Lib Dems. However, it will be an extraordinarily tough fight, and I suspect that the Lib Dems are concentrating their resources in the area into Wavertree. I suspect they will severely reduce the Labour majority here, but that the seat is likely to remain a Labour hold.

Knowsley is the result of a severe boundary shift, and essentially a merger of Knowsley North and Knowsley South. This has created what is, notionally, the single safest seat in the country. The two Knowsley MPs, Edward O'Hara and George Howarth fought for selection. Though the seat is notionally more Knowsley South than Knowsley North O'Hara lost and George Howarth, MP for Knowsley North and Sefton will contest the seat. Neither was really embroiled in the expenses scandal and O'Hara is unfortunate to lose his seat, though both did vote against expenses reform. Nonetheless, if this seat is lost by Labour it will herald the very end of the Labour Party itself because almost every seat in the country will have been lost. Labour hold.

Liverpool Riverside covers a deprived area of Liverpool. The area is so deprived that it had the lowest turnout in all of the UK in both 2001 and 2005. The constituency was also home to one of the better performances by the Greens in 2005 (5.5% of the vote) and a swing of 8.1% to the Lib Dems, however this probably had a lot to do with the low turnout with it being likely that Labour voters turned out least. The seat is still a Labour safe seat and is currently held by Louise Ellman. Ellman has been targeted by anti-Israel campaigners for her membership of 'Labour friends of Israel', giving her another headache is her son, who was selling the 'legal' high mephedrone, also known as 'miaow miaow'. Luckily for Ellman her expenses were not overly shocking, and with this election being close there is likely to be a higher turnout which may advantage Ellman. Despite the big Lib Dem swing in 2005 I don't really perceive a win as likely for Lib Dem candidate Richard Marbrow, a city councillor who stood in the seat in 2001 and 2005. A Labour hold.

Liverpool Walton is the seat of Peter Kilfoyle. Kilfoyle originally served in junior government positions in the Cabinet Office and Defence Ministry, but resigned due to his belief that Labour was not paying enough attention to its heartlands, and became a backbench critic of the government. In 2008 he declared his support for a Labour leadership challenge. Kilfoyle was not overly embroiled in the expenses scandal and I suspect Labour PPC, Steve Rotherham, mayor of Liverpool, will breeze through to victory. Labour hold.

Liverpool Wavertree is the constituency of Jane Kennedy. Kennedy stood down in the wake of the expenses scandal, particularly in opposition to recommended changes on rules for expenses. 28 year old Labour PPC Luciana Berger, who was once romantically linked to Euan Blair, son of Tony, who was chosen in a controversial selection process. The accusations include that Berger lived at Kennedy's house during the selection process, suggesting she was handpicked by Kennedy. Berger is being targeted by the same anti-Zionist campaign as Ellman in Liverpool Riverside. Colin Eldridge, a local councillor is the Liberal Democrat candidate, in what is Lib Dem target number 28, and can be assured of victory considering the local issues and Lib Dem bounce in the polls; a very likely Liberal Democrat gain.

Liverpool West Derby is a notable seat in that it was the only seat in the country in 2001 where a party that did not have seats in parliament came second, with Liberal Party leader beating everyone bar Labour. It
has been held by Labour since 1964 (though former MP Eric Ogden briefly defected to the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s). Bob Wareing has held the seat since 1983. An 'Old Labour' MP Wareing is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group and seen as pro-Serb for opposing the invasion of Kosovo and holding talks with Bosnian Serb leaders during the Bosnian war. Wareing was a frequent government rebel, and was de-selected in 2007 in favour of former Labour MP Stephen Twigg who held Enfield Southgate from 1997 until 2005. Wareing denounced this as the work of a 'New Labour mafia' and declared his intention to stand as an independent, resigning from Labour in the process. If he'd kept to that plan this constituency could well have been a three way (or even four way with the Liberals) marginal but he changed his mind and stood down in March. The February revelation that he hosted dinners in the Commons for Russian businessman for a lobbying firm may have had something to do with his decision. His decision essentially gives Stephen Twigg, a former Minister for School Standards, a free run at the seat and Twigg is pretty much certain to win. A Labour hold.

St. Helen's North is the constituency of Dave Watts, a government whip. Watts came off fairly well in the expenses scandal, and with his large majority I just don't think that perennial Lib Dem candidate John Beirne, a local councillor, is likely to win. Labour hold.

St. Helen's South is the constituency of Shaun Woodward, who has been Northern Ireland Secretary since 2007. The large Irish population in Merseyside probably makes Woodward more prominent in this regard than a usual MP. Woodward was once a Conservative MP for constituency of Witney, but defected to Labour in 2001. He inevitably lost re-election in the very safe Conservative seat in 2001 to some David Cameron fellow. Personally affluent, Woodward refuses a ministerial salary, but is believed to have the ear of Gordon Brown. Despite his wealth Woodward claimed for the mortage on his £1.35 million flat, which is not likely to go down well. Liberal Democrat Brian Spencer is a local councillor who was investigated for 'bringing his office into disrepute'. There would be potential for victory here if the Lib Dems had a great candidate, but Spencer does not appear to be one. Labour hold.


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