Making Sense Of The Merseyside Mash-Up

by Jackie_South on November 14, 2011

Regular readers will know that I’m doing a series on the proposed boundary changes for the parliamentary constituencies in the North West at the moment.  Having previously covered Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester, it is now the turn of Merseyside.

Or part of Merseyside, anyway.  The Boundary Commission decided that they did not want a Merseyside constituency that spanned the Mersey, and so the Wirral has been connected with Cheshire in their review.  This post therefore covers just the northern, Lancastrian, parts of Merseyside.

There are currently eleven constituencies in northern Merseyside, but the electorates only justify ten from the proposals.  The changes are limited at the north-west and eastern edges of Merseyside but fairly frenetic in  and around Liverpool itself.

Currently, ten of the eleven are held by Labour, eight have solid Labour majorities in excess of 20% and four have a super-majority of over 50% of the votes cast.  As a result, that lost seat is a loss for Labour.

The map below summarises the changes, with the current boundaries in green and the proposals in black.

Below is a run-through the ten proposed seats, running roughly north-west to east.

Southport

Southport is the odd seat out in northern Merseyside, a Lib Dem seat with Labour a very distant third.  But Southport is an odd part of Merseyside anyway, nearer to Preston than Liverpool.  Whenever they are asked, a majority of residents say that they want the town to leave Merseyside and the borough of Sefton to be reunited with Lancashire.

The Lib Dems have a reasonably healthy majority of just over 6,000 (13.8%) over the Tories in the current seat.  That seat though is too small under the rules with only 67,803 electors.  The only possible way to bring the numbers up is to add the only neighbouring Merseyside ward from the south, Harington ward, which covers the western 60% of Formby.

The unwelcome news for the Liberal Democrats is that Harington ward is the Conservatives’ safest ward in the borough of Sefton.  This eats away almost half of the Lib Dems’ lead and makes the seat marginal.  My projections of the 2010 result based on the proposed boundaries are:

  • Liberal Democrat: 22,725 (44.6%)
  • Conservative: 19,489 (38.2%)
  • Labour: 6,237 (12.2%)
  • UKIP: 2,504 (4.9%)

Maghull

The current Sefton Central constituency is a Labour-held marginal over the Conservatives.  That said, it was a seat that many thought Labour would lose in 2010, and new MP Bill Esterson would have been a relieved man to see only a 2% swing to the Tories and to still be holding on to a majority of almost 4,000 (8%).

The proposed Maghull seat, which replaces Sefton Central, will be a very different prospect.  It loses the Conservatives’ strongest ward to Southport (see above), together with another Tory ward, Blundellsands, to Bootle. 

The proposed constituency gets St. Oswald ward, in Netherton, back in return from Bootle.  These Sefton sections leave the seat 12,000 voters light to meet the minimum size, and so four wards from Kirkby, in the borough of Knowsley, are added.  All these additions are rock-solid Labour territory.

This is now a strange constituency, as only Maghull itself and the smaller Aintree are wholly in the seat, whilst it shares Formby, Crosby, Netherton and Kirkby with other constituencies.

The changes turn this marginal seat into an utterly safe one.  My projections of the 2010 result based on the proposed boundaries are:

  • Labour: 26,941 (54.5%)
  • Conservative: 10,811 (21.9%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 9,035 (18.3%)
  • UKIP: 2,157 (4.4%)
  • Other: 505 (1.0%)

Bootle

Bootle has long been one of Labour’s safest seats in England: they have won over 50% of the vote here in every election since 1945 and over 70% in every election of the 1990′s and 2000′s.  That share fell a little in 2010 to 66%, but this was still more than 51% ahead of the Lib Dems who came second, a majority of 21,181 that many MPs would be glad to have as their total votes.  The seat covers the town of Bootle, Litherland, Netherton and a majority of Crosby.

The proposed changes will reduce this super-majority by little, but the seat will remain very safe.  The eastern parts of the constituency, around Netherton and Orrell, depart and two new wards are added.  These are the Conservative ward of Blundellsands to the north and the safe Labour ward of Kirkdale (covering Kirkdale and Vauxhall) from the City of Liverpool. 

This turns the seat into one that runs all along the Mersey coast from the Kingsway tunnel to the West Lancashire Golf Club north of Crosby.  Only a small part of Crosby would now lie outside the seat.

My projections of the 2010 result based on the proposed boundaries are:

  • Labour: 28,033 (63.1%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 6,300 (14.2%)
  • Conservative: 6,196 (13.9%)
  • UKIP: 2,240 (5.0%)
  • BNP: 1,648 (3.7%)
  • Other: 42 (0.1%)

Liverpool North

The City of Liverpool and the borough of Knowsley have their constituencies radically redrawn in the proposals.  The Liverpool Walton and Knowsley seats effectively both go, and all of the others change significantly.  Liverpool North takes in parts of those seats, together with a couple of wards from Liverpool West Derby (Croxteth and Norris Green) and another from Bootle (Netherton & Orrell).

The new seat starts at Everton’s Goodison Park ground and heads north to Netherton and east as far as Knowsley Park, taking in the south-eastern parts of Kirkby and the west side of Prescot in Knowsley.  Walton itself and Fazakerley also lie in the constituency, which touches the southern edge of the Aintree racecourse. 

These four constituencies are Labour’s safest in Merseyside, all with majorities in excess of 50% of the votes cast.  Knowsley and Liverpool Walton are Labour’s safest seats in England.

Liverpool North will be almost as safe as those two,  with Walton’s Steve Rotheram having the strongest claim (that seat makes up 41% of the proposed seat).  My projections of the 2010 result based on the proposed boundaries are:

  • Labour: 30,844 (71.6%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 6,412 (14.9%)
  • Conservative: 2,876 (6.7%)
  • UKIP: 1,303 (3.0%)
  • Other: 1,636 (3.8%)

Liverpool West Derby

Stephen Twigg currently sits on a majority of 18,467 (51.6% of the vote) in Liverpool West Derby, in the north east of the city.

Only 54% of the proposed seat is in this current seat however.  Croxteth and Norris Green wards are transferred to Liverpool North, whilst three new Liverpool wards, and one Knowsley ward, are added.  Two of those Liverpool wards come in from the present Walton constituency: Anfield and Clubmoor wards.  Old Swan ward comes in from Liverpool Wavertree, and the Knowsley addition is Stockbridge ward. 

All these new wards are held by Labour, although Anfield and Old Swan both had Lib Dem councillors up until this May.  The loss of Croxteth and Norris Green will reduce Labour’s majority a bit, but it will remain one of Labour’s safest seats.  My projections of the 2010 result based on the proposed boundaries are:

  • Labour: 28,557 (64.4%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 6,839 (15.4%)
  • Conservative: 3,457 (7.8%)
  • UKIP: 1,253 (2.8%)
  • Other: 4,225 (9.5%)

Liverpool Riverside

Liverpool Riverside currently stretches along the Mersey from the city’s border with Bootle to Aigburth and takes in the city centre, Toxteth, Dingle, Kirkdale, Vauxhall and parts of Mossley Hill, together with both the city’s universities and cathedrals.

The proposals will make the constitruency a bit less ‘Riverside’: Kirkdale ward is transferred northwards to Bootle and Mossley Hill ward transfers eastwards to Liverpool Wavertree.  Now, the seat will stretch inland to take in Everton ward from the current Walton seat and the Kensington & Fairfield and Picton wards from Liverpool Wavertree, taking in Edge Hill and Wavertree Park.

Riverside is currently safely Labour, although not as safely as Walton and West Derby, with a margin of over 14,000 (36.5%) over the Liberal Democrats.  The proposals would make the seat safer still.  My projections of the 2010 result based on the proposed boundaries are:

  • Labour: 26,157 (63.0%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 9,052 (21.8%)
  • Conservative: 3,600 (8.7%)
  • Green: 1,327 (3.2%)
  • UKIP: 928 (2.2%)
  • Other: 450 (1.1%)

Liverpool Wavertree

Wavertree is the most marginal of the Liverpool constituencies, and the Liberal Democrats thought that they might win it in 2010 as they only needed a 7.4% swing.  However, the seat swung by 2% to Labour instead, giving them a 7,167 (19%) edge over the Lib Dems, in a contest that saw both of those parties’ candidates make idiots of themselves.

Despite the name, the proposed seat only has three of the current six Wavertree wards, and indeed slightly more comes from three wards in the current Garston & Halewood seat, which is safer for Labour.  The balance is made up by Mossley Hill ward from Liverpool Mossley Hill. 

Wavertree now covers most of The Beatles’ stamping ground: John from Woolton, Paul from Allerton and George from Wavertree (Ringo came from Dingle in Riverside).  Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields are both in the seat.

If it is a seat that could have been designed for Beatles’ fans, it could scarsely have been better drawn for the Liberal Democrats either.  All seven wards have Lib Dem councillors: until former leader Warren Bradley’s disgrace, they held 15 of the council seats here compared to Labour’s 6.

Labour would still have hung on in 2010 with these new boundaries, but the seat would have been more marginal.  My projections of the 2010 result based on the proposed boundaries are:

  • Labour: 20,289 (43.4%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 16,358 (35.0%)
  • Conservative: 8,286 (17.7%)
  • UKIP: 1,119 (2.4%)
  • Other: 712 (1.5%)

Huyton and Halewood

This proposed constituency is almost equally comprised of sections of the current Garston & Halewood and Knowsley seats.  About 70% is in the borough of Knowsley and 30% is in the City of Liverpool. 

The name of the proposed seat includes the main Knowsley towns but ignores the Liverpool parts, which includes Garston, Speke, Belle Vue and Netherley.  Halewood, home to Jaguar and Ford factories, has only been mentioned in a constituency name since last year and contributes 20% of the seat.  Huyton has not been in a constituency name since 1983, although it was Harold Wilson’s seat for 33 years.

It should be one of Labour’s safest seats.  My projections of the 2010 result based on the proposed boundaries are:

  • Labour: 32,901 (70.6%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 6,518 (14.0%)
  • Conservative: 4,589 (9.8%)
  • UKIP: 1,497 (3.2%)
  • Other: 1,105 (2.4%)

St. Helens South and Whiston

St. Helens South and Whiston includes St Helens town centre and the town’s south and west, the outlying settlements of Eccleston, Clock Face and Rainhill from the borough of St Helens.  These are joined by three wards from Knowsley, covering Whiston (home town of Steve Gerrard, Willy Russell and Melanie C) and the east of Prescot.

The constituency is the safe seat for that well-known Scouser, Shaun Woodward.  The Boundary Commission is proposing that the seat remains unaltered as part of their review.  The 2010 results were:

  • Labour: 24,364 (52.9%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 10,242 (22.2%)
  • Conservative: 8,209 (17.8%)
  • BNP: 2,040 (4.4%)
  • UKIP: 1,226 (2.7%)

St. Helens North

The seat takes in the north and east parts of St. Helens, together with the market-town of Newton-Le-Willows and the villages of Billinge, Rainford and Haydock (the latter famous for the racecourse).

It is a safe Labour seat and the Boundary Commission is not proposing any changes to the current constituency.  The 2010 results were:

  • Labour: 23,041 (51.7%)
  • Conservative: 9,940 (22.3%)
  • Liberal Democrat: 8,992 (20.2%)
  • UKIP: 2,100 (4.7%)
  • Other: 483 (1.1%)

SUMMARY

Labour loses one seat, but keeps eight very safe seats.  The party exchanges a seat that is marginal over the Tories (Sefton Central) for one that is marginal over the Lib Dems (Liverpool Wavertree).  On the current polls that is probably something they should not mind too much, although given their massive majorities in the proposed constituencies around Wavertree they may feel as if they could have had a better outcome there.

Other than their slight chance in Liverpool Wavertree, the Lib Dems hold on to the tenth seat, Southport, but with a far more slender majority which they could lose to the Tories on the current polls.

Next time, the unholy mess of Cheshire and Wirral…

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