Battle lines drawn for Wirral South seat

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Labour candidate Alison McGovern MP and Conservative challenger John Bell

Labour candidate Alison McGovern MP and Conservative challenger John Bell

As the General Election looms on May 7, JMU Journalism speaks to the Labour and Conservative candidates vying to win the Wirral South seat.

A battle has begun for a marginal Wirral constituency that could potentially help to shape the result of the General Election in May.

Labour Party MP Alison McGovern is fighting to maintain the small majority she got in 2010 of just 531 votes, but it would take less than a 5% swing for the Conservatives to take the seat.

Attempting to regain Wirral South for the Conservatives for the first time since the 1992 election is John Bell, a Liverpool-born former teacher, who previously stood in the Welsh seats of Clwyd South and Delyn, in both cases coming second to Labour.

Elizabeth Jewkes is aiming to improve on the distant third place showing for the Liberal Democrats at the last election, while David Scott will be hoping it is third time lucky as he represents UKIP in Wirral South for the third time.

Mr Bell says that winning Wirral South is vital to show that the Conservative Party has national support. He told JMU Journalism: “For too long, Labour has treated the North of England, like Scotland and Wales, as its fiefdom, taking the electorate for granted.”

Wirral South

2010 General Election result:

16,276 – Alison McGovern (Labour)

15,745 – Jeff Clarke (Conservative)

6,611 – Jamie Saddler (Lib Dem)

1,274 – David Scott (UKIP)

But Bromborough-born Ms McGovern has denied his claims, telling JMU Journalism: “It’s going to be a hardly fought election. Every constituency matters. This idea of safe seats and marginals is a bit old fashioned, to be honest with you. What we’ve seen is in areas where people feel taken for granted they’re prepared to protest and that’s why I think taking anyone’s vote as read is foolish.”

Adam Ward, a commentator from 50for15, a website focusing on marginal seats, said that the Conservatives must demonstrate their cross-country support by winning on the peninsula. He said: “They need to show they have strength in the North of England, that they’re not just a party of the South, so it’s symbolic therefore that it’s important that they keep seats like Wirral West and win seats like Wirral South and Bolton West.”

Mr Bell’s bid is focused on leafleting, including his own publication ‘John Bell News’, which has been delivered by post to the electorate, along with a door-stepping campaign over the past two years.

He said: “I think the electorate should have the information they need about all the candidates so they can make an informed decision on May 7th. Ideally, this would be done through the local press – it would certainly be easier. However, unlike the Labour Candidate, I don’t get access to the Merseyside press.”

Labour, meanwhile, have also been out on the streets, where they have been working from a document called ‘Win 2015’, which provides Ms McGovern and her team with scripted greetings and response when door knocking.

Elizabeth Jewkes is the candidate for the Liberal Democrats while David Scott represents UKIP

Elizabeth Jewkes is the candidate for the Liberal Democrats while David Scott represents UKIP

Ms McGovern said: “I spent the past four years listening to my constituents, about their priorities – people have had a fairly hard time. Wages haven’t gone up for people very much on the whole, certainly not as much as prices, and people have had a difficult few years. So my focus has always to give people a decent quality of life.

She added that the quality of healthcare is another factor, telling JMU Journalism: “Lots of people are quite worried what will happen when they get a bit older, on the other end of the spectrum with people worried about childcare.”

Tory candidate Mr Bell told JMU Journalism: “My top priorities are bringing jobs and investment to Wirral South through initiatives such as my recent jobs fair, improving high-speed broadband, backing local communities and promoting our unique local heritage and tourist gems.” He added that fighting Labour’s “destructive increases in car parking charges” would be another factor, along with campaigning to restore the council tax discount for the over 70s.

Election analyst Adam Ward concluded: “Increasingly, you don’t get these kinds of two-way support margins. You get a lot of UKIP support which makes it more complicated and you get increasing Green support. It’s interesting to get these kinds of battles between the two.”

About Nathan Archer, JMU Journalism