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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Dan Haygarth

Three main parties prepare for battle over Merseyside's only Tory seat

As Labour strengthened its hold on Sefton Council, one victory stood out.

The party gained five seats in this week's local elections, taking it to 51 of the 66 on the council - its strongest ever position. Labour held its seats and gained them in the Harington, Sudell, Ravenmeols and Park wards in Sefton Central.

The most significant win, however, was the party's capture of a seat in Ainsdale. Labour had never held a seat in the ward before and the seat won used to be held by Terry Jones, a former Conservative councillor who broke away to join the Southport independents.

READ MORE: Labour 'on the up' with dominant performance as others 'don't show up'

Cllr Jones didn't stand this year, but the fight for the seat was a close one. Labour's Janet Harrison won after a recount, beating Liberal Democrat candidate Lesley Delves by 16 votes.

The gain was welcomed by Labour, who will be targeting the Southport seat at the next general election. Southport is currently the only Conservative seat on Merseyside, which has been served by MP Damien Moore since 2017.

Ainsdale is currently part of the Southport parliamentary constituency but won't be at the next general election and will be moved to Sefton Central through a boundary change. However, a victory in that part of the borough is a promising sign for Keir Starmer's party.

Local Elections Sefton Count at Aintree Racecourse (Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

At the Aintree Racecourse count, two Labour MPs spoke of their ambition to see the party claim the Southport parliamentary seat, which they have never represented.

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson told the ECHO: "We have a very good chance of winning Southport (at the next general election). I've been campaigning there to help my (council) colleagues there. We are optimistic about our prospects and I think the people of Southport are going to give Damien Moore notice that his time is up and we're going to have a Labour MP there as part of a Labour government after the next general election."

About Labour's prospects at the next general election, Mr Esterson said: "We are optimistic for our chances (in a GE). We've had a lead in the opinion polls, but we have a long way to go. These elections are the next step in getting the country to make that choice at the next election. People are going to have to decide are they better or worse off after 13 years of Conservative government."

Bootle MP Peter Dowd shared his colleague's view, though he acknowledged that boundary changes make such predictions difficult.

Bootle MP Peter Dowd (Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

He told the ECHO: "There are going to be boundary changes. Ainsdale, which is in the current Southport constituency, is coming to Sefton Central. To change the boundaries into West Lancs as well, so that throws a little bit of a doubt.

"But I think we're in a good position to win the Southport seat at the general election."

However, the Liberal Democrats have also set their eyes on the seaside seat. It has had many Liberal Democrat MPs in the past, with the party most recently holding it from 1997 to 2017.

Lib Dem Councillor Iain Brodie-Browne was bullish as he pointed out that his party topped the popular vote in the constituency in these local votes.

He said: “It’s been a great night for the Lib Dems. We’ve topped the popular vote in Southport. If a general election was held today on these votes, we would have won It. Labour have been strutting around boasting that they were going to win Southport and we defeated them."

Despite the other parties coveting seats, the incumbent MP remains bullish. Responding to the ECHO's request for comment the Conservative Mr Moore said: "These results are hardly surprising, given a very difficult period last year for the Conservative Party. The Government of the day is always likely to lose seats in the middle of a parliamentary term.

Damien Moore, Southport MP (Damien Moore)

"I have seen a number of Local Elections in Southport over the years where the results have not been favourable to the Conservative Party, though I have gone on to win two General Elections in the same period. Votes are not necessarily cast the same way in Local and General Elections.

"Neither the Liberal Democrats nor Labour offer anything but further decline in Southport, while the Conservatives have shown they can govern through the greatest crisis in a generation.

"The public has voted to send a message to the Government, which has been received loud and clear. I remain focused on working to tackle the immediate issues facing households in Southport."

Merseyside's only Tory seat, Southport is clearly wanted by all three major parties at the next general election. If Labour can win it for the first time, it will be a good indication of Keir Starmer's prospects of becoming Prime Minister.


Local Elections 2023 results Live from Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley and across the country

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