Did somebody 'Caller' for an all-out election?
With Labour flying high in the polls, you’d be forgiven for concluding that they’d perform well in its Merseyside heartland. Liverpool itself consistently delivers heavy Labour majorities at general elections and local elections (since 2010). The current discontent in the city towards the party, based on Labour’s performance in power, could put this at threat – as it did for the mayoral election in 2021.
Having spent the past three years living in south Liverpool, there is a clear resentment and embarrassment that commissioners have had to step in to run various council departments due to Labour’s mismanagement. Despite making light of the situation in true Liverpudlian style at last year’s ‘scouse pantomime’ – where a commissioner was depicted as the main antagonist – locals have been left bitterly disappointed by the whole series of events.
As you’d expect, negligence in public office has heavily featured in opposition parties’ election materials. This coupled with the redrawn wards and the all-out election (governance changes recommended by the damning Max Caller investigation into the corruption within the council), means that the results are more difficult to predict.
What is fair to say is that Labour’s grip on the council looks more precarious than it has done at any point since it regained control off the Liberal Democrats in 2010. Bullying allegations, defections, ‘red on red’ attacks during the reselection of Ian Byrne MP in West Derby, have damaged the party’s reputation locally.
The Liberal Democrats will be looking to capitalise on this and build on their 2021 gains (up three to 12). The second largest party will likely pick up a number of seats in the south of the city. Not only will they be eyeing up wards that previously made up Labour seats, they will also be hoping to make gains in areas previously held by the Greens – like the new Festival Gardens ward. Whichever way this seat goes will be a good indicator as to how the election will pan out.
Independents will be grateful for the reduction in ward sizes; single member wards are much easier for independent candidates to win. The Liverpool Community Independents group, formed by a Labour councillor breakaway group, and the Liberate Liverpool group, led by hotelier Lawrence Kenwright and his brand of ‘entrepreneurial socialism’, will fancy their chances of winning seats across the city.
Despite this, Labour should reach the 43 councillors required to form a majority, however, expect them to win on a much smaller share of the seats than in 2021.
It could be a difficult night for the Conservatives over the water. Unlike in Liverpool, the party usually puts in a good showing on the Wirral, and currently has 22 councillors. However, with the current national picture and Labour campaigning hard in Conservative wards, we could see these numbers slashed tomorrow.
Again, the fact that it is an all-out election, for the first time ever, will mean that we could see a completely different composition after tomorrow’s election. Winning overall control on the Wirral is a priority for the Labour Party, and if they can withstand the push from the Greens and the Liberal Democrats this should be achievable. A result that would fill Keir Starmer and his leadership team with confidence ahead of the next General Election.
Only a third of the councillors in both Sefton and Knowsley are up for election this time around. As such, little change is likely to happen in these Labour strongholds.
It’s the all-out elections in Liverpool and the Wirral that will have political anoraks keeping close tabs on the Echo’s local election coverage. It seems it could be a case of damage limitation for both the main political parties on Merseyside.