New Times,
New Thinking.

30 April 2007

The view from Lancashire

Journalist David Sudworth gives us his analysis of the political scene in West Lancashire

By David Sudworth

West Lancashire covers the area from the south of Preston in the north to the tip of St Helens in the south.

It also occupies the vast space between the well-to-do seaside resort of Southport and the primarily working class town of Wigan.

With such diverse neighbours, it’s little wonder that West Lancashire is itself a melting pot both socially and politically.

As a rule, the mainly rural areas of Aughton, Scarisbrick, Ormskirk and Burscough are Conservative while Skelmersdale – an industrial New Town built in the 1960s – is solid Labour.

Despite having a Labour MP, the Tories have held power here since 2002 and it doesn’t look like changing at this year’s election.

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In fact, if it did it would be considered an unmitigated disaster for David Cameron’s push to wield greater power in the north of England.

West Lancs Labour Party on the other hand aren’t expected to take control this time but they still need to put up a strong fight to keep the gap between them and the Tories to just 10 seats.

They are clinging onto two wards (Scott Ward in Ormskirk and Wrighington Ward near the Wigan boundary) by the skin of their teeth. All it would take is 29 more Tory votes for them to lose both of those. And if that happens, there’s going to be some serious questions asked.

West Lancashire is very much a traditional two-party system. There are no Lib Dems on the council and this year they’re contesting just two wards out of 19.

The last time anyone else came close to getting a look in was three years ago when a housewife standing as an independent nearly managed to beat the then Labour leader.

Afterwards, a few Tories admitted to me privately that they should have pulled their candidate and ordered their supporters to back the independent.

No-one’s really ruling out a similar shock this year following a deselected Tory councillor’s decision to stand as an independent.

She’s been on the council for years and I’m told she has a decent personal vote. Whether it’s enough to pull off a shock remains to be seen.

It’s going to be an interesting night…

Read David’s blog, The Battle For West Lancashire

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