Cost of living and NHS key factors for Wirral West voters in next general election

The cost of living and the NHS were two dominant issues people in west Wirral said will be influencing how they vote in the next election.

No date has been set for the next general election but political parties across the Wirral West constituency are already deciding who they’ll put forward for voters to choose as their next MP.

The parliamentary constituency has been Labour since 2015 with the election of Margaret Greenwood MP. However following the announcement Ms Greenwood is stepping down at the next general election, Labour is now looking to choose its next candidate.

Several candidates have publicly announced they’re running including former Upton councillor Matthew Patrick, former council leader Janette Williamson, Cllr Liz Grey, and chair of the Wirral West Labour Party Cllr Gail Jenkinson. A long list is expected to be announced on August 31.

Labour isn’t the only party choosing, with the Conservatives and the Greens also doing the same while the Liberal Democrats have already chosen theirs.

As Wirral South will no longer exist after the next election, parts of that seat such as Clatterbridge and Heswall will join Wirral West. These areas, currently represented by Conservative councillors, could see things shift in their favour as the Conservatives hope to win it back.

In 2023, the NHS, the cost of living, the state of the roads, education and the environment were all key issues people said will influence how they vote though for some, local issues such as the row around Hoylake Beach will also be a factor.

Kevin Williams-Tully said he wanted to see more investment in social housing, leisure services, and street cleaning but “the main thing is the economy and the NHS.”

He said, “I think about the younger people and their mortgage rates and around here the lack of housing, especially affordable housing.”

A West Kirby teacher who wished to remain anonymous said education will be deciding how she votes as teachers are having to buy resources for classrooms. She added, “There’s not enough funding for support staff, not enough funding for anything. We’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of teaching assistants.”

Michael Byrnes, who lives in Thingwall, said, “The rising cost of food and then heating has rocketed,” adding: “You hear when the gas and electric companies have made so many millions in profit. They have made so many millions of pounds out of us.”

In Labour, candidates are pointing to successful local campaigns in efforts to woo over party members though a long list and short list of candidates will be made before it goes to them.

Matthew Patrick

Former councillor Matthew Patrick was the first to announce he’s aiming to become Labour’s candidate in the next general election. From Birkenhead, he is returning to Wirral five years after he stepped down as councillor for Upton.

He’s running because “I think there is change that you can make. I look at my own upbringing and back and it’s not fair not just for me but for loads of people if where you grew up or your family’s background or circumstances limits your opportunities in life.”

As for what he can do for Wirral West, he pointed to his successful campaign to see Woodchurch get a new playground after someone told him it would never happen.

He said that at a resident’s meeting, “I was like if anyone is actually serious about doing this, have a meeting with me tomorrow because I want to do this, and we got funding from different housing groups, the council, and other areas and we got that playground built.”

Liz Grey. Credit: Wirral Council

A keen campaigner on environmental issues and a teacher, another candidate Cllr Liz Grey said she moved to west Wirral because of its countryside and coastline having grown up in a terraced house in Liverpool.

She said, “I’ve lived here for 17 years. I brought my children up here and they went to school here. I know what people talk about when we are on the doorstep but I also know what they are talking about when we are not on the doorstep.

“I know what it is like to work in this area, raise children in this area. All these local problems people have I have probably faced in my time here. Whether they were Labour voters, Lib Dem voters, or Conservative voters, we would have a lot in common.”

As a councillor, Cllr Grey said she’d worked with NHS providers to keep walk-in services running, and kept the Gautby Road and Beechwood play schemes open.

She added, “I have also led the campaign to save two local schools that were threatened with closure. It was very hard work all summer holidays and beyond but I worked with the headteachers and the governors keeping them informed.”

Gail Jenkinson. Credit: Edward Barnes

Meanwhile, chair of the Wirral West Labour Party Cllr Gail Jenkinson helped turn a safe Conservative seat into one that elected three Labour councillors in May after campaigning heavily on greenbelt issues in the ward.

Though new to the council, she pointed to campaigns on fracking and getting Greasby included alongside New Brighton and West Kirby in Operation Open Space, an initiative to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour, as reasons people should vote for her.

She said, “A lot of previously Conservative voters, they have seen the work I have done with the green belt. The greenbelt and crime both Labour and Conservative voters are concerned about and I am seen as a safe pair of hands.”

She added, “I have dealt with people with a whole range of different experiences so I know where people are coming from. I was always considered to be in the centre of the Labour Party because I want to be pragmatic.”

Current Labour MP for Wirral West, Margaret Greenwood. Credit: Edward Barnes

On the Conservative side, no candidates have gone public but the party is hoping to win back voters, particularly after bruising local election results in May that saw them lose six council seats to Labour and some slight wins in others.

Tom Maxwell, deputy political chairman for Wirral West said the local elections were “particularly difficult” but “what we did find is that Conservatives weren’t switching to Labour and most certainly weren’t enthused by Keir Starmer.

“They just felt that with the past couple of years we needed to rebuild our trust with them and give them a reason to support us again. Going forward, we need to communicate our message better.”

Their campaign he said will focus on greenbelt issues and protecting greenspaces as well as antisocial behaviour, protecting jobs, and cutting NHS waiting times, adding, “Labour has had their shot, now we need a positive Conservative candidate to take up the issues that matter to the people of Wirral.”

Main image: West Kirby. Credit: Tak-Kei Wong

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