Voters in West Derby say ‘we are where we are and we’ll have to move forward with it’

Liverpool is famous – among many other things – for its political leanings.

Long seen as a left-leaning, socially conscious city, the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats have run the city council between them effectively for the best part of 50 years. Four of the five seats it holds in Parliament are long held by Labour.

One of them, however, has historically been held longer by the Conservatives. Between 1885 and 1965, Liverpool West Derby seat was strongly blue before turning red.

This perhaps speaks to the very nature of the constituency itself. At one end there is the leafy West Derby Village boasting Croxteth Park and a range of trendy bars and restaurants.

To the other is Tuebrook, where data indicates almost a quarter of residents live or have lived in economic deprivation.

It is an area that has embraced a state of flux and change, too. Between 2010 and 2019, it was held by the man responsible for one of the most famous moments in modern British politics, with Stephen Twigg – who beat then cabinet minister Michael Portillo in 1997 – the area’s MP having lost his original constituency eight years later.

Going into the general election on Thursday, things haven’t been plain sailing for the incumbent MP either. With Labour widely expected to form the next government on Friday morning, Ian Byrne may have at one point feared he might not swap sides on Parliament’s green benches should he retain his own seat.

The former city councillor faced an internal battle to be selected as the Labour candidate having lost a number of votes from constituency branches. He eventually saw off a challenge from Croxteth councillor Anthony Lavelle to contest the seat for a second term and defend his almost 30,000 majority.

With so much of the country in a state of imbalance, what do voters think? Jimmy Woods campaigned to try and keep open Park View Medical Centre in Tuebrook amid concerns about the impact on the NHS for patients and residents.

Going into the national ballot, Jimmy said he had different concerns. He said, “The economy is the number one priority for me.

“The cost of living is an absolutely important issue, it just hasn’t come down. You only need to look at things like energy bills and fuel prices, they aren’t moving.

“The war in Ukraine has been a factor but there are some alternatives around to fix it. If Labour get in, they’re going to inherit a very poor economy.

“We are where we are and we’ll have to move forward with it.”

Within the constituency sits one of the jewels in the city’s crown – Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Straddling the titular West Derby and Knotty Ash, it is known the world over for its life saving treatment of young people for decades.

Living opposite the hospital is Keith Jones, 81. He said he was still undecided as to whether to cast a ballot.

He said, “I don’t think any of them are suitable. If I vote this time, it’ll be for the Green Party because our green spaces are being taken away from us.

“In my earlier years, I voted Conservative and since then it’s depended on whoever has stood in the area. It’s less than a week away but we’ve not had one leaflet through from any party and don’t know who’s standing.

“I could go online and look but I shouldn’t have to.

Keith also said he had concerns about the state of the NHS having experienced a medical episode just after Christmas. He said: “I spent three hours on the phone this morning to the medical centre trying to get MRI results back from two weeks ago.

“They told me in the end it’s not unusual to wait this long. It’s a serious issue, the national health.

“My wife has always been a staunch Conservative but she’s said she’s thinking of following me and considering the Greens.”

Uncertainty around voting habits has been a theme that has taken hold of the whole election nationwide. In nearby Liverpool Walton, another Labour stronghold, doubts were cast over whether performing democratic duties would really matter this time around.

In Old Swan, Margaret Brown said, “For the first time in my life in a general election I am voting for the person and not the party. Old Swan definitely needs help.”

The theme of enthusiasm has loomed large over the whole campaign, with many feeling the result at a national level is already a done deal. That was encapsulated most by one business owner on a sunny Tuebrook afternoon who simply said, “I wouldn’t vote for any of them.”

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