Electoral Lessons

I recall, as a young Labour Party member, when Liverpool council had but one Liberal member, Cyril Carr. Within a few short years, because of Labour complacency, a squad of young Liberals – Alton, Storey et al – had a majority on the council and were running the city. Some disturbing election results this year have brought this to mind.

St Helens , Wirral and Halton have held the line, losing no seats and maintaining control of their respective councils . Sefton Labour have suffered the loss of seats far from the Labour redoubt of Bootle.  In Knowsley, the one party state is no more, as the Lib Dems – successors to the Liberals of Cyril Carr – re-emerge in Prescot.  However, both Knowsley and Sefton have had a history of   “cultural”  differences with those areas where seats were lost . They are accustomed to these challenges.

Liverpool, however, strikes me as being of a different order, primarily because, unlike its neighbours, it also had a mayoral election.  Let me congratulate at the outset those councillors who were successful in winning their seats; and my commiserations go to those who lost theirs. The campaign itself suggested a degree of that dreaded  complacency of yesteryear – the manifesto, for example, was only published shortly before the election, after the postal votes had been returned. It was also a highly personalised campaign centred on the mayor, with his election dominating leaflets.

One political outcome was the high profile of mayoral mistakes like the proposals to build on the city’s parks.  More than any other issue, it contributed to the loss of seats to the Lib Dems, giving them hope of a resurgence. Yet it does not stop there.  Mayor Anderson dropped 7% of his vote share compared to his last outing, whilst the Lib Dem candidate trebled his vote, and the Green doubled his.

Perhaps most alarming is the fall in turnout for the mayoral election.  One must assume that the election strategy was based on the belief that the mayor was a draw to the ballot box.  If so, it was mistaken.  The turnout was down by 13% on 201.  What this figure hides is telling. Whilst the total votes for Labour council candidates was just shy of 56500, only  51300 voted for Mayor Anderson. That is, 10% of committed Labour voters would not support  him for mayor. Put another way, despite the much-vaunted profile of Mayor Anderson in Liverpool and beyond, only roughly 16.5% of the electorate in the city would vote for him.

That being the case , and Mayor Anderson’s expressed determination to seek the Labour nomination  for mayor of the city-region, will his “appeal”  reach into the other five boroughs , or would his hypothetical candidacy be a liability in an election almost bound to attract a high calibre field?

I recall, as a young Labour Party member, when Liverpool council had but one Liberal member, Cyril Carr. Within a few short years, because of Labour complacency, a squad of young Liberals – Alton, Storey et al – had a majority on the council and were running the city. Some disturbing election results this year have brought this to mind.

St Helens , Wirral and Halton have held the line, losing no seats and maintaining control of their respective councils . Sefton Labour have suffered the loss of seats far from the Labour redoubt of Bootle.  In Knowsley, the one party state is no more, as the Lib Dems – successors to the Liberals of Cyril Carr – re-emerge in Prescot.  However, both Knowsley and Sefton have had a history of   “cultural”  differences with those areas where seats were lost . They are accustomed to these challenges.

Liverpool, however, strikes me as being of a different order, primarily because, unlike its neighbours, it also had a mayoral election.  Let me congratulate at the outset those councillors who were successful in winning their seats; and my commiserations go to those who lost theirs. The campaign itself suggested a degree of that dreaded  complacency of yesteryear – the manifesto, for example, was only published shortly before the election, after the postal votes had been returned. It was also a highly personalised campaign centred on the mayor, with his election dominating leaflets.

One political outcome was the high profile of mayoral mistakes like the proposals to build on the city’s parks.  More than any other issue, it contributed to the loss of seats to the Lib Dems, giving them hope of a resurgence. Yet it does not stop there.  Mayor Anderson dropped 7% of his vote share compared to his last outing, whilst the Lib Dem candidate trebled his vote, and the Green doubled his.

Perhaps most alarming is the fall in turnout for the mayoral election.  One must assume that the election strategy was based on the belief that the mayor was a draw to the ballot box.  If so, it was mistaken.  The turnout was down by 13% on 201.  What this figure hides is telling. Whilst the total votes for Labour council candidates was just shy of 56500, only  51300 voted for Mayor Anderson. That is, 10% of committed Labour voters would not support  him for mayor. Put another way, despite the much-vaunted profile of Mayor Anderson in Liverpool and beyond, only roughly 16.5% of the electorate in the city would vote for him.

That being the case , and Mayor Anderson’s expressed determination to seek the Labour nomination  for mayor of the city-region, will his “appeal”  reach into the other five boroughs , or would his hypothetical candidacy be a liability in an election almost bound to attract a high calibre field?

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