Election 2015

How will Wirral West be won?

West Kirby Image copyright Peter Craine
Image caption Wirral West is one of the most affluent areas on the peninsula

Fast forward just over a week from now and one of the headlines will read "How The West Was Won".

I'm not talking about the Wild West here - this is about Wirral West, one of the key marginal seats in the North West and the location for our third and final Roger Phillips general election debate on BBC Radio Merseyside.

The battle by Labour to take it back from the Conservatives has been fiercely fought and with just a week to go the pollsters and bookies are predicting the seat could turn red.

The Conservatives won it in 2010 with a majority of 2,436 votes - making it the only Tory constituency on Merseyside.

Former TV personality and local businesswoman Esther McVey had tried and failed to win the seat in 2005 when she stood against Labour's Stephen Hesford.

Following her success in 2010 she was quickly promoted to employment minister within David Cameron's government.

The irony of her potentially having to find alternative employment of her own on 8 May cannot be lost on anybody.

Ms McVey remains positive, though, telling me she's taking little notice of the polls.

"I'll leave predictions to others but what I'm doing is working as hard as I can in Wirral West to win as many votes as possible".

Should she be re-elected, she wants to "continue working hard to turn the economy around and help people into work, providing careers and opportunities for all. It's only with a continuing strong economy that we can afford the great public services that we all want, including our great schools and hospitals".

She said she also wants to "protect the beautiful environment, beach front and green spaces in the local area" as well as opposing planning applications for Underground Coal Gasification in the Dee.

Big guns

The Tory candidate also promises help for motorists who depend on the Mersey tunnels, saying: "After 10 years of campaigning the Conservative party has agreed to review the Tunnel Tolls and reverse the perverse impacts of the Labour 2004 Tunnel Act to ensure either free or reduced rates for Wirral residents."

Finally, Ms McVey says she will "challenge the Labour-run council when I think Wirral West is being neglected" and vows to be "always… available and accessible to constituents as a local MP who lives in Wirral West".

Labour's candidate Margaret Greenwood is a founder member of the Defend Our NHS campaign group and a significant part of her campaign has been on this issue.

She said: "The NHS is in crisis and that's reflected locally here at Arrowe Park Hospital. The staff work so hard, but they are under real strain because the Tory-led government have not given them the time to care."

Ms Greenwood had support on her doorstep too, often seen campaigning with Labour's Alison McGovern who herself is defending the neighbouring marginal seat of Wirral South.

Labour has also sent its big guns - leader Ed Miliband chose Pensby High School as the venue to make his speech on immigration a couple of weeks ago, while Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has visited with a pledge to "save Arrowe Park hospital". Former deputy prime minister John Prescott has thrown his support into the ring with a visit to West Kirkby beach earlier this month.

Ms Greenwood - a former teacher - said: "Speaking to voters across west Wirral, they are telling me that the recovery has not reached their kitchen table. Under the Tories, families are on average £1,600 per year worse off."

'Sugar tax'

The Liberal Democrat candidate is Peter Reisdorf. His main priority is also the NHS, "especially ensuring it has sufficient funding and mental health having parity with physical health".

Mr Reisdorf is also passionate about "protecting the environment, especially the green belt and the two threats from extreme gas extraction processes, underground coal gasification and coal bed methane, which damage the local environment and also increase climate change".

Former Conservative party member Hilary Jones is standing for UKIP. She made the switch in 2005 and represented the part in Liverpool West Derby in 2010.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Liberal Democrat and Independent candidates are both concerned about the NHS

She has a number of key priorities for Wirral West, saying: "We've always opposed tunnel tolls and see them as a tax on jobs".

She questioned why Chancellor George Osbourne "has promised tolls on the Severn Bridge will be abolished by 2017 but he hasn't done anything about the Mersey tolls".

Ms Jones believes "austerity has gone too far when we see things like West Kirkby fire station being closed. The alternative options aren't good enough".

She's also concerned about plans to knock down the former Pensby Hotel to build a 60-bed nursing home, saying "local residents are opposed to the plans and they want to take it into community use which will take time".

The UKIP candidate claims their national policy to stop large-scale development if 3% of the borough call for a referendum within three months of planning permission being granted, would help in this case and overturn any permission to develop the site.

'Armageddon'

David James is the independent candidate for this constituency, deciding to stand because he wants to "bring common sense to the environment".

The graduate engineer argues "locally we have a huge concern about underground coal gasification and the consensus is that nobody in their right mind would consider doing that".

He's in favour of finding clean energy sources and says the UK government needs to invest somewhere in the region of £5bn on research into this field.

He said: "Unless we put that kind of investment in, the fear is the lights will go out… credit cards won't work, there'll be no fuel, no food, no work, riots - this is an Armageddon situation and civilisation could decay within a fortnight without power… our biggest challenge is to find clean energy."

Mr James would also scrap Trident and use this money to help fund the NHS which he wants to remain free at the point of delivery and says "no company should be allowed to make a profit from caring for people".

He also wants out of the EU to "reclaim our national waters and fishing stock" and he wants to introduce a "sugar tax" believing "the processed food industry is culpable for fattening the population - I would argue sugar at source should be made prohibitively expensive to tackle our obesity epidemic."