Election 2015 England

Liverpool Wavertree: Can Labour be beaten in heartland seat?

Picton Clock Wavertree Image copyright Google
Image caption The Liverpool Wavertree seat was created in 1997

Ahead of the general election on 7 May, BBC Radio Merseyside is holding three special debates in front of a live audience.

Three key constituencies - Wavertree, Southport and Wirral West - have been chosen and you'll get the chance to grill the candidates hoping to enjoy the privilege of representing you at Westminster for the next five years.

Roger Phillips will be hosting the first of the hour-long debates in Wavertree - one of Liverpool's so-called safe Labour seats - from 12:00 BST.

Situated to the east of the city centre, the constituency is predominantly residential. It hosts a large technology park, which has close ties to the university, and has a large student population which boosts the local economy.

Polling station pledge

Voters will hope that they are not faced with a repeat of the 2010 fiasco in which the polling station on Dunbabin Road ran out of ballot papers just as the polls were about to close.

Liverpool City Council say "the problems last time at a small number of polling stations were caused by a number of people turning up at the close of polls and not all of the polling stations had a full allocation of ballot papers.

"We are ensuring that all stations have a full allocation and additional training has been provided for staff. Also anyone in the queue by 22:00 BST will be given the chance to vote."

So who will be vying for those votes?

Luciana Berger, the shadow health minister, easily held the seat for Labour five years ago with a majority of more than 7,000. She took over from Jane Kennedy - the constituency's MP since it was created in 1997 - who was elected Merseyside's Police Commissioner in 2012.

At one stage it looked like former Labour Councillor Jake Morrison would stand against Ms Berger. He was only 18 when he was elected in 2011 but his relationship with the party turned sour last year when he announced his retirement at the grand old age of 22.

If re-elected, Ms Berger says she would "take practical action to support people who are looking for a job, for example by holding another jobs fair to bring together employers and local people. I'll promote apprenticeships and opportunities for young people and back our fantastic small businesses".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The constituency has a large student population

She added: "I will continue to campaign for changes to law around dangerous dogs to make our neighbourhoods safer, and I will build on my strong record of standing up for the people of Liverpool Wavertree to ensure their concerns are heard where it matters and that real change is delivered for our community."

The Liberal Democrats targeted this seat in 2010 without success. Their hopes this time around rest with 20-year-old student Leo Evans. He's pledging to protect green spaces like Calderstones Park, increase the NHS budget by £8bn a year with much emphasis on mental health, work to ensure Liverpool benefits from any devolved power - especially ensuring connection to HS2 and HS3 - and continue "the biggest expansion of apprenticeships since the 1950s".

James Pearson is the Conservative's candidate.

The former Trafford councillor unsuccessfully stood for the Church ward in last year's Liverpool City Council elections, and this is his first parliamentary race.

Mr Pearson has three main priorities for Wavertree: He wants to support business and investment, safeguard the NHS and stand up for the armed services and their families. He feels very passionately about the last of these aims since he is an officer in the Army reserves and has served in Afghanistan and Cyprus.

His party won only 7.5% of the vote in 2010, however, and it would be a huge shock were they to win this time around.

Adam Heatherington is flying the flag for UKIP, and he will be hoping to pick up votes from disaffected traditional Tories and Labour supporters alike.

A former candidate for Liverpool Mayor, the supply teacher says more needs to be done to boost the Wavertree economy which, he says, is performing below the national average.

He wants to see more investment in Wavertree Technology Park where "there's a lot of vacant offices and retail spaces… business rates are just too high".

"We have a brain drain in this city - too many students are leaving to work in Manchester, Leeds and London. We need more of a focus on vocational qualifications and bring them up to equal par with academic qualifications and we need more investment in our young people," he said.

The Green party is also hoping to have some impact in Wavertree. Peter Cranie, the party's former election co-ordinator, missed out on a place in the European Parliament when he stood last year.

He is realistic about his chances next month, admitting that the party is focusing much of their efforts on nearby Liverpool Riverside where Martin Dobson is standing. But he does believe he is giving "everyone in Wavertree the opportunity to express their support for the more radical policies against austerity".

"We think it is obscene that the five richest families in Britain own the same wealth as the 13 million least well-off," he said. "That's why the Greens will commit to ending austerity and real redistribution of wealth for a fairer and better society."

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition are also contesting this seat. Council worker Dave Walsh is their candidate. He says he wants to "get those who have been disenfranchised and disengaged in politics re-engaged" as well as "defending local services including libraries and Sure Start Centres". The party is fielding more candidates than ever before - 130 across the country - vowing to push for an increase in the minimum hourly wage to £10 and renationalise the railways.

Finally, Niamh McCarthy is standing as an independent after getting a taste for politics participating in Until They Kick Us Out - a theatre production from Liverpool's Young Everyman Playhouse, which deals with themes of young people and democracy. The 18-year-old student from Edge Hill wants to support school leavers, push for a higher minimum wage, introduce rent caps for students and low income families, and improve social housing. She insists his campaign "is more than just a protest vote".

Image caption The seat also hosts a large technology park

With seven candidates standing, Wavertree is one of the most highly contested constituencies on Merseyside. To hear the candidates respond to questions from our listeners, please tune in to BBC Radio Merseyside from 12:00 until 14:00.

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