Election 2015 England

General Election 2015: 'Semi-marginal' Southport

Southport beach
Image caption The seaside seat of Southport has been sunshine yellow for most of the last three decades

There's a trip to sunny Southport in store as BBC Radio Merseyside hosts the second of its three general election debates.

It's hardly been a roller coaster of a ride for voters there in recent years, with Liberal Democrat John Pugh representing the seaside town since 2001, winning with a majority of more than 6,000 in 2010.

Once a safe Conservative seat, it's been sunshine yellow for most of the last 30 years apart from the five years between 1992 and 1997 when the Conservative candidate Matthew Banks had a brief spell as MP for the area.

John Major overcame the odds back then to secure nearly 42% of the vote and a 21-seat majority.

With the polls consistently suggesting another hung parliament, the Tories will be desperate to snatch seats like Southport from the Lib Dems in order to become the largest party on 8 May, let alone form a government in their own right.

Image caption John Pugh has been a popular MP and has held the seat since 2001

Professor Jon Tonge from the University of Liverpool spent his formative years living in the Marshside area of Southport and has described the seat as "semi-marginal".

He said: "The incumbency factor should work for John Pugh. He's been a popular local MP and this is what matters in this constituency."

The issue with the Conservatives now is that "they are weak in the North West and they are weak in Merseyside - they don't make a threat," Professor Tonge added.

The party's U-turn on scrapping tuition fees may cause some damage, he said.

Southport has "one of the highest percentages of young people who make it to university and in that sense university fees could be an issue for student voters".

Mr Pugh said he wants "a Southport that is independent of Bootle, prosperous, enterprising, compassionate, sustainable and supportive.

"After the worst recession in living memory we need to further develop and employ the skills, talents and energy of our community, boosting local wage levels, taking control of our local NHS and ensuring our children get the future the deserve."

He is competition from five other candidates, so let's look at what they're promising.

Damien Moore is standing for the Conservatives and he says he has three priorities:

  • Re-energising the town's economy by supporting small businesses and improving rail infrastructure
  • Protecting pensioners' dignity in retirement
  • Managing immigration in a way that contributes to the UK

The UKIP candidate Terry Durance fought the seat in 2010 and has also put the NHS at the centre of his campaign.

He said: "We've already lost some services in Southport that have gone to Ormskirk - children's services and maternity services - and we need to make sure that we don't lose any more".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The NHS, fracking, immigration and pensions are some of the key issues in the Southport campaign

Laurence Rankin is standing for the Green Party. He also prioritises the NHS.

He said he wanted to protect it from "creeping privatisation" and restore services "like the breast cancer centre and children's care" which have been "lost from Southport". He also pledged to:

  • Fight the loss of what he called "vital local services"
  • Promote development in brown-field sites
  • Oppose the move to academy schools
  • Oppose fracking

Labour's Liz Savage said she wanted to champion the town as a place to visit.

She said she would help with regeneration of the town centre and tackle poverty by voting to scrap the bedroom tax.

Ms Savage also said she would improve the NHS by incorporating Adult Social Services and ring-fence money for carers' respite.

Jacqueline Barlow completes the line-up - she is standing for the Southport Party.

Ms Barlow said she wanted to make the town a unitary borough which would lead to "self-determination and control of our budget, restore lost services and revitalise the town and protect our almost abandoned town hall."

She also said she wanted better transport links to increase visitor numbers and provide employment opportunities for young people.

All six candidates have just two weeks to convince you to vote for them.

Tune in to BBC Radio Merseyside to hear our special election debate, live from Southport.

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