Election 2015 England

General Election 2015: Warrington South key for Labour

Ed Miliband Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ed Miliband recently staged a rally in Warrington, where one of the key marginal seats will be contested

For Ed Miliband to become prime minister after the general election, seats like Warrington South simply have to turn red.

Labour admit that if they don't win this Cheshire constituency, their chances of being in power after 7 May look remote.

On paper it might seem strange that the Conservatives are defending this seat - the ninth most marginal of the 72 in the North West - only three of the borough council's 57 members are Tory, and one of them represents an area in neighbouring Warrington North.

David Mowat secured a majority of 1,553 in 2010 over Labour's Nick Bent and the pair are engaged in a long and tough rematch.

Image caption A little bit of politics there: Comedian Ben Elton is a well-known Labour supporter

The Tory candidate knows how much attention is being paid to his patch - Mr Miliband chose Warrington's Parr Hall to host a rally recently, where he appeared alongside celebrity backers Eddie Izzard and Ben Elton.

"This is the seat Labour have to win in order to be the biggest party," Mr Mowat told me in an interview for BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Merseyside.

"So in order for Ed Miliband to be the prime minister his candidate would have to win here."

This is unfinished business for Mr Bent.

He was desperate to inherit the seat from Helen Southworth when she retired in 2010.

Mr Bent told me: "This constituency is one that will help decide the overall outcome of the general election.

"People know that it's a very tight race between me as the Labour parliamentary candidate and the current Conservative MP, and people know that every vote is going to count."

Image caption Closed-down shops will soon make way for a £52m scheme to transform Warrington town centre

The big issues

Warrington is touted as a boom town - a £52m plan to transform the town centre was recently approved by councillors.

And a report by researchers at the Centre for Cities think tank found a higher percentage of people in Warrington are employed than in any of the other 64 urban areas they surveyed.

On the flipside, all parties are also quick to point out that in the more deprived parts of the town, many simply do not feel the growth.

They do, however, feel the huge traffic problems that plague Warrington, and they do see the rundown state of parts of the town centre.

But this was not simply a close race between the two biggest parties five years ago, when the Liberal Democrats secured 27.5% of the vote, just 5.5% behind Labour and less than 5,000 behind the Tories.

Their candidate Bob Barr said: "Here, people have got the choice of three candidates who can credibly win."

With 11 councillors elected since 2010, the Lib Dems clearly have significant local support but the national polls suggest they may struggle.

If they do, where will the votes of defectors go?

And how many voters will be tempted by UKIP?

"It's a three-way marginal at the moment. I'm hoping to make it a four-way marginal, and just possibly a UKIP seat in the North West," said their candidate Malcolm Lingley.

Fascinating battle

And while the Greens are very unlikely to win, they could still affect the outcome.

Candidate Stephanie Davies is imploring people not to vote tactically, preferring them to "vote for what you believe in".

Labour could also face a threat from someone who was until recently one of their own.

Councillor Kevin Bennett resigned from the party in January to stand as a candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

He said he would be targeting working-class people who feel they are not being represented by Labour.

With Warrington South being such a key battleground seat, every vote really does count, and it will be fascinating to see which way it goes.

I'll be here throughout the campaign and you can follow my updates on Twitter and listen to my reports on BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Radio Manchester, and BBC Radio Stoke.

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