"I feel a lot more optimistic than I have done in the last 14 years" Voters in Southport react to Labour win

Michael Fay aged 30.
-Credit: (Image: Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

"I feel a lot more optimistic than I have done in the last 14 years" said Alan Bretherton as he stopped to discuss Labour's historic win in Southport and their landslide general election victory.

Southport elected it's first MP in 1885 when Liberal candidate George Augustus Pilkington won the seat with 3,741 votes. Since then, the constituency has oscillated between Lib Dems and Conservative with both parties laying claim to the parliamentary seat - Labour was never in the running.

This all changed last night as Labour candidate Patrick Hurley defeated former Tory MP Damien Moore with 38.17% of the vote and secured a majority of 5,789. Notably, the 17,252 votes Mr Hurley won was actually 1.515 less than Labour's candidate, Liz Savage achieved in 2019 and also represented a reduced vote share.

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So, although there's plenty for Labour to celebrate in Southport and across the country, the stats point to an election story imbued with complexity and this seems to be well understood by local voters like Alan. Asked to draw a parallel with Labour's last great election victory in 1997, Alan said: "There's nothing about today which resembles the Labour win in 1997.

"Back then, there was a huge sense of euphoria. I think there's a broad realisation now that whoever won this election would inherit a whole lot of problems.

"I think this Labour Party mean well, but they do say the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Alan Bretherton
Alan Bretherton -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

Analysis shows that Labour's vote share across England was largely the same as what it was in 2019. They made huge inroads in Scotland at the expense of the SNP but their vote share actually reduced in Wales. This speaks to a growing narrative of Labour's victory being heavily influenced by anti-Tory sentiments rather than any great support for their agenda.

This is certainly a viewpoint shared by life-long Lib Dem voter, Alan. He said: "Regardless of anything else, the major thing for me is to get a party in that's not the Tories because history shows they have always been part of the problem and never part of the solution.

"Personally, I won't be happy until the Tories finish behind the Monster Raving Loony Party, but maybe I'm being too ambitious."

Pre-election reporting by the ECHO/LDRS focused on speaking to local residents about what the priorities are for Southport and what emerged was two main talking points - the closure of the pier and the decline in the town centre. These two issues are not mutually exclusive as the town draws in less shoppers due to reduced tourism and cancelled transport services. Shops continue to close and more and more buildings become abandoned and boarded up.

Dorothy Pettifer aged 84
Dorothy Pettifer aged 84 -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

Dorothy Pettifer would like to see the new MP commit to more investment in the town. The 84-year-old who has voted in numerous general elections over the decades said she remembers when the town was a 'jewel' amongst the country's seaside towns and is saddened to see how much it has changed over the years.

Asked to respond to Labour's victory in Southport and whether it could equate to a brighter future for the town, Dorothy said: "To be honest, I don't feel there's any difference. I don't think there'll be much difference going forward. I'm sorry to say, but I don't have faith in any of them anymore."

Dorothy's lack of faith in the possibility for change is not an uncommon viewpoint amongst people in Southport. Indeed, the lack of trust in politicians and public institutions seems to be endemic across the country and has been identified by the new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer as something which needs to change.

George and Anne were so disillusioned by the general election campaign they didn't actually vote. They both looked at the manifestos of each major party and saw nothing to get excited about. What they both observed was a palpable desire to unseat the Tory government. Anne said: "I think people just voted for change. I don't think there was too much love for Keir Starmer."

Anne and George
Anne and George -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

George added: "I think people were looking for change, but personally I don't think it will change because this Labour Party seems right of centre.

"Nevertheless, there are things they can do and fixing Southport pier is certainly a good place to start for people locally. They simply have to get it open again because the town needs it to be open and attracting visitors."

The lack of faith in politics is certainly all pervasive, but it is not a sentiment universally shared. There were plenty of voters in Southport this morning who felt a renewed sense of optimism and relief.

One such person is 20-year-old Michael Faye who was enjoying the sunshine on a bench just off Lord Street and looking forward to a new era. He said: "I'm hopeful.

"I started voting back in 2010 when the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition took power so I'm looking forward to having some actual change in the country.

"Coastal towns have become decrepit and are dying and the Conservatives have overseen this. I think the challenge for Labour now is to invest and turn things around in places like Southport."

Labour wins the General Election count at Southport. Pictured Patrick Hurley.
Labour wins the General Election count at Southport. Pictured Patrick Hurley. -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

In Patrick Hurley's victory speech at Splash World count centre, he thanked voters for 'lending' him their support and pledged to start working immediately to boost the town. Asked for his message to Southport's constituents on the issue of the pier, Mr Hurley said: "The commitment I'll make is that I'll be working night and day to get it reopened."

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