'It's the issue not being talked about in this general election': Merseyside beach-goers want to see more bravery

Ricky Powers, 23 enjoying the summer weather at Crosby beach
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)

"Climate change is not being talked about enough" says Sarah Jensen, 24 as she sits beside a picnic on Crosby beach.

Much of the coastline visible from the beach is within the Sefton Central constituency which was created in 2010 and also includes eastern parts of the borough including Melling and Maghull.

The constituency has been represented by Labour's Bill Esterson for the last 14 years and he will be contesting the seat once again in July's general election. Labour has taken well over 50% of the vote in the last three elections which suggests the seat has changed from a key marginal between the two major political parties to a Labour safe seat.

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However, the probable re-election of a Labour MP doesn't mean voters are entirely happy with the policies of the current leadership.

Earlier this month, more than 400 scientists wrote to all the political parties contesting races in the 2024 general election. The public letter was published by the Grantham Research Institute of Climate Change and the Environment and urged leaders to adopt ambitious policies or risk making Britain and the world ‘more dangerous and insecure’

Antony Gormley figure at Wind Farm, Burbo Bank, Crosby
Antony Gormley figure at Wind Farm, Burbo Bank, Crosby -Credit:Daily Mirror

The last five years has witnessed record heat and record floods and many voters have been disappointed at how little climate issues have been discussed during the election campaign - voters such as 23-year-old Ricky Powers.

We bump into Ricky as he enjoys a day out at Crosby beach with his friend Sarah. Asked to comment on the paucity of dialogue between the main parties about climate change, Ricky said it's not surprising and believes the lack of these conversations speaks to a wider problem for his generation: "Climate change is the issue none of these parties are talking about and I don't feel they are really speaking to young people and the concerns we have."

Sarah agrees: "There's Rishi Sunak's policy of National Service which is such a shock to the public that it soaks up all the attention and it means the issue of climate change is just ignored.

"The Greens' policies are very popular with me and my friends, but because of the voting system, it's difficult to see them getting in power."

"I look at the policies of the main parties and I don't think there's anything of interest for young people. Jobs, housing and climate change are huge concerns and I don't see solutions for us."

Nevertheless, they both remain hopeful and have belief in their own agency. Ricky said: "It's important to be hopeful and believe things can change and it's up to our generation to do something and bring about that change."

Both Ricky and Sarah are drawn to some of the policies of the Green party but are sceptical about how beneficial it would be to vote for them. Sarah said: "The problems caused by this government are profound and some say Labour could be the best solution. It's a persuasive argument.

"The problem we've got at the minute, is that the Greens' policies are very popular with me and my friends, but because of the voting system, it's difficult to see them getting in power."

This issue points to another absent discussion point - proportional representation. A poll published earlier this week found Labour voters support replacing the first past the post (FPTP) voting system with proportional representation (PR).

However, the Labour leadership are maintaining support for FPTP despite Sir Keir Starmer appearing to back PR during the party's 2020 leadership election. He told ITV on Wednesday that FPTP has given a 'strong government in this country' and he will not be making any changes to the voting system.

At the other end of the age spectrum are Alan Burrows and Brian Bailey. Alan has always voted Conservative and Brian has always voted Labour and they are chatting amiably in the 26 degree heat as Alan waits for a bite on his fishing line.

Alan Burrows (left) alongside Brian Bailey (right)
Alan Burrows (left) alongside Brian Bailey (right) -Credit:LDRS

Alan has voted Conservative for most of his life but is completely turned off by what he's seen over the last few years. He said: "I don't vote any more. They're all just in it for themselves."

Alan enjoys living on the coast and makes regular visits to Crosby beach and said the protection of the local environment is a priority for him. However, he's not hopeful of progress in this regard and cites the privatisation and profiteering of water companies such as United Utilities.

In the last year, two popular events in Sefton have been postponed or cancelled due to leaks including a waste pipe on Crosby's coastal path. The 2024 Waterloo Festival was due to celebrate its 10th anniversary but was cancelled after a sewage pipe burst at the event site. Earlier this month, the Picturesque 5K challenge was postponed after Sefton Council revealed 'unavoidable United Utilities works' would significantly disrupt the route.

Alan said: "These companies are getting paid by the government and paid by the people. All it's done is push their bank balances up."

Conversation turns to the NHS and it's a subject matter in which Brian and Alan are in broad agreement. Alan mentions the plight of his late grandad who worked to create the NHS. He said: "When my grandad was ill the hospital was full and they ended up putting him in mental health hospital in Rainhill which he was not happy with and that's a capacity issue."

"Look at the amount of poor people and children in poverty and that's all down to the Conservatives."

On July 5 the United Kingdom will have elected a new government, but it will also be the 76th anniversary since the NHS was created. Both Alan and Brian talk passionately about the 'amazing achievement' of the NHS, but look saddened and frustrated with the decline in its standards.

We have met the day after Channel 4's 'Undercover A&E: NHS in Crisis: Dispatches' documentary which exposed the suffering and dangers patients are facing on a daily basis. Brian said: "I know all about that. I've been one of those people laying on a trolley, ill and waiting hours to be seen."

Brian has been a socialist all his life and has nothing good to say about the Conservatives and believes 'they're just in it for themselves'. For Brian, only a Labour government can provide solutions to the country's problems and he has already sent off his postal vote. He said: "Look at the amount of poor people and children in poverty and that's all down to the Conservatives. It's what always happens when they're in power."

There's a growing body of evidence which seems to back up Brian's assertion. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s cost of living tracker, 92% of households with a young person reported going without essentials between 2022 and 2023. During the austerity years, child poverty has soared to its highest level since before the Second World War and infant mortality has risen for the first time in two generations.

Polling suggests Labour will win July's general election by a landslide - although the party are quick to say they're taking nothing for granted. Whoever the government on July 5, the problems are complex and myriad and there will be no easy solutions or quick fixes. Both young and older voters will be hoping they're up to the challenge.

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