Inside Britain's safest seat where voters are completely behind Jeremy Corbyn

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Forest Green Rovers in Nailsworth, Stroud, while on the General Election campaign trail. (PA Images)

Labour supporters in Britain’s safest parliamentary seat say they will never trust the Conservatives to run the country for them.

Voters who spoke to Yahoo News UK in the Liverpool Walton constituency put that down to scars from the Thatcher era which they say still run deep in the Merseyside city.

Liverpool ran at odds with Margaret Thatcher’s government 40 years ago, with the decline of its dock and factory industries fuelling a local rise in left-wing politicians.

Unemployment fuels left-wing group in Labour

Tens of thousands people in the city were out of work as a nationwide economic crisis took a hold in the 70s and 80s.

Liverpool’s council was take over by Militant, a far-left group within the Labour Party, which wanted to revitalise the city and resist the Thatcher government’s efforts to reduce the city’s financial grant.

The stand-off, which at one point saw Militant hand out redundancy notices to tens of thousands of council workers as a political ploy, led to Labour’s national leadership under Neil Kinnock to purge the group from the party’s ranks.

Among those charged with removing the group was Peter Kilfoyle, a regional organiser for Labour who described Militant as a ‘party within a party’ in a BBC interview.

He went on to win the seat of Liverpool Walton in a by-election in 1991, held after incumbent Labour MP Eric Heffer died in office. Heffer had held the seat since 1964 when he won it from the Tories and it has remained Labour since.

Outside Anfield in Walton.

In that 1991 by-election, Kilfoyle defeated Lesley Mahmood, a Militant member who stood under the “Walton Real Labour” banner.

Kilfoyle won the seat by 7,000 votes and went on to solidify his majority, winning future elections throughout the John Major government and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s New Labour by the tens of thousands.

If Kilfoyle was the way forward from the ideological battles of the 80s, the residents of his constituency today have not forgotten what happened in that decade.

The safest seat in Britain

Yahoo News UK visited Walton earlier this month, the safest seat for any party in Britain.

It is to the north-east of the city centre, and contains both of Liverpool’s major football teams’ stadiums - Liverpool and Everton - either side of Stanley Park.

Stanley Park provides green space in Walton.

It elected Dan Carden with 86% of the vote in 2017, the biggest percentage for any MP in the UK, just slightly ahead of neighbouring constituencies Knowsley (85%), Liverpool Riverside (85%) and Bootle (84%) - all Labour.

Chris Baker, 44, who lives in Walton, said the tradition of voting Labour was put into him by his parents “and the experience growing up in the 80s... just really, really bad memories of it all”.

“We were just left to rot.

“And the same’s going to happen again, with Brexit, (and) anyone who voted Leave but comes from Liverpool needs their heads testing.”

Walton did vote for Leave, with 54% backing Brexit.

But if the Tories have their eyes on Brexit-backing Labour seats, Chris would not expect them to gain any traction in his area.

He does not know anyone in Walton who would vote Conservative.

“And even if they do, they’d never make it known,” he added.

“We’re built on politics, the whole city’s built on politics, the two football clubs are, as well, Liverpool and Everton.”

Anfield is towards the southern part of the constituency.

For Chris, the animosity between Liverpool and the Tories go back well beyond Thatcher’s time - he referenced Winston Churchill’s decision to send a warship into the Mersey during a strike in 1911.

He believes the Tories will win the election and if Boris Johnson does get a majority Corbyn should stay as Labour leader.

“For me Corbyn, he’s the man, he’s the only one who shows a bit of compassion. And if he is lying about his compassion then he’s a good liar.”

“As honest as the day is long”

Walking near Everton’s Goodison Park, 83-year-old Francis McCormack said he had voted for Labour his entire life, which came “through the family”.

The Walton resident told Yahoo News UK: “I think we’ve had a raw deal from the Conservatives, especially Maggie Thatcher, she was quite prepared to see this go down the Swanee.”

Everton, like rivals Liverpool, have their stadium in the constituency.

He said those days are still at the back of voter’s minds in the city.

Mr McCormack is also a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.

“I like the man, I think he’s as honest as the day is long,” he said.

Asked if Mr Corbyn should go if he loses the election, Mr McCormack said: “It’d be up to himself really. I like the man, as I say, he’s got the same beliefs I have, more or less.

“I don’t think Blair had many followers in this fair city of ours. But that’s it, results showed that he was there for quite a while, Tony, but I never liked him, never liked the man, didn’t like his policies at all.”

Francis McCormack said he would never vote for anyone other than Labour.

Despite his dislike of Tony Blair, he added that he had never been tempted by any other party than Labour.

Anne Whitehead, 77, a retired licensee of a pub, said she would never vote for the Conservatives or “Boris whatever-his-name-is” because they are “c**p”.

She is totally behind Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. Like Mr Baker and Mr McCormack, the Walton resident has only ever voted Labour.

“I think they’re pretty genuine in what they say, they say something and they do it if they can,” she said.

And on Mr Corbyn, she said: “I think he’s brilliant.

“There’s nobody else there, let’s be honest,” she said, adding that she hoped he would stay even if he lost a second general election.

“All my kids, I’ve got six of them, they vote Labour, they wouldn’t vote Conservative.”

She has never voted for any other party and said there is no way she can be tempted to go blue this time.

“No, and I could not think of voting Conservative because they all say they’ll do something and they don’t.”

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