[Quick warning - this post contains a lot of analysis and percentages]
As we've previously made apparent, Liverpool Riverside is our target constituency here in the North West, and the results from the local elections show why that is the case. Looking at the 7 council wards in the constituency, vote breakdowns are as follows:
Labour - 11,548 (7/7)
Green - 5,830 (7/7)
Lib Dem - 1,398 (4/7)
Conservative - 1,118 (7/7)
UKIP - 753 (3/7)
TUSC - 545 (5/7)
Liberal - 355 (7/7)
Independent - 148 (1/7)
English Democrats - 60 (1/7)
So Labour are still comfortably winning in Liverpool Riverside with 53% of the vote, but the Greens are now the clear second party in the constituency with 27% of the vote. There are other factors to consider, for example that the Lib Dems didn't contest their weakest 3 seats in the constituency and that UKIP only stood in 3 and probably would have been higher if they had stood in all 7, but I can confirm from our observations of the Euro count, that even in the Euros we were ahead of UKIP in this constituency, despite UKIP ending up as the second party in terms of city wide Euro vote share. Within the constituency there are now 17 Labour councillors and 4 Greens. There are no Liberal Democrats or Conservatives, so on all counts, we are now the party best placed to challenge Labour for this seat.
Labour were genuinely shocked to be beaten by the Greens in Greenbank. Our sampling indicated that we won every polling district, so it wasn't just a protest vote related to Sefton Park Meadows, but a clear indication that voters in Greenbank at least, do want an alternative to Joe Anderson's Labour Party on the city council. It was also a massive swing from Labour to the Greens from 2012 to 2014. In the last locals, Labour beat us by 60% to 19%, yet Lawrence Brown won the seat this year for the Greens 48% to 38%. So what are our prospects in the other wards?
Mossley Hill: Labour 42%, Green (3rd) 18%
Princes Park: Labour 67%, Green 16%
Central: Labour 63%, Green 19%
Riverside: Labour 67%, Green (3rd) 9%
Kirkdale: Labour 79%, Green (3rd) 6%
Mossley Hill was a secondary target for us, with Helen Randall building support. With the last Liberal Democrat councillor gone and their efforts likely to be a desperate bid to hold onto Church and Woolton in a General Election year, we'll be stepping up our campaigning there. This is likely to be our best ward to target after Greenbank for a gain, recognising that the higher turnout in a General Election has previously given a boost to Labour in local elections.
Princes Park may be a wide gap but again we could potentially challenge Labour here if we can generate the same type of swing as in Greenbank. Central may be a better outside prospect and we did a little bit of campaigning there this year and saw a 7% jump in our vote. The huge student population (over half the ward's electorate last time I looked) means that large swings can potentially happen if we get our campaign right. Riverside and Kirkdale will be much tougher to crack for us. It may be 2016 or 2018 before we are in a position to challenge to win seats there, but our new status as the main opposition party in the city should boost our media profile and our recognition at local elections.
Candidate selection will be crucial and I know we are looking to get our 2015 team in place as early as possible. There is an appetite for a real opposition party here in Liverpool and the Greens are ready to step up to the challenge. The message to Labour in Liverpool is that we are serious and we are determined, not just to win council seats, but to win this constituency. Why do I think we can do this? You only have to read the Guardian to see that a Labour government is promising very little difference to the coalition:
"Labour cannot afford to undo the coalition's cuts in the next government and must expect to be unpopular, one of the party's most senior finance spokesmen will say on Friday."
If Labour can't or won't present a real alternative to austerity, then the Greens will and Liverpool we can and will hold the Labour Party to account for both national and local policies.