Will Kensington elect its first non-Labour MP in 45 years?

By Daniel Williams

After Luciana Berger’s shock exit from the Labour Party, Mersey Mash asks the question; Does Berger stand a chance in the next general election? Daniel Williams reports.

It’s not the first time an MP has left their party, but never has the modern era seen such an exodus of politicians.

Following Luciana Berger’s withdrawal from the Labour Party over anti-Semitic complaints, six of her Labour colleagues followed suit, including Stockport MP Ann Coffey, to form the Independent Group.

These exits have inspired some Tory MP’s; with three joining the Independent Group due to complaints of Theresa May’s handling of Brexit.

In a speech, Ms Berger accused the Labour Party for being inactive in the fight against antisemitism.

She said: “I have become embarrassed and ashamed to remain in the Labour Party.

Image: Luciana Berger. Image MP Official Portrait via Creative Commons

“(My) values have been consistently and constantly devalued, undermined, violated and attacked as the Labour Party refuses to put my constituents and our country before party interests.”

She accused the party of containing a “culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation”.

The Liverpool Wavertree MP is clearly a popular figure in Merseyside, gaining 79.5% of the votes in the last general election at 34,717.

Her closest competitor was the Conservative candidate Denise Haddad who only had 5,251 votes.

Notably in this election, the Independent candidate, Adam Heatherington, managed to get just 216 votes.

This statistic may be key, as during the next general election, which is due to take place in 2022, Ms Berger will be an independent.

Potential candidates are already being sought to rival Berger in this election, with Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery criticising the former Labour MP in an email to constituency members.

Image: Ian Lavery. Image courtesy of HistoryGuy1983 via Wikimedia Commons

He said: “Luciana’s resignation has let down the people of Liverpool Wavertree who wanted to be represented by a Labour MP.

“You worked hard to get Luciana elected- and I understand many members will feel very let down.”

Due to Brexit uncertainty, it’s possible a general election is held earlier than 2022.

Since the Liverpool Wavertree constituency was formed in 1997, Labour has won the seat with over 50% of the vote in each general election.

In fact, the last time a non-labour MP gained the seat was in 1974.

This was when the constituency was known as Liverpool Edge Hill, which preceded Liverpool Wavertree and was abolished in 1983.

Historically, the Liberal Democrats have been Labour’s biggest threat, gaining 12,965 votes compared to Labour’s 20,132 in 2010.

In 2005 it was even closer, with Labour gaining 18,441 votes compared to the Lib Dem’s 13,268.

Despite the close results in the past, it is clear Liverpool elects Labour MP’s, which may be a problem for Ms Berger.

Independent candidates do not fare well in general elections, and while Luciana Berger is known and trusted by the electorate, Labour Party allegiances may trump personal popularity.

Although, there is certainly hope for Ms Berger. The Independent group has already seen a meteoric rise in popularity according to the latest YouGov polls.

According to the poll, the group has already won over 14% of voters, 7% higher than the Lib Dems, and 12% below Labour.

It’s possible the Independent Group can become the new Lib Dem’s for Liverpool, and with more MP’s set to follow Luciana Berger’s lead to independence, there may be an upset for Labour in the 2022 general election. Main image courtesy of Policy Exchange

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