The North West covers the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire, as well as the former metropolitan counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside (including Liverpool). A majority of the population lives in a single urban area encompassing Manchester and Liverpool, and also including Bolton, Wigan, St Helens and a number of other boroughs. Outside of this metropolitan area, this region also covers Chester, Lancaster, Blackpool and Carlisle.
The Labour Party is dominant in the Northwest, having won a majority of seats even during the last Conservative government. Labour holds almost all seats in Greater Manchester and Merseyside. They also hold most seats in Lancashire and a majority of seats in Cheshire and Cumbria. The Conservatives hold one seat in Manchester, a number of seats in rural Cheshire and Lancashire, and one seat on the Scottish border in Cumbria. The Liberal Democrats hold four seats in the Greater Manchester area, as well as Southport in Merseyside and Westmorland & Lonsdale in Cumbria.
Most of Greater Manchester’s Labour seats are contests between Labour and the Tories, although a cluster of four seats in inner Manchester and another in Oldham are all Labour-Lib Dem contests. Ten of Labour’s 13 seats in Merseyside are Labour-Lib Dem contests, with the Tories only prominent on the edges. Four of the six Lib Dem seats are historic Conservative seats, while most Tory seats are Tory-Labour contests.
The redistribution saw one Labour seat abolished in Greater Manchester, and another in Merseyside. Another Merseyside seat, Wirral West, is now notionally Conservative, and a new Labour seat was created in Lancashire.
- 1987 – 38 LAB, 35 CON, 3 LIB
- 1992 – 47 LAB, 27 CON, 2 LD
- 1997 – 64 LAB, 9 CON, 2 LD, 1 other (Martin Bell)
- 2001 – 64 LAB, 9 CON, 3 LD
- 2005 – 61 LAB, 9 CON, 6 LD
At the 1987 election, even when Labour was devastated nationally, they managed to win half of the seats in the North West. In 1992, Labour won eight seats off Labour and Southport off the Liberal Democrats.
The 1997 election saw Labour win a massive majority of seats in the North West, winning 64 out of 76 seats. Both sitting Liberal Democrats, one in Liverpool and the other in Rochdale on the outskirts of Greater Manchester, were defeated by the Labour Party. However, the Lib Dems won back Southport and gained Hazel Grove off the Conservatives. In addition, the seat of Tatton was won by independent candidate Martin Bell. A former BBC journalist, Bell stood against sitting Conservative MP Neil Hamilton, who had been accused of accepting cash in order to ask questions in the House of Commons. Labour and the Lib Dems withdrew their candidates in the seat, allowing Bell to win a large majority in the seat. The Conservatives managed to hold on to only nine of their seats, including two in Greater Manchester and none in Merseyside.
In 2001, Labour managed to hold on to their 64 seats. The Liberal Democrats gained the seat of Cheadle off the Conservatives, and the Conservatives regained Tatton, where Martin Bell stood down after one term.
The Liberal Democrats gained three seats in 2005, gaining the Manchester seats of Rochdale and Manchester Withington off Labour and the Cumbria seat of Westmorland & Lonsdale off the Conservatives. The Conservatives offset their loss by gaining Lancaster & Wyre off Labour. Since the 2005 election the Conservatives gained a tenth seat in Crewe & Nantwich at a 2008 by-election.
The key seats
- City of Chester, Liverpool Wavertree, Bury North, South Ribble – these Labour seats are all Conservative targets that will need to fall for the Conservatives to be the largest party. They sit 15th, 28th, 48th and 50th on the Conservative target list.
- Rossendale & Darwen, Blackpool North & Cleveleys, Wirral South, Bolton West, Carlisle, Bolton North East, Warrington South – These seats would fall from Labour to the Conservatives on a uniform swing if the Conservatives were to win a narrow majority. They lie 71st, 77th, 79th, 85th, 92nd, 93rd and 96th on the Conservative target list.
- Morecambe & Lunesdale, Lancaster & Fleetwood, Barrow & Furness, Weaver Vale – these four Labour seats are 111th, 114th, 115th and 116th on the Conservative target list, and are the sorts of seats that would fall if the Conservatives were to win a small working majority.
- Sefton Central, Hyndburn, West Lancashire, Workington, Ellesmere Port & Neston, Chorley, Copeland, Blackpool South, Blackburn, Stretford & Urmston – these Labour seats are between 127 and 199 on the Conservative target list.
- Pendle – this Merseyside seat is held by Labour with 37%. The Conservatives trail on 32% and the Liberal Democrats on 23%, and could be vulnerable to either party.
- Westmorland & Lonsdale, Cheadle, Southport – these three Lib Dem seats are 14th, 65th and 78th on the Conservative target list.
- Manchester Withington, Rochdale – these two Lib Dem seats were won off Labour in 2005. While they could be vulnerable if there was a swing to Labour, they should be safe in the current political environment.
- Oldham East & Saddleworth – this Labour seat in the outskirts of Greater Manchester is held by a 10% margin over the Liberal Democrats.
- Burnley – this Labour seat in Lancashire is held by a 15% margin over the Liberal Democrats. It is also a strong area for the British National Party, who polled 10% in 2005. Sitting Labour MP Kitty Ussher was first elected in 2005 and expected to have a stellar career, but resigned as a junior minister in 2009 due to the expenses scandal and is stepping down as an MP at the election.
- Crewe & Nantwich – this seat was held by Labour up until a 2008 by-election when the Conservatives won it with a large swing. While the Labour Party had held it from its creation in 1983 until the 2008 by-election, the Conservatives stand a good chance of retaining it.