2015 Result:
Conservative: 12330 (28%)
Labour: 8468 (19.2%)
Lib Dem: 13652 (31%)
Green: 1230 (2.8%)
UKIP: 7429 (16.8%)
Others: 992 (2.2%)
MAJORITY: 1322 (3%)

Category: Marginal Liberal Democrat seat

Geography: North West, Merseyside. Part of the Sefton council area.

Main population centres: Southport.

Profile: The northern part of Sefton borough council, following the coast up west of South Ribble. Southport is an up-market seaside tourist town, with the second longest pier in Britain and six golf courses. Less brash and more genteel than nearby Blackpool, it has also become a commuter town for Liverpool and Preston.

Politics: A Conservative seat for most of the time since the First World War, it was finally won by the Liberals in 1987 (Ronnie Fearn having previously contested the seat four times) and has since been a marginal Lib Dem/Conservative contest, returning to the Tories in 1992 but being won back by Fearn in 1997.

Current MP
JOHN PUGH (Liberal Democrat) Born 1948, Liverpool. Educated at Prescott Grammar School, Maidstone Grammar School and Durham University. Former RE and philosophy teacher. Sefton councillor 1987-2001, former leader of Sefton councillor. First elected as MP for Southport in 2001.
Past Results
Con: 15683 (36%)
Lab: 4116 (9%)
LDem: 21707 (50%)
UKIP: 2251 (5%)
MAJ: 6024 (14%)
Con: 15255 (37%)
Lab: 5277 (13%)
LDem: 19093 (46%)
UKIP: 749 (2%)
Oth: 827 (2%)
MAJ: 3838 (9%)
Con: 15004 (36%)
Lab: 6816 (17%)
LDem: 18011 (44%)
UKIP: 555 (1%)
Oth: 767 (2%)
MAJ: 3007 (7%)
Con: 18186 (36%)
Lab: 6125 (12%)
LDem: 24346 (48%)
Oth: 571 (1%)
MAJ: 6160 (12%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005

2015 Candidates
DAMIEN MOORE (Conservative) Born Cumbria. Educated at University of Central Lancashire. Supermarket manager. Preston councillor.
LIZ SAVAGE (Labour) Born 1973, Liverpool. Educated at St Bedes RC High School and Bradford University. Teacher. West Lancashire councillor since 2011.
JOHN PUGH (Liberal Democrat) See above.
Comments - 441 Responses on “Southport”
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  1. If John Pugh stays on here, this is most likely a hold. Even if he decides to retire, this is probably one of the best chances for a Lib Dem ‘handover’ in 2015. If the Tories want to be in with a chance, they need to select a candidate very soon, but with the local party in such disarray I’d be surprised if they did, and even more surprised if they came up with a consensus local candidate of any quality. The factionalism of the Southport Conservative Party is pretty inscrutable to anyone on the outside.

    The only fly in the ointment for the local Lib Dems is Labour’s resurgence, which could threaten to encourage defections from left-leaning voters. They would probably have taken Norwood last year if it hadn’t been for Ronnie Fearn’s personal vote (after forty-nine consecutive years on the council, it is pretty considerable). But since Eastleigh I’ve been fairly convinced that, when push comes to shove, most tactical voters will continue, however grudgingly, to vote Lib Dem in straight LD-Tory fights. And, of course, the Tories have their own problem with UKIP (it’s that which won Dukes and Harrington for the Lib Dems and Labour respectively).

  2. FWIW, I heard from a reliable source that the Conservatives basically gave up several days before the General Election in 2010, and that their knocking-up operation on the day was fairly perfunctory. Not that they could have bridged a gap of 6,000 in a few days, but they would probably have prevented the Lib Dems winning the council seat in Ainsdale.

  3. I think this seat is beyond the Tories for the foreseeable future.

    With a local party seemingly at odds with each other internally, a period of nearly 16 years having now gone since they last won the seat and the Lib Dem base in Southport showing no signs of weakening any day soon, this is basically a safe seat for John Pugh or whoever else the party select for that matter.

    Yes, on paper this may be ‘semi-marginal’, but for a Liberal Democrat-held seat, I would say they would view this as being safe as houses.

    Unless Pugh does something really stupid or the local Conservative Party suddenly gain loads of popularity from somewhere, then I don’t think they’re at any risk of losing the parliamentary seat at least for a long time. The local elections in years to come may show Labour begin to challenge in the town in a few wards realistically. Whether the Lib Dems will remain the biggest party in Southport over the next ten years remains to be seen.

  4. Interesting how the Tories got reasonably close in 2001 and 2005 only for the majority in 2010 to return to the level seen in 1997.

  5. Yes that is interesting.

    A lot of that can be explained by the fact that when Ronnie Fearn retired in 2001, (the Lib Dem MP for Southport 1987-1992 and 1997-2001) his personal vote was lost and therefore the Lib Dems decreased in 2001 and the majority was halved.

    Pugh increased his majority slightly in 2005, having by this time built up his own personal vote.

    And that obviously continued to increase into 2010- The Conservative vote share was actually down a little last time around.

    Of course, going back to Fearn it was he who established the Liberal Democrats here as a force way back as far as 1970- Even before then, the then-Liberal Party had begun to make considerable inroads in Southport at local government level.

    Look at the post-war results in the constituency, and before Fearn stepped in for the Liberals they had struggled to replicate their previous success here before the War.

  6. List of Liberal/Liberal Democrat results in Southport since 1945-
    1. 1945- Robert Martin (10, 404, 20.5%, N/A)
    2. 1950- Major Harry Ellington (8, 933, 16.9%, -3.6%)
    3. 1951- Hubert David Bentliff (7, 576, 15.0%, -1.9%)
    4. 1952 by-election- Hubert David Bentliff (9.5%, -5.5%)
    (Liberals did not field a candidate in 1955)
    5. 1959- Councillor Sam Goldberg (11, 292, 23.5%, N/A)
    6. 1964- C. Jack Coleman (10, 609, 23.0%, -0.5%)
    7. 1966- C. Jack Coleman (8, 630, 19.7%, -3.3%)
    8. 1970- Ronnie Fearn (13, 809, 30.2%, +10.5%)
    9. February 1974- Ronnie Fearn (20, 093, 39.6%, +9.4%)
    10. October 1974- Ronnie Fearn (17, 387, 35.7%, -3.9%)
    11. 1979- Ronnie Fearn (19, 426, 38.0%, +2.3%)
    12. 1983- Ian Brodie-Browne (20, 573, 40.5%, +2.5%)
    13. 1987- Ronnie Fearn (26, 110, 47.9%, +7.4%)
    14. 1992- Ronnie Fearn (23, 018, 41.5%, -6.4%)
    15. 1997- Ronnie Fearn (24, 356, 48.1%, +6.6%)
    16. 2001- John Pugh (18, 011, 43.8%, -4.3%)
    17. 2005- John Pugh (19, 093, 46.3%, +2.5%)
    18. 2010- John Pugh (21, 707, 49.6%, +3.3%)

  7. I think this seat could see the Conservatives sliding backwards quite substantially – something like:

    LD – 45
    Con – 28
    Lab – 13
    UKIP – 12
    OTH – 2

  8. Lord Ashcrofts polling reveals disastrous results for the Lib Dems in Lib Dem marginal with Labour second, but are more encouraging for them in Lib Dem seats where the Conservatives are the only challenger and Labour are a distant third.

    Given the shift to Labour in other Merseyside seats since 1979 and 1983 (Crosby, Wirral South, Wirral West, Wallasey, Liverpool Wavertree and Liverpool Garston) could it be conceivable that Labour could find Southport winnable in the next twenty years or so?

    I think the Labour vote here is much greater than 9.4%, and it currently backs the Lib Dems because only they can keep the Conservatives out.

    Without tacticle voting in 2010 Southport may have be something like –

    Lib Dem: 16707
    Conservative: 15683
    Labour: 9116
    UKIP: 2251
    MAJORITY: 1024

  9. It’s conceivable – Labour are already starting to threaten in 1 or 2 Southport wards – but Southport isn’t quite the same as the rest of Merseyside & sits rather awkwardly in it. It is as far as I am aware the only seat in the former Merseyside county which is entirely separated from Liverpool in terms of built-up areas, and its politics are now totally different from anywhere else in the conurbation – to a large extent they always have been. It’s possible to argue that Ellesmere Port & Neston, Halton & W Lancashire are all more “Scouse” seats than this one, and I don’t think that it’s a given that Labour will ever get into contention here.

  10. ‘It’s possible to argue that Ellesmere Port & Neston, Halton & W Lancashire are all more “Scouse” seats than this one.’

    Yes I would agree with that. Of course Liverpool has always been a somewhat semi-detached part of the traditional county of Lancaster. One cannot say that of Southport and I think that is a factor. Perhaps the same was true of Ormskirk until recently.

  11. I don’t think Ormskirk is really a place you could call Scouse yet, though Skelmersdale almost certainly is even though it’s in Lancashire. Perhaps it is getting more so.

  12. ‘to a large extent they always have been. It’s possible to argue that Ellesmere Port & Neston, Halton & W Lancashire are all more “Scouse” seats than this one,’

    Halton is certainly more like a Merseyside constituency than a Cheshire one – if anything it, along with Ellesmere Port, is more like a Teeside seat – courtesy of the heavy industry that totally dominates both seats

    Despite their proximity, Ormskirk and Skelmersdale are polar opposites, and Barnaby is right in that you would never describe Ormskirk as Scouse

  13. Would I not be right in thinking that Labour is strengthening in Ormskirk long-term?

    Ellesmere Port and Neston is quite polarised. Most of the Neston half is what you would expect of Cheshire, particularly the area between Hooton and Parkgate. One can say the same of Wirral South because of Heswall and Clatterbridge (Heswall especially).

  14. ‘Ellesmere Port and Neston is quite polarised. Most of the Neston half is what you would expect of Cheshire, particularly the area between Hooton and Parkgate. One can say the same of Wirral South because of Heswall and Clatterbridge’

    There’s an increasingly stark division between the Dee Side of the Wiral – which is still quite affluent, if not quite as Tory-voting as before, and the Mersey side, which like much of Merseyside has swung quite heavily behind Labour in recent times – even places like Bebbington, which are still quite middle class

    Ellesmore Port & Neston fits this pattern too

    Southport really should have stayed in Lancashire when they changed the boundaries – which their residents were campaigning for at the time of the change

  15. I agree, Tim. Although the Tory position down the Deeside of the Wirral has undoubtedly weakened, you could still form a reasonably safe (and stable) Conservative seat based on Willaston/ Parkgate, Heswall, and West Kirby/Hoylake. And that area most certainly remains affluent and middle-class- very high concentrations of ‘senior managerial’ people if you look at the census figures.

    By contrast, there is no way that the Tories would even come close to winning the 1950-1974 seat of Bebington if it existed now. And that is striking because the south-east corner of the Wirral isn’t all that badly off- certainly not in relation to Birkenhead. There are pockets of affluence in Bebington and Prenton, and Eastham has home ownership levels of 80%.

  16. It will be interesting to see who the Conservatives select here nearer the time. I would imagine the candidate to be another of their local councillord, at least if recent elections are anything to go off. After Banks was defeated, their progress since has been very minimal at best, therefore I don’t think the person they choose will make much difference to the vote and I would expect the Tories here to fall back again.

  17. I suppose Pugh’s vote against marriage equality (not surprising since he is a Catholic and doubtless does as instructed) will make little difference in a socially conservative area like the North West.

  18. I think that’s probably true.

    Pugh regardless of what way he votes for things like this (i.e. ethical/religious matters) will still hold on here. He is popular enough locally and believe me I know as my own father lives in Birkdale and I get that feeling about Pugh whenever I’m in the town.

    He comes across IMHO (from what I’ve seen of him on the TV) as being genuine, amiable and hard-working. I personally am not a Liberal Democrat but I believe Southport has been lucky to have some very good MPs in the last two decades in Pugh, Ronnie Fearn and even before him the Conservative Matthew Banks.

  19. I hadn’t quite noted that the Liberals increased in 1979 but it is a slght glimmer I think I did see.

    That is a very good result for them then.

    And Ronnie Fearn had been campaignig as long as Alan Watson in Richmond

  20. ”And Ronnie Fearn had been campaignig as long as Alan Watson in Richmond”

    Even longer. Fearn also stood in 1970 and February 1974, whereas Watson didn’t stand until October 1974. If you look at the 1970 result here when Fearn was first the candidate for the Liberals, it really is incredible given the wider context of how the party did nationally that year.

  21. Although Watson never got in.
    Sadly the Lib Dems did eventually though – when the Government was kicked out on a landslide

  22. ”Although Watson never got in.
    Sadly the Lib Dems did eventually though – when the Government was kicked out on a landslide”

    The funny thing is though is that before the Lib Dems finally won there they had for years been held off by whom must have been an effective MP in the form of the Conservatives’ Jeremy Hanley. It is interesting to recall that in 1992 it was seen as being one of their main target seats given how marginal it had been in 1983 and 1987, but yet even with a well-known candidate like Jenny Tonge they fell backwards again. It only took the landslide in 1997 as you say for the Lib Dems to eventually win in Richmond Park.

  23. I think if we had not been so complacent about the Kingston section notionally bolstering our lead to a 9,000 national defeat proof margin
    we would have just held on.
    Labour switchers back to the Lib Dems also did it.

  24. Pugh has picked up something of a reputation for ‘talking the talk’ more than ‘walking the walk’ on issues like the NHS.
    I don’t think he has the personal vote of Ronnie Fearn, but the Tories have been ripping themselves to shreds for the last few years which has helped him, and Labour have only started to work the area recently

  25. Jenny Tonge held Richmond Park quite well between 1997 and 2005, but as soon as she stood down, under Susan Kramer the vote began to decrease- So Goldsmith’s victory in 2010 didn’t really come as that much of a surprise to me really TBH.

    Going back to why the Lib Dems struggled for years to win in RP, it may have largely been down to the fact that progressively over an extended period they had squeezed the Labour vote down as low as it was going to get, so perhaps by 1987 and 1992 saturation point in this regard had been reached. Obviously a large notional decrease in Hanley’s vote pretty much in line with the national swing was what eventually got them in.

  26. ”Pugh has picked up something of a reputation for ‘talking the talk’ more than ‘walking the walk’ on issues like the NHS.”

    Well if you have real first-hand knowledge of that then I suppose it can’t be denied.

    ”I don’t think he has the personal vote of Ronnie Fearn, but the Tories have been ripping themselves to shreds for the last few years which has helped him, and Labour have only started to work the area recently”

    Pugh may not have the same sizeable personal support that Fearn enjoyed, yet he must have done something right to increase his majority for two elections in a row- Who knows? Maybe if the circumstances were highly favourable for the Lib Dems nationally as well as locally here they would expect Pugh to increase his majority again in 2015? Granted he wouldn’t NEED to as I would imagine he is safe anyway on past results, but with regards to the Southport Tories’ current situation, I agree. We probably both know how many of their councillors fell out with them for various reasons, and indeed one of them Les Byrom is now a Labour councillor for my ward bizarrely. Finally, Labour have begun to work seriously in the town’s wards because they must have woken up to the fact that there is a chance for them to capitalise on the feelings of disenchanted Lib Dem voters of the soft-left type. Likewise with the Tories who have lost votes to UKIP locally recently.

  27. A lot of people would probably have liked Watson to have been elected at some point or other, and not just Liberal supporters. On TV he appears quite conservative by today’s standards.

  28. ”A lot of people would probably have liked Watson to have been elected at some point or other, and not just Liberal supporters. On TV he appears quite conservative by today’s standards.”

    I wonder if the Lib Dems’ chances would have been greater had he stood again in 1992?

    Regardless, he would have made a fine MP and may have been quite a respected one.

    But I think that it just seemed to be the case that two factors prevented Watson from making that final push to Westminster- First of all, Jeremy Hanley was a very good Conservative candidate and MP, but second of all the Liberals were a little unlucky in that they had probably squeezed the Labour vote down all the way already, thereby limiting their possibility of a gain.

  29. If the Tories take this, it would be a sign of a Lib Dem meltdown of the kind I don’t expect to see in constituencies like this. If the Lib Dems have a new candidate, then Labour will expect to increase their vote and try to build on that for the future, as has already been suggested above.
    I would see a Lib Dem hold, with a much reduced majority and Labour seeing a significant growth in its vote share.

  30. I think it’s pretty certain that Pugh will hold this, but his majority will be bigger than many expect I would think, largely because the Lib Dems are holding up very well locally in Southport due to the internal party problems of the local Tories.

    And RE the Labour vote yes it should go up a bit but I wouldn’t expect them to get more than 15% as a general guide.

    Anyway, I think Pugh will hold this with a majority between 3-4,000.

  31. A closer look at the result here in 1987-
    Fearn (Liberal)- 26, 110, 47.90%, +7.4%)
    Thomas (Conservative)- 24, 261, 44.51%, -5.92%)
    Moore (Labour)- 3, 483, 6.39%, -1.94%)
    Walker (Green)- 653 (1.20%, N/A)

    Majority- 1, 849 (3.39%)
    Swing- +6.66% From Con to Lib.

  32. Barney McGrew has been selected by Labour. Cuthbert Dibble is rumoured to be standing for the Conservatives.

  33. Is Windy Miller standing for UKIP Barnaby?

  34. Yes I think he is!

  35. Shouldn’t it be Captain Flack?

  36. The council election results for the wards in this seat next May should give a good guide as to what the result might be here in 2015- I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Labour were to come close to actually winning in a couple of wards- Kew and Meols are the ones I was thinking of.

  37. Kew and Norwood are the toe wards Labour are targetting

  38. Yes thanks Mike that’s what I thought.

  39. My Dad went to Southport recently and was sad at how relatively ‘run down’ it looked.

    Crudely speaking I think of this as similar to Eastbourne but with a few pockets of real Labour potential.

  40. Yeah, I went earlier this year and was surprised at how run down it was.

    You drive through some super expensive areas on the way in from Liverpool and Lord St is still a really handsome street (with loads and loads of jewellers for some reason). The seafront however, is quite unattracive, with quite run down buildings and a retail park between the prom and the sea. The sea has retreated quite a bit, so it feels like it is lacking something and the pier is really boring. I also struggled to find a decent restaurant in the town centre.

    Having been to Eastbourne too, I found it a lot nicer, with more of a seaside feel. I guess Southport has nothing really special to make it a seaside resort anymore, no beautful setting, or natural attractions to set it apart, so it’s more of a dormitory town these days, than a fully fledged seaside destination in the way that places like Brighton, Blackpool, Torquay and Llandudno still are.

  41. I visited Southport about a year ago and it didn’t look as rundown as I was expecting. The seafront still looked quite attractive IMO.

  42. Mr Pugh definitely standing agian in May 2015


  43. It may seem incredible now, but this was the result of the byelection that took place here in 1952 after Robert Hudson was raised to the peerage-

    Roger Fleetwood-Hesketh (Conservative)- 24, 589 (61.9%, +1.7%)
    AL Tillotson (Labour)- 11, 310 (28.5%, +3.7%)
    Hubert David Bentliff (Liberal)- 3, 776 (9.5%, -5.5%)

    Majority- 13, 279 (33.4%)
    Swing- +0.95% From Con to Lab.

  44. Can I ask the Results if this is is a sensible prediction…..?

    LD 39
    Con 28
    Lab 15
    UKIP 12
    others 6

    I’m more the sort of person who thinks things through properly and draws logical patterns between things TBH (we all have bad memories that we try and block out).

    For example, my Dad is an academic historian and I want Ed Miliband as Prime Minister in 2015.

  45. A Brown, the Lib Dems in Southport seem to have a core of at least 40% in terms of vote share, and you probably have the Tories too low. The estimated Labour vote there looks highly possible, and as for UKIP I am not too sure. Incidentally, what ‘Others’ do you reckon could get 6%, I’m not saying you’re wrong, just interested?

    Anyway, to compare, here’s my prediction off the old thread, albeit from last October. I’ve probably got UKIP too low. If I was to amend it now, I’d personally say they might get about 9-10%.

    Possible result in 2015-
    Pugh (Lib Dem)- 18, 935 (43.1%, -6.51%)
    Tory- 15, 554 (35.4%, -0.44%)
    Labour- 6, 398 (14.5%, +5.09%)
    Others- 2, 984 (6.8%, +1.7%)
    Turnout- 43, 871.
    Majority- 3, 381 (7.7%)
    Lib Dem hold.
    Swing- +3.0% from Lib Dem to Con.

  46. ”For example, my Dad is an academic historian and I want Ed Miliband as Prime Minister in 2015.”

    A. Brown – I’m a Labour supporter but really don’t want Ed Miliband to win as I think he’d be a dreadful PM!! Our party shot itself in the foot choosing Ed over David. Ed is a wet lettuce with no stage presence or charisma!!

    Ed is Michael Foot MK2!!

    I’m hoping Labour lose in 2015 so that either Chukka Umuna or Tristram Hunt becomes leader then hopefully Labour will win in 2020.

  47. If you want raging charisma, what’s the appeal of David Miliband?

    Besides, surely charisma is something you need to win, not to govern?

  48. I would be surprised if the Tories didn’t fall all that much here TBH- the local elections for this seat’s wards have shown there is a level of Conservative support that they may not fall below- maybe about 35%.

  49. Apologies for my misleading post yesterday it should have been:

    IS Mr Pugh definitely standing again in May 2015?? He is 65 according to my reckoning and will be 67 by May 2015. Is there a local waiting in the wings or perhaps one of Clegg’s finest from London coming to an accommodation address somewhere in the vicinity soon.


  50. If there was to be a successor to John Pugh here who is local, it would probably be Tony Dawson, a Lib Dem councillor for Dukes ward who seems to be quite competent.

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