St Helens South & Whiston

2015 Result:
Conservative: 7707 (15.9%)
Labour: 28950 (59.8%)
Lib Dem: 2737 (5.7%)
Green: 2237 (4.6%)
UKIP: 6766 (14%)
MAJORITY: 21243 (43.9%)

Category: Ultra-safe Labour seat

Geography: North West, Merseyside. The southern part of the St Helens council area and three wards from the Knowsley council area.

Main population centres: St Helens, Prescot, Clock Face, Rainhill, Whiston.

Profile: St Helens is a white, working class industrial town. The towns coal mines are now now gone, with the final mines closing in the early 1990s, but the glass industry remains in the form of the Pilkington glass factory. The seat also contains the former mining town of Whiston.

Politics: St Helens South and Whiston is a very safe Labour seat, with the Labour party normally managing in excess of fifty percent of the vote and majorities in excess of twenty per cent. Between 2001 and 2015 it was the seat of Shaun Woodward, a Conservative MP who defected to Labour and was parachuted into St Helens South at the last minute after the previous Labour MP Gerry Bermingham announced his retirement. As the husband of a wealthy heiress Shaun Woodward faced political opponents dressed as butlers and fringe socialist candidates in the 2001 election, but was returned with a greatly reduced, but still substantial majority. His replacement as MP, Marie Rimmer, is from a far more traditionally Labour background - a veteran local councillor of thirty years service, former council leader and former shop steward at the local glass factory.

Current MP
MARIE RIMMER (Labour) St Helens councillor since 1978. Former leader of St Helens council. First elected as MP for St Helens South & Whiston in 2015. Awarded the CBE in 2005 for services to local government.
Past Results
Con: 8209 (18%)
Lab: 24364 (53%)
LDem: 10242 (22%)
BNP: 2040 (4%)
Oth: 1226 (3%)
MAJ: 14122 (31%)
Con: 4602 (13%)
Lab: 19345 (55%)
LDem: 10036 (28%)
UKIP: 847 (2%)
Oth: 643 (2%)
MAJ: 9309 (26%)
Con: 4675 (14%)
Lab: 16799 (50%)
LDem: 7814 (23%)
UKIP: 336 (1%)
Oth: 4180 (12%)
MAJ: 8985 (27%)
Con: 6628 (15%)
Lab: 30367 (69%)
LDem: 5919 (13%)
Oth: 179 (0%)
MAJ: 23739 (54%)

*There were boundary changes after 2005, name changed from St Helens South

2015 Candidates
GILLIAN KEEGAN (Conservative)
MARIE RIMMER (Labour) St Helens councillor since 1978. Former leader of St Helens council. Awarded the CBE in 2005 for services to local government.
BRIAN SPENCER (Liberal Democrat) Former electrician. former St Helens councillor and leader of St Helens council. Contested St Helens South and Whiston 2010.
Comments - 80 Responses on “St Helens South & Whiston”
  1. The incumbant in this seat must be ripe for retirement given Labour’s shift to the left in recent years. All those calls for increased public spending and higher taxes must be quite painful for this kind of MP. Cannot see him having much of a political future as he was really a “Blairite”. Interestingly in the 1980’s this sort of MP would be facing deselection battles for not being left wing enough!

  2. The BBC are reporting that Shaun Woodward will stand down at the General Election

  3. Well done to Rum & Coke on predicting that, and I agree with what he says. Woodward can’t be very happy in today’s Labour party, though I doubt he would have been a cabinet minister if he’d remained a Tory. Defecting usually doesn’t pay off, but he is an exception that proves the rule.

    Shaun Woodward used to be a producer for Esther Rantzen on That’s Life. For some reason it’s a programme I remember quite fondly from childhood.

  4. Woodward was always quite a liberal Tory but his defection was still quite a shock because he was a key figure in the tory party back room – and was their director of communications in the year prior to their unlikely victory in 1992

    He had everything to lose from his decision to cross the floor. Worst than the predictable claims of trechery from his former tory collegues was the campaign based on little more than class hatred waged against him by arthur scargill in 2001.

    I always thought those who claimed it was opportunist were way off the mark

    No real surprise at his decision to stand down. The Labour Party that caused him to change his political career is very different from the one he serves today

  5. Shaun Woodward is stepping down at the next election.

  6. good riddance once again – dreadful man

  7. At the time of original selection in St Helens, the NEC (in charge of shortlisting process as it was a late selection) left out Marie Rimmer, the council leader (and a pivotal figure in St Helens Labour for ages).
    Woodward almost lost it anyway as he won by only 4 votes over Barbara Keeley (a Cllr in Trafford at the time, now MP for Worsley and Eccles South)

    In May 2013, Marie Rimmer was ousted as council leader by Barrie Grunewald (who has worked for Woodward since his arrival on St Helens scene in 2007).

  8. Terrific news that Woodward is going.

    Although he has gone very very quiet under Miliband hasn’t he. I suspect he and other Tory defectors in the days of “New Labour” are reflecting on what fools they were now that they find themselves supporting Red Ed and his trade union controlled hard left Labour Party of old.

    It just goes to show that people need to always make the long-term view before deciding to switch parties. I haven’t left the Tories yet despite Cameron’s attempts to force Conservatives out of the party. I still hope that one day things might turn around (despite the Portsmouth outrage this week).

    One thing people must certainly NOT do is do as Woodward and others did in the 1990s and make a hasty defection based on just a couple of years of evidence (in this case evidence that Labour had changed for once and for all).

  9. Shaun Bennett – that’s good to hear and good to see you back on here. I have to say that Cameroons who used to say he was more popular than the Party amused me. Who do they think has damaged the brand over the past 8 years? Shaun Woodward is stepping down to spend more time on his “business interests” according to the Lpool Echo.

  10. Glad to see SB back.

    Glad that Woodward is gone – one less very rich ‘socialist’ in parliament pretending to care about the poor.

  11. I’d imagine Barrie Grunewald will be selected here, assuming the NEC doesn’t impose AWS which is a possibility.

  12. I think a better example of not crossing the floor goes to the bloke who went from Tory to Labour in 2007. A classic case of defecting for the wrong reason even though he got a peerage in the end for it. Ironically Quentin said he did not agree with the higher rate of tax being increased after he switched party and that it would never happen. He did not see 50P comming along! I laugh everytime I see him in the House of Lords as he looks like he is with the wrong people IMO.

  13. Ironically in Davies’ own seat of Grantham and Stamford, the Labour vote collapsed in 2010, and was Labour’s worst fall in the whole of Lincolnshire.

  14. Hello Shaun – if Ed is Red, and the hard left are in control, what the hell does that make me? Surely you, and I, shudder to think.

  15. I’m not sure the fall in Grantham and Stamford is that surprising. The two eponymous towns have a reasonably strong Labour vote in good years, but they’re also exactly the sort of place where we bombed most heavily in 2010 – small working class towns with weak Labour organisations.

    Whereas in most of the other Lincolnshire seats, we were either closer to our core vote or there was national support and stronger local parties.

  16. Edward, you always seem to respond to my comments in a very accusatory manner. Why do you do this? Quite apart from the fact I didn’t even suggest in any way that the fall in Grantham and Stamford was surprising at all. You did this on Redcar, then on Portsmouth North only the other day, now you’re doing it again? Do you dislike me or something or are you convinced that what you think is more important than what I think?

  17. If Edward Carlsson Browne does not send a message explaining why he succinctly slags me off in each of the responses he has posted to me in the recent past, then I will not be particularly happy.

  18. I think you’re being far, far too touchy, TheResults. I simply can’t see anything unpleasant in what Edward says.
    However, Edward isn’t entirely correct in what he says. Stamford isn’t a working-class town at all, except for a very few pockets, and has always been strongly Conservative. Indeed, it would have voted quite clearly Conservative even in 1997. Grantham however is much more mixed, and indeed its council oscillated from Tory to Labour control (though the word Tory wasn’t normally used) even in Alderman Roberts’s day. Labour’s rather close runners-up position in Grantham & Stamford in 1997 would have been down to a healthy majority in Grantham itself, but almost the whole of the rest of the constituency would have been Tory even then.

  19. There was a real backlash against Woodward in 2001. The Lib Dems had a big increase, probably made even more so by the presence of their high profile local candidate Brian Spencer. There were also creditable showings by the Socialist Labour and Socialist Alliance candidates that year too.

  20. Yes there was. But it was obvious that no candidate had an earthly chance of beating him. In St Helens, there will always, it seems, be a core of voters who will back Labour through thick & thin.

  21. Glad to see the back of Mr Woodward, not least because of the way he was foisted on the constituency.
    I am very amused to see Mr Bennett describing the Labour Party as being hard left.
    It was never truly dominated by the hard-left even in the days of Michael Foot – if they had been, they’d never have been expelled from the party.
    Mind you, I’d whistle the Red Flag if it meant Dan Hodges would never return.

  22. In defence of Shaun Woodward – at least he changed parties on a question of principle. He has always had an excellent record on equalities issues and he is actually liked in the local party – and has few problems with the Labour party, given that his defection was largely related to non-economic matters.

    Indeed, he has actually stated that he wants to focus on human rights matters once he leaves parliament.

  23. I have no issue with you, TheResults. I tend to post when I don’t agree with something somebody has said and want to push back against it. In the cases you mentioned, that somebody happens to have been you, but I didn’t really notice the poster, just the comment. We merely seem to have interpreted certain things differently.

    I was, as Barnaby has pointed out, wrong on Stamford. I think I may have confused it with Sleaford or something. The point may still stand with respect to Grantham, but only because things started going for Labour in Boston & Skegness before 2005.

  24. Sleaford is certainly more working-class than Stamford & is probably the main Labour-inclined area in the Sleaford & N Hykeham constituency.

  25. I understand Edward, don’t worry. I too have nothing against you personally.

  26. ‘Stamford isn’t a working-class town at all, except for a very few pockets, and has always been strongly Conservative.’

    It’s not really working class at all but i thought the town of Stamford – comprising the All Saints, St Georges, St Johns and St Mary’s wards – was quite competitive between the three main partoes with the Lib Dems the leading party

    I thought it was the rural areas – in the flat, barren, dull and characterless landscape that surround the two towns – which is monumentally tory – explaining why this is a safe tory seat

  27. That may have been the case in the halcyon days of Tony Blair, Tim, but not normally. Stamford has always been part of safe Tory seats & has as far as I know been a Tory town, with hardly any interruptions, throughout living memory. Of course you’re right that the rural areas of the constituency would be heavily Tory too, as they would be anywhere in rural Lincolnshire.

  28. As mentioned by Andrea on Labour Candidates’ page, Marie Rimmer is to apply to be the PPC here. She would be 68 at the time of the General Election.

  29. Rimmer is backed by the council leader, Woodward, Maria Eagle, Jane Kennedy, former Knowsley MP Eddy O’Hara and Margeret Hodge.

    St Helens Star also lists some other runners emerging: Knowsley Cllrs Sandra Gaffney (Whiston North) and Denise Allen (Prescot East), Eleanor Blackburn (who works for Warrington Council) and Catherine McDonald. McDonald was born in St Helens but she’s now a Cllr in Southwark. She was runner up in Lewisham Deptford selection last year but she has just been deselected in her Southwark ward.

  30. I wonder if Arlene McCarthy, having announced her retirement from the European Parliament, might be eyeing up selection here

  31. I think it’s between Catherine MacDonald and Marie Rimmer. I suspect that local tensions (she was ousted as St Helen’s leader) and her age could count against her. Rimmer should have been given a seat in Liverpool years ago, it’s way too late now! Catherine MacDonald would be excellent.

  32. Prediction for 2015-
    Labour- 58%
    Liberal Democrat- 17%
    Conservative- 16%
    UKIP- 6%
    Others- 3%

  33. The people who backed Marie Rimmer’s successor as council leader appear to be backing her as MP.

    I think sometimes CLP’s like a change – and a locally-rooted battling left winger might be something of an antidote to Shaun Woodward

  34. So I hear nine women have applied. Anyone have the full list?

  35. 6 out of 9 received nominations: Marie Rimmer, Catherine McDonald, Denise Allen, June Hitchen, Pruneet Grewal and Eleanor Blackburn.

    5 were longlisted for interview (selection commitee eliminated Blackburn)

    And the shortlist was finalized today:

    June Hitchen
    Catherine McDonald
    Marie Rimmer

    Rimmer and McDonald were already profiled in the comments above. Hitchen is a Cllr in Manchester.

  36. This is the 3rd seat Puneet Grewal’s name has come up in. She put her name down for Brentford & Isleworth as well as Coventry NE.

  37. St Helens South went against the national trend for Labour in 2005 and 2010, because of the very weird result in 2001, due to the circumstances surrounding Shaun Woodward’s arrival. The swing to the Lib Dems in 2001 was a huge 14.3% as a result of his selection, and he was opposed by two socialist candidates in Neil Thompson (Socialist Alliance) and Michael Perry (Socialist Labour). The abhorrence in 2001 was corrected in 2005, when Shaun Woodward recovered by 4.8%, and managed to increase his numerical majority very slightly, though there was a tiny swing to the Lib Dems. Again, in 2010, Labour, despite falling, was way below their national average, and there was another swing to them because the Lib Dems by then had fallen right back.

  38. Marie Rimmer gets Labour nomination….13 years later after NEC excluded her at shortlisting stage

  39. She’s the same age as Ann Taylor who was first elected 40 years ago.

  40. I may need to borrow someone’s megaphone to interview her, Benton and the Tory PPC in Wirral S. They’ll be 68, 70 and 87 IIRC in 2020, God willing. Although Wareing, Loyden, Parry didn’t cause by-elections, so it would seem Merseyside MPs have a life expectancy which exceeds their constituents by 20 years.

  41. Are you a journalist?

  42. he has said he is, yes.

  43. Apologies: make that 73, 72 and 87 by 2020. I assume the Tories aren’t fielding Brenda Porter again in Southport?

  44. No, Brenda retired from politics altogether – gave up her council seat. Her husband wasn’t well and I think she realised she wanted to spend more time with him.

    I liked Brenda. She knew I wasn’t a Tory but I always found her very fair and always willing to listen – and she wasn’t scared to admit when she had changed her mind, either.

    Marie is actually not dissimilar although she’s a left winger – she is very community focused, she loves St Helens’ and is a battler. She is a good choice

  45. I browsed Marie Rimmer’s campaign website. It is interesting how she has endorsements from different parts of the party. Gordon Brown, Shaun Woodward, Jane Kennedy and Owen Jones (not an MP or ex-MP, but a left winger involved with the party and is in the media a lot) are all listed.

  46. Jane Kennedy is on the right of the Labour Party and talks a great deal of sense,
    whereas Owen Jones is a sanctimonious sofa media type.

  47. I like sofas & I like Owen Jones. Mostly. 🙂

  48. Marie Rimmer has been “arrested and charged with an alleged assault on a female in an incident at the Shettleston Community centre in Amulree Street, Glasgow at around 1pm today.”

  49. why exactly do people seem to dislike this MP so much?

    prediction for 2015-

    Lab- 58%
    Lib- 17%
    con- 14%
    UKIP- 11%

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