Labour’s council gains with Lib Dem defectors
LABOUR has sensationally gained two Sefton councillors in Southport, before it has even selected candidates for next May’s local elections.
Local councillors Bill and Marianne Welsh, who recently left the Liberal Democrats to go independent, have now crossed the floor after weeks of discussion with the council’s Labour group.
They are the second and third Labour councillors to represent Southport on Sefton Council, after Tony Crabtree defected from the Conservatives in 2014.
The husband and wife team say they are returning to their natural political roots as previously they were Labour Party members but quit in protest at Tony Blair’s Iraq War decision.
The couple, who both represent Norwood Ward, joined Southport Lib Dems after moving to the town in 2009 but left last month because they felt the party had drifted further to the right and they were increasingly unhappy with the way the local party was being run.
Mr Welsh said: “We found the Lib Dems’ 2017 manifesto uninspiring and disagreed with a number of its policies, particularly their regressive income tax stance. By contrast, we were extremely impressed with the Labour manifesto and admired Jeremy Corbyn’s performance in what was a strong Labour campaign.”
They decided they wanted to rejoin the Labour Party, and their application was recently accepted by Southport Labour. The additions mean the local party is now just a few members away from the 1,000 mark.
Southport Labour Party secretary Steve Jowett said: “We’ve gone from strength to strength in the last few years. It’s a remarkable achievement and a vibrant, energetic group determined to see Labour win here.
“I’m sure all of Bill and Marianne’s experience will only add to that.”
The news is the latest evi- dence of a surge in support in the town for Labour, which in June came second in a General Election here for the first time since 1966 – when John Prescott was the candidate.
Labour’s share of the vote in Southport has risen from 4,116 (9.4%) in 2010 to 8,468 (19.2%) in 2015 to 15,627 (32.6%) in June when Southport Labour Parliamentary candidate, Liz Savage, recorded the party’s highest ever vote share.
But despite the increase this is the first time Labour has had any councillors in Southport.
Southport has been declared a key marginal seat by Mr Corbyn, who held a huge rally on its beachfront this month.
Mrs Welsh said they were delighted to be returning to the Labour fold, adding: “We will do all we can to ensure more Labour councillors are elected in Southport and believe it’s vital for the town that it returns a Labour MP at the next General Election.
“Only a Labour government will act to rebalance the economy away from the overheated South East in order to help Northern towns like Southport.”
Sefton Council Labour leader Ian Maher said: “Marianne and Bill are a welcome addition to the Labour group of councillors on Sefton Council and hopefully we will have even more Labour colleagues from Southport joining us after the forthcoming May election.”
Bill Welsh, fifth from left, and Marianne Welsh, fifth from right, with Southport Labour’s canvassing team