Vote shares in the Liverpool mayoral election (3): Coyne, Mulhearn, Radford and Caldeira
In two previous posts, I've looked at the share of the votes obtained across Liverpool's 30 electoral wards by the winning candidate in May's mayoral election, Joe Anderson, and also by the 2nd and 3rd placed candidates, respectively Liam Fogarty and Richard Kemp.
Here, I undertake a similar analysis for the candidates placed from 4th through to 7th. In rank order, these 4 candidates were: 4th, John Coyne (Green, 5.3% of the votes); 5th, Tony Mulhearn (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, 4.9%); 6th, Steve Radford (Liberal, 4.5%); and Tony Caldeira (Conservative, 4.5%).
While none of these individual candidates secured more than one-tenth of the votes obtained by Joe Anderson, their respective vote shares are perhaps more important than is immediately obvious.
As I have noted in my previous posts, recent election results in Liverpool, including the mayoral election itself, raise important questions about which political force, if any, will be best placed to challenge Labour over the next few years.
The Liberal Democrats are in rapid decline in Liverpool. They have lost 20 council seats in the last 2 years and were pushed into third placed in the mayoral contest by an Independent candidate. There are no local elections in Liverpool in 2013, but an equivalent set of results in 2014 would leave them with similar levels of representation on Liverpool City Council as the Liberals and the Greens.
The relative performances of the candidates who finished directly behind Richard Kemp in the mayoral election therefore provide some useful indications of the extent to which any other political party is likely to be able to overtake the Liberal Democrats prior to the next mayoral contest in 2016.
As Nathan James noted in response to an earlier post, it's far from obvious who can fill the void if the Lib Dems are reduced to a handful of councillors. Indeed, no party other than Labour appears well placed to gain the council seats which the Lib Dems look set to lose.
The chances of the Conservatives becoming the main opposition party in Liverpool are effectively zero. The party has not held a council seat in Liverpool since 1998. The graph below shows the share of the 2012 mayoral vote won by their candidate, Tony Caldeira, across each of the city's 30 wards. Caldeira's share of the vote was under 5% in 23 wards, and in 15 wards it was under 3%. It was only in Liverpool's most affluent ward, Woolton, than he achieved double figures.
The Conservatives therefore face the problem of having both a very small share of the vote in Liverpool as a whole and no obvious geographical concentrations of support big enough to start winning seats.
While the Greens hold 2 seats on the city council, and the Liberals 3, both are restricted to representation in a single ward: St Michael's for the Greens and Tuebrook and Stoneycroft for the Liberals. While the Greens have been able to put up candidates in all 30 wards at the last two sets of local elections, and the Liberals tend to field candidates in 25 or more, neither party has been able to make significant advances in other areas of Liverpool.
The next two graphs illustrate the nature of the problem which both parties have. The first shows the share of the vote obtained by the Green candidate John Coyne in the mayoral election. Coyne obtained less than 5% of the votes in 20 wards and only reached double figures in 3, with an obvious concentration of support in and around his electoral based in St Michaels ward, where he took 38% of the votes.
Click on the image to see a larger version of it.
The pattern of support for the Liberal candidate, Steve Radford, in the mayoral election was even more concentrated than Coyne's, as the graph below shows. While Radford won a hugely impressive 53.5% of the votes in Tuebrook and Stoneycroft, he failed to secure 10% or more in any other ward, and was supported by fewer than 3% of voters in a total of 21 wards.
Click on the image to see a larger version of it.
So, what of the candidate who finished 5th in the mayoral contest, Tony Mulhearn? Representing the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), Mulhearn does not have an existing electoral base anywhere in the city. Indeed, the TUSC has only been standing candidates in selected wards in Liverpool council elections since 2007, usually securing no more than a few percent of the vote. In 2011, the TUSC fielded 6 candidates and its highest share of the vote was 4.7% in Kirkdale.
Given this, the pattern of support for Mulhearn in the mayoral election is quite remarkable. As the graph below shows, Mulhearn's votes were far more evenly spread than the candidates who finished either just ahead or just behind him. While no ward returned more than 10% support for the TUSC candidate, Mulhearn achieved 5% or more in 15 of the city's 30 wards. He did best in wards in the north end of the city, and would have come (a distant) 2nd overall had the contest been to elect a mayor for North Liverpool.
Clearly, the numbers are far too small to suggest that the TUSC now has a base from which it can challenge for council seats. The gap between Labour and the TUSC in every single ward in 2012 was enormous. But it is nonetheless striking that Mulhearn had a far broader base of support across the city as a whole than Richard Kemp, John Coyne, Steve Radford or Tony Caldeira.
Given the absence of any other credible alternative, it is at least worth considering whether the main electoral challenge to Labour in Liverpool over the next decade could come from the left, perhaps in the form of a red-green alliance.
In my next post, I'll depart from my usual comfort zone of statistical evidence and discuss this and a number of other potential political futures for Liverpool. I've no more of a claim to be able to see into the future than anyone else, so I hope the possible scenarios I'll outline will spark a fair bit of debate.