The controversial General Election campaign for the Wavertree seat ended with Labour's Luciana Berger emerging victorious over Liberal Democrat hopeful, Colin Eldridge, after serious problems at the ballot box.
Confusion reigned at several polling centres in Wavertree as embarrassed General Election officials ran out of ballot papers twice, with voter turn-out proving to be unexpectedly high. Berger, who goes to Westminster to replace retiring Labour MP, Jane Kennedy, was eventually declared the winner with a majority of 7,167.
Some people left after being unable to vote in the Liverpool City Council elections as emergency ballot papers were incorrect, leaving many complaining about the way the poll was conducted.
Polling centres around the UK closed at 10pm on
Thursday, whether or not people had a chance to
cast their vote.
The Conservatives have won the greatest number
of seats in the General Election, but not with a
sufficient majority to form the next Government.
A hung Parliament, the first in the UK since 1974,
leaves no single party in overall control of the
country and a coalition administration is possible.
The situation in Wavertree was repeated in many
constituencies across the nation, with chaotic
scenes reported, and party officials admitting that
legal challenges could be launched where voting
is particularly close. The Electoral Commission
has pledged to undertake a "thorough review“.
Furious Lib Dem General Election candidate
Colin Eldridge was making urgent phone calls in
the final hour of voting at the Bishop Eton Church
Hall polling station in Woolton Road as he saw some of his potential votes slipping away.
As the clock ticked down towards 10pm, Eldridge told JMU Journalism: “This has happened at four polling stations and it’s happening in the places where I think people are most likely to vote for me. Our lawyers in London have already told me that I’ve got a cast-iron case to take this to the High Court.”
When the result was finally announced just before 6am on Friday, Eldridge conceded defeat to Berger, who said she was “humbled by the honour and the responsibility of representing the people of this constituency“. The Lib Dems are expected to ask for an official inquiry into the lack of ballot papers in Wavertree.
According to Eldridge, the issue appears to have arisen where local officials were allegedly only allocated enough papers for an anticipated 80% turn-out, and that was thought to have been exceeded in parts of Wavertree. One Lib Dem campaign worker reported back to Eldridge that “people were leaving in droves” from queues in Dovedale, but his emphatic defeat suggests that the result would not have been affected.
Acting Returning Officer for Liverpool, Colin Hilton, acknowledged and apologised for the issues at some polling stations but said everyone had the chance to vote before 10pm. A council spokesman told JMU Journalism: “There does appear to have been problems at two or three polling stations with delays in getting spare ballot papers to people."
At Bishop Eton, more than 60 people were offered tea and coffee by officials as they waited outside for over an hour to cast their vote in the General Election. However, they were not able to vote in the local council elections at the same time as they were told fresh supplies did not carry the names of all the candidates.
University of Liverpool physiology student , Daniela Devenish, said: “It’s quite ridiculous. They know how many polling cards have been sent out, so why aren’t there enough ballot papers?”
Her frustrations were echoed by Woolton voter Margaret Foster, who said: “It’s a shambles. Why have they not given them enough so everyone who is entitled to vote has a ballot paper? The people running it should be ashamed of themselves.”
By Hugh O’Connell & John Mathews Pictures by Vegard Grott, Photo Editor
JMU Journalism Election 2010
Labour's Luciana Berger beat Lib Dem hopeful Colin Eldridge; Queues in the last hour of voting in Wavertree
PM kicks off election campaign >>
Pictures from the count