Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 13:33 UK

Lancaster and Fleetwood - a political boiling pot

By Ruth Clegg
BBC News

Lancaster city centre
Lancaster is a bustling city with a thriving student life

Nestled behind the Pennines, out of sight of London and on the periphery of north-west England lies a microcosm of the country's politics.

Lancaster and Fleetwood's two main councils are politically split several ways.

Lancaster City Council is led by a coalition of Labour, the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and Independents. Wyre Council is headed by the Conservatives.

The majority of candidates in the general election agree that it is proving "very difficult" to appeal to the 85,000 electorate - 20,000 larger than the national average.

MPs' battleground

Split by the River Wyre, the two sides of its banks could not be more different.

Fleetwood is a struggling manufacturing town that used to have a thriving fishing industry. Its historic pier burned to the ground in 2008, taking some of the area's tourism with it.

But just across the water is Lancaster, a city with a bustling university and an array of historic buildings.

With the possibility of a hung parliament and apathetic voters across the UK, this new constituency is proving to be a battleground for prospective MPs.

I don't feel any excitement for any of them
David Halhead, local farmer

Gina Dowding from the Green Party hopes to become one of its first MPs.

"The Green Party is very strong here," she said.

"We have 12 Green councillors in the constituency and we are appealing to the electorate because we believe in grass root politics."

The party was instrumental, she said, in saving the struggling indoor market in Lancaster.

However, one local businessman, William Richardson, a fish merchant in Fleetwood, said the Conservative Party was probably going to get his vote but he was having trouble "mustering any enthusiasm for the parties".

His main priorities were the agricultural and fishing industries, he said.

Eric Ollerenshaw, who is fighting the seat for the Conservatives, said the whole constituency was hard to cover but the area needed to be "put on the map".

"The fishing industry is on its knees and it needs help. We need to grow and maintain the fish park in Wyre - that is essential."

Fleetwood Pier
The fire ripped through Fleetwood Pier in September 2008

David Halhead, who owns Newland Home Farm and has been a farmer all his life, said: "I suppose I might vote Tory, the are the best of a bad bunch, but I don't feel any excitement for any of them."

Keith Riley, an Independent candidate, said he would "fight very hard for the fishing industry of Fleetwood".

Fred McGlade, for the UK Independence Party, said there was a "total contrast" between Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Residents' fight

"We need to revitalise the area as a whole and by pulling out of the EU the fishing industry will be given a chance to flourish."

Stuart Langhorn, Liberal Democrat, is very optimistic about his party's appeal in the area.

"Since Nick Clegg's performance at the leaders' debate, it has blown the constituency wide open," he said.

"Fleetwood has fallen out of love with Labour and the Conservatives."

Labour candidate, Clive Grunshaw, was not available for comment. Born and bred in the constituency he said on his website that no-one can "provide as much experience and local knowledge of the area".

The candidates in Lancaster and Fleetwood are: Gina Dowding: Green Party; Clive Grunshaw: Labour; Debra Kent: British National Party; Stuart Langhorn: Liberal Democrat; Fred McGlade: UK Independence Party; Eric Ollerenshaw: Conservative; Keith Riley: Independent.

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