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Going to the polls; This week the city turned out to vote in the local elections -but in times gone by, the way of voting was very different, as Adrian Butler reports...

Byline: Adrian Butler

DINGY polling stations, endless leaflets and politicians insisting that "this is a positive result" - when it comes to local elections, some things never change.

But when it comes to electioneering in Merseyside other things have changed beyond recognition.

This selection from our photo archives shows another world of local politics.

It is a world of councillors touring on horses and carts, huge crowds gathering to hear results, and ancient tin ballot boxes.

On Thursday, a third of council seats in every borough in Merseyside were up for grabs.

The Lib Dems lost seats to Labour across the region, but kept their hold on Liverpool city council amid low turnout. It was a far cry from some of the dramatic political battles waged in Merseyside over the years.

In 1981, Shirley Williams captured a dramatic by-election victory in Crosby for the newly-formed SDP, becoming their first MP. But she lost her seat two years later.

Before he was expelled by Labour leader Neil Kinnock in 1986, former Liverpool city council deputy leader Derek Hatton proudly wore his party's badge celebrating a victory in a picture from 1984.

In the early 1970s, Liverpool councillor Sir Trevor Jones pioneered a new type of political campaigning. The Liberal politician won national renown for focusing on doorstep issues and community politics, earning him the nickname "Jones the Vote" and sweeping his party to power for the first time.

Then, in February 1997, a youthful-looking Tony Blair was snapped in Wirral South, campaigning for a by-election.

Blair, then Leader of the Opposition, was pioneering the American campaign technique of "blitzing" the area while campaigning for Ben Chapman. It would prove a rehearsal for the campaign that May, when he won a landslide majority.

Campaigning has also had its fair share of bizarre moments.

In 1951, the ECHO pictured Toxteth Conservative candidate JR Bevins campaigning on a horse-drawn milk float. In the same year, Alderman AE Shen-nan and Alderman R Williams pulled away from the council's Dale Street headquarters waving their hats on a black scooter.

Seven years later, Conservative candidate Beattie Edwards draped a union jack over a horse-drawn carriage and took to the streets of Exchange Division, complete with megaphone and enormous rosette.

An unpopular campaigner with motorists was former Wal-lasey MP and Minister for Transport Ernest Marples.

In the 50s the Conservative, who brought in yellow lines and parking meters, chose not to tour his constituency in a car -instead, he travelled on a bicycle.

The average polling station may not look like the most up-to-date or glamorous place, but even they have changed. Today, voters slide their ballot papers, complete with printed party logos, into a moulded plastic box. But a picture from the 1950s shows clerks crouching in a dingy room checking rows of battered metal ballot boxes, securely fastened with ribbon.

This year, you were able to get minute-by-minute election results for the region on our website icliverpool.co.uk. But back in the 50s, the paper had a different way of getting the news to its readers.

After World War II, results were broadcast to the crowds over speakers from the van the paper used to transmit stories from outside Merseyside.

Another year, three giant thermometers were put up outside St George's Hall to tell voters how each party was doing through the night.

Nowadays she could have voted by post, but ECHO reader Alice Lewis sent us in a cutting from the late 1940s reporting how her staunch Labour supporter mother was taken from her New-sham general hospital bed, where she was a patient, to vote in person.

"She had told her family that she wished to vote personally, and transport was arranged for her," we reported.

"A hospital official said that if patients were fit enough to leave the hospital they could make arrangements for them to be taken to the polls."

For years, Monster Raving Loony candidate David "Screaming Lord" Sutch was a regular fixture on the election trail.

An ECHO picture from 1964 shows the 23-year-old offering his hand to Harold Wilson.

Sutch had handed in his nomination papers outside the Labour club in the prime minister's Huyton constituency. Wilson's thunderous face says everything you need to know about his reaction.

Sutch suffered from bipolar disorder and, tragically, hanged himself in 1999, following the death of his mother the previous year.

But back in 1991, he popped up again campaigning in Walton. Our chief photographer Stephen Shakeshaft, now ECHO picture editor, captured him in leopard print suit and matching top hat, chasing after an apprehensive mum and her baby - waving what appear to be banknotes.

Of course, no one would dream of bribing the electorate these days.

CAPTION(S):

HATS OFF: City alderman AE Shennan and R Williams in Dale Street in 1951 about to set off on the campaign trail on a scooter' HORSE POWER: Toxteth Conservative candidate JR Bevins was pictured by the ECHO campaigning on a horse-drawn milk float in the election of 1951' BOXED IN: Clerks crouch in a dingy room checking rows of battered metal ballot boxes in this picture from the 1950s. Right, Conservative candidate Beattie Edwards campaigns from a horse-drawn carriage in 1958' RESULTS NIGHT: Results are broadcast to the crowds over speakers from the Liverpool Daily Post and ECHO van, and a giant thermometer outside St George's Hall tells voters how each party is doing' VICTORY GRIN: Derek Hatton celebrates success in 1984' LOONY CANDIDATE: David "Screaming Lord" Sutch chases after a voter in 1991, left, and offers his hand to opponent Harold Wilson in 1964, above
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 6, 2006
Words:932
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