High Noon

The show was filmed in Peter Henley’s conservatory

In an eagerly awaited showdown, Eastleigh’s candidates from the three main political parties took part in a discussion on the Sunday lunchtime BBC TV ‘Politics Show.’

BBC South political correspondent Peter Henley was in the chair as sitting MP Chris Huhne (Liberal Democrat) Maria Hutchings (Conservative) and Leo Barraclough (Labour) prepared to face each other and the electorate.

Chris Huhne looked relaxed and refreshed after a 6 mile run just a couple of hours earlier – and not at all like a man defending a 500 seat majority. He confidently set out his stall describing himself as a ‘good champion for local causes’ and left it to his rivals to try and prove him otherwise.

Both Leo Barraclough and then Maria Hutchings tried to suggest that Chris Huhne’s national profile was detrimental to his job as constituency MP.

In response, the Shadow Home Affairs spokesman claimed that his high profile enabled him to represent his constituents more effectively.

Surprisingly there was agreement on several points.

Maria agreed with Peter that Chris was strong on law and order and Chris agreed with Maria that he was a good constituency MP.

Both Maria and Chris agreed that it was ‘Imperative to be local in an election’, but then argued with each other as to who was in fact, the most local – an argument that Brighton resident Leo Barraclough did well to avoid becoming embroiled in.

All three agreed that the proposed 6000 home development at Botley was a bad thing and seemed equally anxious to appease the wrath of the all important voters of Botley and Hedge End – Eastleigh is after all a highly marginal seat.

In doing so, Peter Henley remarked that both Leo Barraclough and Maria Hutchings had distanced themselves from their own party policy on housing.

Chris Huhne suggested that more flats should be built in central Eastleigh.

Having discovered they were all united in their opposition to both the scheme and in the desire to attract the same set of voters, it became necessary to establish party lines through the apportionment of blame.

It was at this point that Maria Hutchings firmly launched the handbag that so famously flattened Tony Blair in Chris Huhne’s direction, by repeating Tory claims that the Botley housing site had been proposed by the Eastleigh Lib Dem council.

Chris Huhne proved to be more resilient than the former Labour PM and robustly refuted the allegation, insisting it was untrue.

During the course of the discussion Leo Barraclough admitted to Peter Henley that he did not use social media much, saying ‘life is too short to sit in front of a PC”.

This might explain why he has proven difficult to contact and why his profile page on the Labour Party home site is completley blank.

A technophobic attitude also seems to be somewhat at odds with published Labour Party policy on developing a cutting edge, technology driven economy and universal broadband access.

He also seems to be unaware that both IBM and the NHS are major local employers in the IT field.

Chris Huhne delivered the kind of confident performance you would expect from an experienced parliamentarian while the other two candidates seemed less self assured.

He spoke for a total of almost five minutes Maria spoke for almost three minutes and Leo Barraclough for a total of two minutes.

Additionally the words ‘Local’ (and locally) and ‘Eastleigh’ were mentioned thirty four times by Chris Huhne, fifteen times by Peter Henley, twelve times by Maria Hutchings and only three times by Leo Barraclough.

Verdict?

I would certainly back Chris Huhne to easily beat the other two candidates – over 10,000 metres that is!

However, despite Chris Huhne’s obvious mastery of the discussion, Maria Hutchings comes over a sincere person who is actively involved in community issues and could appeal to a different type of voter.

Meanwhile, Leo Barraclough never really took an active part in proceedings, only ever speaking in response to Peter Henley’s questions.

It looks still too close to call between Chris Huhne and Maria Hutchings.

Watch the show on BBC iPlayer here

Read Peter Henley’s Blog

Note:

Reacting to Maria Hutchings assertion on the ‘Politics Show’ that the Botley development had been proposed by the liberal Democrat controlled Eastleigh Borough Council, the leader of the Council Keith House said today:

“The origins of the proposal for a 6000 home “Strategic Development Area” to the north of Hedge End are in a document prepared by County Council planners.

When details of the proposal have been in front of Eastleigh Borough Council, the Council has resolutely put forward its objections to this location, noting that technical work is still outstanding, most significantly on transport.

Chris Huhne’s commentary on The Politics Show was correct”

  5 comments for “High Noon

  1. Charley Farley
    April 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Let us not forget that it was Eastleigh borough Council’s representatives on PUSH (partnership for Urban South Hampshire) who volunteered the site for the inclusion in the plan.

    Mr Huhne was not correct about the Allington Lane development either as it was a Lib Dem plan. If he was a local person he would know this.

    Perhaps he should ask Mr House (leader of Lib Dem Eastleigh Borough Council) as Mr House was involved in promoting both these plans.

    Lets not forget that Mr House promised to save a Greenfield site from development just before one election and now he lives in one of the houses built on it. ‘Nuff said.

  2. Botley Bloke
    April 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    As a member of BPAG (the Botley Parish Action Group) I can assure you that it was the Lib Dems that started the ball rolling on the SDA (6000 houses)at a meeting in july 2005. They now say they are against it only because there is an election coming up. The truth is, that only the Conservatives can stop this un-wanted housing.

  3. David Chamberlin
    April 1, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I thought the Lib.Dems were against this development,if ‘Focus’and Chris Huhne are to be believed! Wasn’t it the Eastleigh Borough Council which sighted this SDA in the first place and now want to look as though they are opposed, as they will lose too many votes if they don’t? Why are they proceeding with their feasability studies if they are opposed? Please stop trying to hoodwink the electorate

  4. April 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Well Well, now that is a interesting point. It would appear that it is both Mr Huhne and Mr House that are telling ‘Porky Pies’ over the issue of who’s PLAN this really is and that Maria is correct in her statment on TV.

    But then this is not the first time that Mr House and his ‘BARMEY’ friends in the Lib Dem dictatorship council has been caught out telling fibs in the run up to an election.

    Remember Sid, Grantham Green, Allotments..??

    Wake up Eastleigh and smell the air, there is a strange smell of cow poo coming from the end of Leigh Road..!!

    “Truth will out..”

  5. Darren
    May 1, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Mr House is locally known as Mr ‘Flat’ because of his attitude towards all the building in Eastleigh. Plus it was the Lib Dems who wanted to build homes on Grantham Green under the guise of refurbishment and improving the green. Their response was somewhere along the lines of ‘Well, stuff you then if you don’t want the green improved’ Mr House always ignored me when I tried speaking to him, and Huhne was annoyed when asked to explain his parties stance on the EU and Immigration.

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