During this campaign two burning issues have gripped the two main parties contesting this seat.
Firstly, which party was it that had the temerity to suggest the Towns housing crisis – with 5000 people on the local housing list – could be solved by building 6000 homes on a golf course at Boorley Green and secondly – which candidate is the true ‘Local choice’.
This is important because research has shown that a lot of people are turned off by party politics and the locality and personality of candidates are very important to many voters.
In this respect Dave Stone surely wins hands down. He has lived in Eastleigh for 40 years and was born not too far away, in Alton.
His voice carries the Hampshire burr – an accent once described to me by a Shedfield man as ‘talking like you got two foot o’ cowshit on yer boots’.
There is no mistaking where Dave comes and that he knows the area well and can remember what Eastleigh was like almost half a century ago.
I feel relaxed and very much at home speaking to him at his house at Bishopstoke
The fact is – and no matter how much they try to pretend otherwise – to the majority of Eastleigh residents all of the three main contenders are ‘outsiders’.
Chris Huhne’s voice is well, rather posh and Maria Hutchings has an estuary twang.
Although Chris Huhne has a house in Dutton lane I have yet to catch him out with the family in Lidl.
Like me, Dave Stone lost his job in his 50’s and was forced into a premature retirement – though for Dave it has meant he has more time for his family especially his son who needs care.
Like me and a lot of former lifelong Labour voters, Dave has become detached from the party, a process which started with the Iraq war.
It is Dave’s frustration with what he describes as ‘13 years of misrule’ and his belief that the current party system works against the interests of Democracy that has lead to his standing for parliament as an Independent candidate.
He describes himself as an honest man who free of party loyalty would put the interests of Eastleigh first – and I believe him.
He is not an accomplished speaker or politician, but that’s a skill that comes with practice.
As Steve Harris – the Ukip candidate for Meon Valley has been telling audiences at his hustings:
“It ain’t rocket science folks – its politics’ .
The growth in maverick minority parties and independent candidates like Dave is an inevitable reaction to party system politics where ‘A list’ candidates are selected centrally and ‘parachuted ‘into constituencies to the detriment of home grown candidates.
The ‘implanted’ candidates are then forced to adopt absurd charades in order to prove they have integrated into the local community – all over the country candidates are forced into increasingly desperate lengths to become accepted as a ‘local’.
Surely there is no greater honour for a person than to be able to represent their home town as a Member of Parliament?
It’s not going to happen, but in spite the thousands spent on leaflets and canvassing, I kind of wish it still could.