Chris Huhne is now in London taking part in talks to try and form a government between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party.
Earlier on Friday morning he had secured re-election as MP for Eastleigh with an increased majority while Liberal Democrats in the neighbouring constituencies of Romsey and Winchester lost to the Conservatives and the newly created constituency of Meon Valley was taken by Tory city councillor George Hollingberry.
Eastleigh’s Labour vote collapsed under the weight of tactical voting to prevent a conservative victory.
Labour supporters who did so now face the irony that Chris Huhne could end up sitting in a Conservative cabinet as part of a power sharing deal.
Whether or not such an arrangement would prove acceptable to Labour voters in the eventuality of another General Election would have to be seen.
Nationally, the much talked about swing to the Liberal Democrats failed to materialise and instead of a predicted increase of up to 100 new Lib Dem seats they lost 5 seats – although paradoxically they are still in a position to determine which party will govern.
I had spoken to Chris Huhne during the period of ‘Clegg mania’ which had followed the first televised debate and he had had cautioned against trying to predict swings from poll results saying previous swing forecasts had failed to materialise during the three party elections of the 1920’s and ‘30s.
That same morning I accompanied Chris Huhne as he canvassed and saw firsthand, for myself, overwhelming support for the Liberal Democrats in former Labour areas.
Even so, the Conservatives had run a strong campaign and increased their vote
They knew they had done well and started the evening at yesterdays count in a confident mood – Maria Hutchings made an almost regal entrance with a retinue of party workers and film cameramen buzzing around her – however after the verification stopped and the votes started to stack up, the confidence slowly ebbed away.
Ukip’s Ray finch was easily the most despondent man of the evening. He had spent a large portion of the campaign canvassing in Buckingham on behalf of former Ukip party leader Nigel Farage who had been injured in a plane crash earlier in the day.
Ray said he had been due to take a flight in the aircraft himself.
Ukip had hoped to repeat their most recent local and Euro performance by pushing Labour into fourth place and retain their deposit – but although they polled more votes than last time (partly due to a 4% higher turnout) they were still stuck on 3.6% of the vote.
On hearing the result Ray commented that if Nigel Farage won in Bucks then he would feel vindicated at having spent so much time away from his own constituency.
However Mr Farages’ chances seemed to have crashed with the plane as he could only manage third place despite the absence of Liberal Democrat and Labour opposition.
Ukips ambition of beating Labour in Eastleigh was not quite as fantastic as it sounded.
In the end 3000 votes separated them. In 2005 it was 8500 votes.
Labour party workers blamed Lib Dem tactics for the collapse in their vote and also their former PPC Dan Clarke who they said had left them in the lurch by defecting to the Lib Dems – although this was over a year ago.
They praised their candidate Leo Barraclough for stepping in at short notice and said they were pleased with his campaign. However I had spent some time talking to voters at hustings in order to find out what they thought of the candidates.
All the people I had talked to felt that Mr Barraclough appeared to lack confidence.
He also said a few things I found to be remarkable – here is link to story which I published on the Politcs.co.uk website following the Fair Oak hustings.
In his victory speech Mr Huhne thanked his supporters and described becoming a Member of Parliament for Eastleigh as ‘The proudest moment of my Life’
“I can’t imagine a better place to serve as a Member of Parliament and I am delighted to be able to serve again.”
Congratulating Mr Huhne on his win Ms Hutchings said it had been:
“A Huge privilege to represent the Conservative Party in Eastleigh”
Thanking party workers and her family, she went on to describe Eastleigh as:
“‘One of the most wonderful places in the country.”
Walking out I was able to chat with Independent candidate Dave Stone who was quite pleased to see he hadn’t come last – that honour falling to the National Liberals.
Neither the National Liberal nor the English Democrat attended the count.
Late Friday morning saw the results of the local elections declared.
The Liberal Democrats tightened their grip on the council by winning two more seats – one from the Conservatives and one from Labour.
Dan Clarke won back West End South for the Lib Dems after Joyce Sortwell had defected to the Conservatives and Steve Sollitt beat Labour’s Peter Luffman in Eastleigh South.
This means there are now 39 Liberal Democrat Councillors, 4 Conservative and only 1 labour Councillor.