The latest local election results show support for the Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh is slipping.
Although Eastleigh Lib Dems scored a notable result last week gaining seats in both Borough and Parish council elections despite the parties fortunes elsewhere in the country, overall their support has dipped from 51% of the vote in 2010 to 46% this year – a 5% drop .
At the same time their coalition partners the Conservatives fared even worse slumping to 25% from a 35% share in the Borough local elections last year.
The latest results show a surge of support for Labour and Ukip across the borough.
Despite the failure to translate the extra votes into seats. Ukip’s share went from 4.4% to 7.8% – possibly benefitting from a swing by Conservative voters disillusioned with the coalition.
In Hedge End St John, popular livewire Tory activist Jerry Hall lost by only 177 to a previously unknown Lib Dem Mick Wheatley while Ukip’s share increased by 100 votes.
That was the closet the Conservatives were to come to taking a seat.
The Labour vote which had swung by 8% in the general election towards Mr Huhne swung back again by 9% putting Labour on 18% of the vote – which could have less than favourable implications for the MP if there is a snap election any time soon.
Only the Lib Dems gained seats re-taking two of the seats they had lost to councillors defecting to stand as Independents as well as Eastleigh South from Labour following the departure of Brian Norgate who unsuccessfully stood in Southampton’s Harefield ward.
Former Wildern councillor Keith Day, who had defected from the Lib Dems, failed to retain his seat as an Independent but was still elected to the parish council displacing Lib Dem George Fraser .
The Liberal Democrats also dominated the Parish council elections.
A total of 23 seats on nine parish councils went completely uncontested.
Lib Dems claimed 16 of the uncontested seats while the rest went to independents. Of the contested seats 34 were won by Liberal Democrats, 12 by Independents, one by Labour (Dianne Andrews, Burseldon) and one retained by UKIP (Hugh McGuiness, Fair Oak East)
Two of the independents – Colin and Lorna Atterbury -are conservative supporters who stood unsuccessfully as Tories in the borough elections but went on to win seats in Fair Oak East as independents!!
In Fair Oak West Parish election, Martin Lyons – tipped as a possible future Ukip PPC – narrowly missed beating Lib Dem councillor Trevor Mignot by just 10 votes.
Veteran labour councillor Pete Luffman came close to retaining Eastleigh South – the boroughs most deprived ward – for Labour following the departure of Brian Norgate who unsuccessfully stood in Southampton’s Harefield ward.
Paul Bicknell took the seat for the Lib Dems by 176 votes.
Outside the borough Catherine Ovenden who had campaigned in Eastleigh with local Lib Dems against Conservative county councillors cuts to sure start funding failed in her attempt to win a Parish council in west Totton for them.
Local activist Sam Snook had previously contested borough council wards for Labour, Ukip and as an independent but his latest attempt to stand for a seat on West End South parish council as a Lib Dem saw the septuagenarian former sewer man wind up bottom of the poll.
In Grange Park East Parish Council the Independent candidate Jenny Schwausch – another Lib Dem defector – was beaten by Caitlin Bloom the daughter of Cabinet member Louise Bloom.
It’s great to see how a tradition of selfless public service runs through some Eastleigh families.
Ms Schwausch wondered to Eastleigh News whether she might be able act as Hedge End councillor as job share in view of the low attendance figures for certain Hedge End councillors which Eastleigh News recently published.
In the Post Mortem following the results several candidates have pointed out of the particular iniquity of the ‘first past the post’ voting system in local council elections.
While the Lib Dems share 46% of the vote – they have 86% of the seats.
If seats were distributed on a proportional basis of the total votes cast the make up in the chamber would be quite different.
The main question seemed to be ‘How did the Lib Dems in Eastleigh mange to avoid the coalition backlash which had cost the party dear in other parts of the country?’
Keith House says formula is simple:
“We work hard all year, don’t take voters for granted, manage the council’s finances well, keep Council Tax down and still improve services.”
Most people I put Mr House’ comments to agreed – the Lib Dems work hard for votes and based on that alone probably deserve the result but questions have asked about claims in some of the literature.
Independent Party of Eastleigh Councillors Candidate Andy Moore – who was the sitting councillor in Central ward – has objected to the leaflet distributed on behalf of the inexperienced Keith Trenchard who won the seat for the Lib Dems.
Other parties reckon the Lib Dems set out to target the postal vote this time– anticipating a low turnout.
Pre-printed requests for postal ballot application forms were distributed by the Lib Dems using a database they have compiled on Eastleigh voters based on canvas returns
They also own their own risograph printer and envelope stuffing machine – last year a correspondent in the FT referred to Eastleigh’s Lib Dem constituency party as “ruthlessly efficient”
The full results for the Borough can be accessed on the council website here
The Parish results are here
Unlike other councils Eastleigh does not publish details of rejected ballot papers.