Lib Dems in referendum rout

Chris Huhne and Carina Trimmingham - leading lights of the 'Yes'- campaign arrive at the local count May 5.

Eastleigh voters have overwhelmingly rejected proposed changes to the voting system in a Lib Dem sponsored referendum with 28,644 voting ‘No’ to the adoption of the Alternative Vote system while 12,797 people voted ‘yes’.

The referendum vote was also overwhelmingly rejected nationally with only 10 out of 440 areas voting to accept.

This has been widely portrayed as a policy failure for the Liberal Democrats.

In the local election the Lib Dems lost over 600 seats nationally and their post-election support has slumped to 8% in the latest polls.

Chris Huhne had been vociferous in support of the yes campaign and was strongly identified with it while his girlfriend Carina Trimmingham is the campaigns director for the Electoral Reform Society and was director of the ‘Yes’ campaign.

Tory chairman Baroness Warsi and Chancellor George Osborne both described the involvement of Miss Trimminghams’s organisation as a conflict of interest – alleging the society’s commercial subsidiary- Electoral Reform Services Ltd (ERSL) – had made £15 million from the taxpayer and would stand to make money not only from the postal ballot associated with the referendum but also in administering the new voting system if it was adopted.

Mr Huhne subsequently took issue with George Osborne during a cabinet meeting which led to speculation he might either resign and/or challenge Nick Clegg for party leadership.

In the last general election 29,000 people voted for Mr Huhne in Eastleigh but it’s clear from the result only 13,000 in the constituency agreed with his position on AV

Mr Huhne later told sky news:

“I think it is very clear that the people have spoken, that the alternative vote is not a runner and we must respect that decision.”

Mr Huhne also told local blogger and Eastleigh News contributor Matthew Myatt that he would not stand for the party leadership.

If AV had been accepted and applied to future elections in Eastleigh it seems likely the result would have seen an increase in Mr Huhne’s majority as he would be more likely to pick up more third placed Labour votes than the Conservatives – turning a marginal seat into a safe one.

It had also been predicted that the biggest gainers under AV would have been the Liberal Democrat party.

Photo: Matthew Myatt

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