In a sensational result Ukip have consolidated their surprise by-election performance and returned three county councillors in Eastleigh taking the seats from the Liberal Democrats while the Conservatives comfortably held their seat in Chandler’s Ford and overall control of the County Council with a reduced majority.
Ukip won 10 seats in the county – their first ever in Hampshire – and so far over 140 nationally in an astonishing surge of support which started in Eastleigh two months ago during the by-election.
The Conservatives were pushed into third place by Ukip in all of Eastleigh’s divisions except Chandler’s Ford – however they had been confident of being able to take Mayor Rupert Kyrle’s Botley seat following a protracted campaign against Council plans for housing in the area. They will doubtless be shocked to find that they have been pushed into third place by Ukip’s Steve Grindley-Robinson while Kyrle will be relieved to see the Conservative vote split.
In Eastleigh’s central West and East divisions, Labour now find themselves the fourth party though will be consoled by their performance elsewhere in the county – they now have four seats instead of one.
In Eastleigh East, Lib Dem hard man Chris Thomas was toppled by his former colleague Andy Moore in a seat which has been held the Lib Dems for 20 years.
Long established Lib Dems Alan Broadhurst (Eastleigh West) and Angela Roling (Bishopstoke and Fair Oak) also lost their seats to Ukip’s Chris Greenwood and Martin Lyon.
The campaign had been noticeably low-key over the last two months, following the snap Parliamentary by-election in February. Stretched budgets, battle-scarred candidates, tired-leafletters and campaign-weary electors combined to make this the most forgettable election campaign in living memory [well, probably..!]
As usual, the count to elect Eastleigh’s County Councillors was held at the Fleming Park Leisure Centre. Business commenced promptly at 10pm, when the polls closed.
With similar elections happening elsewhere across the UK, Eastleigh was of particular interest nationally, as well as locally, to see if the progress that UKIP made at the by-election could be sustained.
Both local Lib Dems and Conservatives had told Eastleigh News that Ukip could not maintain the momentum from the by-election and win seats.
Lib Dem leaflets had ignored the by-election result completely and continued to show a graph based on the 2010 election result which claimed they enjoyed 46% support in the constituency.
With just 71 votes separating Lib Dem Alan Broadhurst from Ukipper Chris Greenwood the Eastleigh West result went to a re-count which confirmed Greenwood had won.
As the outcome became clear the Liberal Democrats became, understandably, subdued as they digested the implications the result had for their Borough Council seats next year – which now look unsafe. The downbeat demeanour was in sharp contrast to the hysterics they displayed during the by-election count.
The by-election had provided a useful, and stark, early warning to the Lib Dems that Eastleigh was now a ‘two horse race’ between themselves and Ukip.
In April there had been a seismic shift in support from ‘blue collar’ workers but the Lib Dems chose to ignore it and stick with the tactic that served them so well in the past – scaring voters who might otherwise support Labour into voting Lib Dem to “keep the Tories out”.
Those voters now vote for Ukip – and it is no use arguing ‘Ukip can’t win here’ – that opportunity has been missed – voters now know Ukip can win in Eastleigh.
Eastleigh News was very surprised when shortly after the by-election the Lib Dem Leader dismissed Ukip’s by-election result and said they would stick to their tactic of squeezing the Labour vote.
True, the low turnout may have favoured Ukip and recent trial and imprisonment of disgraced MP Chris “I lied and lied again”‘ Huhne may have hardened voters perceptions but if Leader Keith House continues to stick with the same electoral tactics it will be interesting to see how long the rank and file – whose seats are threatened – will continue to stick with him.
Keith House’s appearance at the count with his arm heavily bandaged – believed to be following an incident with a dog while canvassing- only reinforced the idea that he has been wounded as a result of his election campaign. Even in his own division of Hamble, Cllr House had Ukip paper candidate Chris Martin breathing down his neck.
While the Lib Dems licked wounds Easlteigh’s Ukip members were jubilant and none more so than Andy Moore who two years ago had suffered a humiliating defeat in the local elections losing his Central Eastleigh seat to Lib Dem newcomer Keith Trenchard.
Moore had left the Lib Dems after they had proposed to de-select him and took former Mayor Glynn Davies-Dear with him.
Both of them joined Ukip during the by-election campaign and Glynn Davies-Dear, who previosuly held the Eastleigh East seat for 12 years, shared in the celebration last night having helped mastermind Moore’s successfulcampaign.
Despite nursing a broken foot Andy Moore told Eastleigh News he felt ‘Fantastic’ adding “it pays to tell the truth” – a reference to Lib Dem campaign leaflets which he claimed were misleading.
“I’ve made History here” he added ” the Lib Dems won this seat in 1993 – it hasn’t changed hands for 20 years”.
Martin Lyon, who is already a Bishopstoke Parish Councillor and has won Bishopstoke and Fair Oak for Ukip was almost lost for words and said that although he had been confident that the party would do well he had not expected to win.
Ukip insiders have told Eastleigh News they regard their Market St ‘shop’ as a key component in their success and will look to extend the lease so it can be used as a regional HQ until at least the 2015 General Election.
Additional reporting and commentary by Stephen Slominski
The results for the 7 divisions that are within the Borough of Eastleigh are as follows.
Bishopstoke and Fair Oak Division
|Colin ATTERBURY||The Conservative Party Candidate||656|
|Angela May ROLING||Liberal Democrat||1657|
|Mary SHEPHARD||Labour Party Candidate||406|
Botley and Hedge End Division
|Ian BENNETT||The Conservative Party Candidate||1263|
|Andrew HELPS||Labour Party Candidate||294|
|Rupert Miles Gregory KYRLE||Liberal Democrat||1806|
Chandlers Ford Division
|Beryl ADDISON||Labour Party Candidate||238|
|Joe COX||Green Party||124|
|Colin DAVIDOVITZ||The Conservative Party Candidate||1919|
|James Ian DUGUID||Liberal Democrat||1557|
Eastleigh East Division
|Angela Mary COTTON||The Green Party||138|
|Chris GILKES||Labour Party Candidate||436|
|Kevin MILBURN||Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ`s Lordship”||56|
|Michael Robert Cornwall READ||The Conservative Party Candidate||454|
|Christopher Andrew THOMAS||Liberal Democrat||1440|
Eastleigh West Division
|Alan Frederick BROADHURST||Liberal Democrat||1533|
|Hopping Mad HOG||The Official Monster Raving Loony Party||29|
|Stuart Charles JEBBITT||The Green Party||107|
|Andy MILLIGAN||The Conservative Party Candidate||659|
|James PENDERS||Labour Party Candidate||579|
|Ania WATERMAN||Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts||22|
|Keith HOUSE||Liberal Democrat||1941|
|Elizabeth Kathleen LEAR||The Conservative Party Candidate||969|
|Chris ROGERS||Labour Party Candidate||254|
West End and Hedge End Grange Park Division
|Pete LUFFMAN||Labour Party Candidate||237|
|Paul Andrew REDDING||The Conservative Party Candidate||742|
|Bruce Robert TENNENT||Liberal Democrat||1520|
Overall turnout 33.22%
Full results for the whole county can be found here on the Hampshire County Council website.