The list of candidates for the Hedge End town council by election on February 13 has been declared.
The vacancy in Wildern ward has arisen following the death of Liberal Democrat Councillor June Watson
A total of five candidates are standing one independent and a candidate from each of main parties.
All are Hedge Enders.
Currently the council consists of 20 Lib Dems and just one Independent.
Unlike borough councillors, town councillors do not receive an allowance.
First on the list is Jerry Hall for the Conservatives.
The tory activist has previously canvassed for Maria Hutchings during her parliamentary campaign and has also campaigned hard on local issues – opposing the proposed housing developments at Boorley Green and Stoneham Park.
The local business owner has previously served as a Hedge End town councilor and has come close to wining again, recently contesting both a borough seat in St John’s ward and a town council seat at St Helen’s finishing a tight second on both occasions pushing Ukip’s Michale O’Donoghue into second place.
Ukip’s ability to split the tory vote probably cost Hall a seat and it is O’Donoghue who Jerry Hall will face again.
O’Donoghue has stood for a council seat in Hedge End (both borough and town) five times since 2011, coming third three times and fourth twice.
In the town council by-election in Shamblehurst ward in 2012 O’Donoghue scored only 22 votes and was beaten into fourth by the independent candidate (and Eastleigh News contributor) Ray Turner who is also standing in Wildern.
Turner – a former civil servant and blogger – believes that local representation is bedeviled by party politics and wants to join sitting Independent Councillor Keith Day as a counterweight to the Liberal Democrat majority.
Cllr Day previously outpolled the Ukip candidate Fred Estall in Wildern ward in 2011 so there is support for Independent candidates as an alternative choice here.
Of course since these poor results there has been a surge of support for Ukip in Eastleigh in both the parliamentary and county elections.
During 2013 public anxiety over immigration, dissatisfaction with coalition policies, fallout from former MP Chris Huhne’s trial and local development issues combined to give Ukip their best ever results here.
Ukip insist the surge was more than just a protest vote but the political impetus shows signs of shifting once again towards the coalition partners.
A predicted tidal wave of millions of Romanian and Bulgarian refugees has so far failed to materialise and since the elections last year, the economy has started to pick up.
GDP is up and inflation is down along with unemployment, figures reflected in rising consumer confidence.
Despite Ukip’s recent strong performance in Eastleigh the latest national populous poll puts them behind the other main parties at 9%.
Hedge End itself is one of the more affluent areas of the borough and hasn’t felt the full force of coalition austerity measures.
In Wildern there are currently only 34 jobseekers or 1% of working population – by comparison Eastleigh Central has 165 workless people signing on (2.3%) so unemployment is hardly an issue.
Of course Ukip are expected to sweep the board in the Euro elections and this could have effect on the outcome of local elections being held on the same day but that still a year away and this year’s previously untested Lib Dem candidate in Wildern, Emma Norman, can still win comfortably despite Eastleigh Lib Dems hemorrhaging votes since 2011.
Last year Eastleigh Lib Dems lost three county seats but they still remain the dominant party at every tier of government in Eastleigh while their leafleting operation is the envy of other parties.
Most voters seem impressed by the Lib Dem claim to have pegged Council Tax and although anger over housing developments might pose a problem for them in some wards – it is not likely feature as a voter concern in Wildern.
Labour Candidate Andrew Helps stood in the Botley and Hedge End division during the county elections last year when Ray Turner interviewed him for Eastleigh News.
Despite Labour’s lead in the national polls past voting patterns would suggest their prospects of success are slim here but Labour have made it clear they wish to contest seats in order to give voters a choice and avoid uncontested seats falling to the Lib Dems as has previously happened in some Eastleigh parishes.
This is small by-election which would normally pass off unnoticed but the outcome – of what is likely to be a three horse race – will be closely studied for pointers to May’s borough elections.
photo. ©Electoral Commission