In the local elections Eastleigh’s ruling Liberal Democrats and their Conservative opposition have managed to hold on to all their seats after anticipated gains by an invigorated Ukip failed to materialise.
Only 15 of the 45 seats were contested this year, so there was no prospect of a change of overall control of the Borough Council, but with Ukip making progress in the opinion polls there was a real chance that some of the seats would change hands and alter the dynamics of the Borough Council. In the event that didn’t happen.
All of the seats that were contested were retained by the parties that currently held them.
Expectations of a breakthrough for Ukip had been high following last year’s impressive performance in the by –election when Ukip candidate Diane James took 27% of the vote to finish a close second to Lib Dem Mike Thornton
Ukip’s momentum had carried through to the county council elections in May when they won 33% of the vote; snatching three of Eastleigh’s seven divisions from the Lib Dems.
But the results on Thursday night showed Ukip’s support in the borough had eased to 25% leaving them empty-handed runners up, despite predictions that up to five seats would fall to them.
The 25% share was in line with Ukip’s national share in the local elections and was boosted by the euro-elections where opinion polls give Ukip a commanding 30% share.
In the end though, Eastleigh’s ruling Lib Dems held on, polling almost as many votes as the Conservatives and Ukip combined.
The Lib Dems had 44%, Ukip 25%, Conservatives 20% and Labour 10%.
This was broadly in line with a recent poll by survation in Eastleigh, which predicted Lib Dems would win the borough election with 39%, Ukip 27% Conservatives 23% and Labour 9%.
The same poll has also predicted Ukip would win here in 2015 but on a tight margin with Ukip on 32%, Conservatives 28%, Lib Dems 27% and Labour 12%.
Under a system of proportional representation the 8,000 votes Ukip had polled in the 15 contested seats on Thursday would have been enough to give them three seats in the chamber but under the ‘first past the post’ system the composition of Eastleigh Borough Council remains unchanged at 40 Liberal Democrats to 4 Conservatives.
Ukip also failed to win in any seats in Southampton or Winchester and just one seat in Fareham but in Portsmouth it was a different picture where they picked up six seats placing the council in no overall control.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage had been well received at a rally there last month (although there were protestors outside).
Nationally it was Labour’s night – they won an extra 338 seats and gained control of a further six councils.
Ukip also did very well going from just two council seats to 163 but did not win control of any councils.
Coalition partners the Conservatives and the Lib Dems lost over 500 seats between them and lost control of a combined total of 13 councils.
The Liberal Democrats now control just five other councils apart from Eastleigh.
The atmosphere at Fleming Park on Thursday had been very tense heightened by an interminable delay to the start of the local count due to verification of the Euro papers that had to take place first.
Counting did not get underway until 3 am and some candidates who had to work in the morning had given up and left.
There were complaints from both The Conservatives over the delay and Ukip Chair Glynn Davies-Dear wondered how tired staff could be expected to count accurately at such a late hour.
Davies-Dear claimed it was “the worst organised Borough count in 30 years”.
Council Officers said that the physical size of the Euro Ballot papers had made handling them time consuming.
The results, once they started to be declared, came thick and fast and as each seat fell to the Lib Dems it was clearly a case of ‘business as usual”.
Ukip had said they expected wins Senior council officers said they expected Ukip wins, press reporters they expected Ukip even the normally bullish Lib Dem Leader Keith House said he was expecting a Ukip win so the relief experienced by returning Liberal Democrat and Conservative candidates was only matched the looks of disappoint etched on th efface of the Ukip contingent who largely melted away into the night.
Ukip were second in many wards, none more so than in Eastleigh South where 15 votes separated sitting Lib Dem Steven Sollitt from Ukip’s Jim Saunders (who had pushed Labour’s 2012 runner up Pete Luffman into third).
There was going to be a recount but the discovery of some hidden ballot papers increased the e winning margin to 84 votes.
Steven Sollitt’s Mum, Mo also held on to her Eastleigh North seat where she faced a challenge from Ukip chair Glynn Davies-Dear.
This was probably Ukip’s best chance of the night as Conservatives were not standing and former mayor Davies-Dear had previously represented the ward as a Liber al democrat but he could only manage second.
This is the second time Glynn Davies-Dear and Andy Moore have failed to recapture the ELAC seats they formerly held as Lib Dems although Andy Moore ousted former Lib Dem colleague Chris Thomas as County Councillor for Eastleigh East last year.
No one was more relieved by the results then Lib Dem Council Leader Keith House who had faced a challenge in his own ward of Wildern from Ukip’r Pete House who had stood under his middle name of John on the ballot paper thereby placing higher than the Lib Dem– a tactic which Cllr House described as a ‘dirty trick’ to BBC reporter Matt Treacey – but despite rumours of an upset, Keith House comfortably held onto to his seat.
House (Keith) told Eastleigh News that the nights result showed the ‘Ukip bubble had burst in Eastleigh’ .
Despite the disappoint for Ukip, their County Councillor for Bishopstoke and Fair Oak Martin Lyons said he was pleased with the progress Ukip had made since the 2012 Local elections where they finished last – this time round they had stood in every seat and finished second in the majority.
He denied that the ‘Ukip bubble’ had burst in Eastleigh, on the contrary “It’s getting bigger,” he said.
One person smiling broadly was MP Mike Thornton who said he believed his prospects of holding on to his seat in 2015 boded well.
Eastleigh is still a target seat for Ukip in 2015 but if Ukip Leader Nigel Farage was looking to stand in Hampshire then Mike Hancock’s Portsmouth South seat is looking like a better prospect.
Prior to Thursday’s Poll Keith House had told Eastleigh News that he believed the Lib Dems could beat Farage in Eastleigh as he would polarise the electorate and the Lib Dems would mop up anti-Farage Conservative and Labour votes.
Only the count for the Borough election was completed on Thursday evening. Further counts take place today, for the Parish Council elections and the EU elections.
Ukip are still expected to dominate the Euro elections and Eastleigh News will be tweeting live from the declaration for the South East region that is taking place at Southampton guildhall tonight.
The event is expected to be attended by Nigel Farage
The full results of the Borough election can be found here, but the successful candidates were;
Botley: Angel Myerscough (Lib Dem)
Bursledon & Old Netley: Jane Rich (Lib Dem)
Chandlers Ford East: Pam Holden-Brown (Lib Dem)
Chandlers Ford West: Alan Broadhurst (Lib Dem)
Eastleigh Central: Wayne Irish (Lib Dem)
Eastleigh North: Maureen Sollitt (Lib Dem)
Eastleigh South: Steve Sollitt (Lib Dem)
Fair Oak & Horton Heath: Desmond Scott (Lib Dem)
Hedge End Grange Park: Louise Bloom (Lib Dem)
Hedge End St Johns: Margaret Allingham (Lib Dem)
Hedge End Wildern: Keith House (Lib Dem)
Hiltingbury East: Margaret Atkinson (Conservative)
Hiltingbury West: Judith Grajewski (Conservative)
West End North: Bruce Tennent (Lib Dem)
West End South: Daniel Clarke (Lib Dem)
The full election results are now available here on the Eastleigh Borough Council website. One seat, Hedge End St Johns is shown as being gained from an Independent. This was the seat formerly held by Peter Hughes, who was elected as Liberal Democrat in 2010.
Additional reporting: Stephen Slominski