As campaigning for the General Election begins to intensify it’s clear the Conservatives are absolutely determined to try and wrest Eastleigh back from the Liberal Democrats who first took the seat from them over twenty years ago.
Business minister Matthew Hancock is the latest in a string of Conservative ministers to visit the constituency in recent weeks.
High profile Tory’s have been visiting local businesses and lining up for photo opportunities with candidate Mims Davies.
On Friday it was the turn of Lubetech Industies who export their products world wide from their Hedge End premises and also the Lightsource Solar Park at West End – and it was here I caught up with the Business Minister.
Conservative ministers have not just been turning up to pose for photos though; the party has chosen Eastleigh to unveil major policy decisions.
Earlier this year Chancellor George Osborne announced a new pensioner savings bonds while visiting Botley and last month, while speaking at Bursledon community centre, David Cameron revealed a £30 billon package of tax breaks including an uplift of the income tax threshold – he also said winning Eastleigh is ‘crucial’ in the forthcoming election battle.
Eastleigh is one of 23 key seats the Conservatives say they must win in order to secure an overall majority in the next parliament.
But one obstacle to victory could be the 24% swing to Ukip in the 2013 by-election that saw the eurosceptics push the Conservatives to third place but Mims Davies is confident that votes can be won back:
“People have had their say when it comes to a protest vote, I think that is very apparent on the doorsteps.
“People are looking for a positive next five years not a negative one”
Matthew Hancock donned wellies for a guided tour round the forty-acre site accompanied by Mims Davies and the Conservative candidate for West End North borough council ward Christine Sykes and Dai Davies who will be standing in West End South.
The facility is an impressive one – tucked away up a single track mudslide barely passable to anything less than a tractor – forty acres of solar panel arrays nestle below hedge row height pumping out enough wattage to power two thousand homes.
The government fixes the price the operators get for their power so despite the fall in the cost of oil they still get a healthy return. But Kate Baxter of Lightsource assured me that the future of energy was renewables and that the cost of solar energy was dropping too:
“By 2025 solar panels will be the cheapest source of energy globally. By 2050 it will be the largest source of energy. Solar is the way forward.
“We are working on energy storage right now – so in future when the sun goes down you’ll have all the energy you stored up in the day right through the night as well”.
After the tour Matthew Hancock described Mims Davies as a ‘brilliant local candidate’ with a ‘passion’ for supporting people and businesses in Eastleigh.
Although Hancock did not go as far Culture minister Ed Vaizey who declared, “We love Eastleigh” during a recent visit to the Point, but he did manage to mention Eastleigh half-a-dozen times in 30-second soundbite showing the constituency is very much on Conservative minds.
It seems the Conservatives are not only prepared to throw the kitchen sink at winning Eastleigh but also the pots, pans and cutlery as well.
During a recent photo opportunity at the Ageas bowl Cabinet Secretary Sajid Javid was asked by one local reporter:
“What’s going on? Why are we getting a couple of visits from Conservative front benchers every week while Lib Dems and Labour don’t seem to have got out of bed yet?”
Javid replied with a wry smile.
“We’re fighting a General Election.
You will have to ask the other parties what they are doing”.