As the Conservatives sweep back into power with a landslide Paul Holmes keeps Constituency blue with an increased majority.
Former Southampton City Councillor Paul Holmes has held Eastleigh for the Conservatives with an increased majority to become the Constituency’s seventh MP – the fourth since 2013. Holmes is Eastleigh’s youngest Member of Parliament since Sir David Price became Eastleigh’s first MP in 1955 and has won by the biggest margin since Sir David Price’s win in 1974 .Only Stephen Milligan polled more votes – in 1992.
Once a highly marginal constituency, Eastleigh has become the safest of safe Tory seats. Ironically Holmes won with a larger vote share than his predecessor Mims Davies who opted to stand this time in the Conservative safe seat of Mid Sussex.
Holmes had been favourite with bookies and pollsters since the Brexit Party and Ukip stood aside to consolidate the Brexit vote but even if the Brexit Party had contested the seat it is likely the Conservatives would have still won – but with a smaller majority.
To cheers from his supporters Holmes stepped forward to make his acceptance speech and said:
“It’s the honour of my life to have been elected as the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh. I don’t mind admitting it’s a daunting task but I will work every day to repay the trust my constituents have given me because I know that we politicians have trust to rebuild, scepticism to overcome and I in particular, have promises to deliver which I will attempt to do every day.
“This result shows I think, that the people of Eastleigh have voted to see their decision that they made in 2016 is delivered and as promised I’ll vote for the Prime Minister’s deal next week in Parliament so that we leave the European Union. [cheers from crowd]
“They also voted to see a new local approach for Eastleigh; more funding for our local schools; more police on our streets and an end to the over-excessive development we have in the constituency and of course working on the vital infra-structure we need in this constituency. The Conservatives will be returned tonight with a healthy mandate but I want to reassure everyone who has elected me that my first priority will, is, and always will be the people of Eastleigh and every day I am elected to serve this constituency I will repay their trust and hopefully over the next five years we can work together to make it an even better place.”
Eastleigh had been a target seat for the Liberal Democrats who mounted a leafletting campaign on a level not seen here since the 2013 by-election. One leaflet delivered during the last week of the campaign claimed the Conservative vote was “collapsing” and “in freefall across Eastleigh.” With such high expectations it was inevitable that local Lib Dems would be disappointed at the size of the majority even though they polled their highest number of votes and achieved their largest vote share since 2010. Nationally the party failed to increase their Parliamentary total with the party leader Jo Swinson failing to get re-elected in the snap General Election she had helped to facilitate.
The increase in the Liberal Democrat vote share is due in part to tactical voting as they had positioned themselves as the ‘party of Remain’ but in Eastleigh, even if they had managed to borrow every Labour and Green vote they would still have been around 6,000 votes short of Paul Holmes’s total.
The Liberal Democrat candidate Lynda Murphy is currently unwell and was unable to come to the count but Cllr Mike Thornton, who served as Eastleigh’s last Liberal Democrat MP, thanked the election night staff, party workers and voters on her behalf.
Addressing Paul Holmes Cllr Thornton added:
“I do hope that Paul will do everything he has said in regards to being a champion for the people of Eastleigh. The people of Eastleigh need an MP who will spend at least 50% of their effort and time here as opposed to 80% of their time in Westminster. So I’ll hold you to your promise and I’ll sure you’ll achieve it. So good luck, you’ll need to work hard and with the Borough Council – not against it.”
If it was a bad night for the Lib Dems nationally it was an even worse one for Labour who lost 59 seats – it’s perhaps no surprise then that Eastleigh Labour failed to improve on their 2017 result when they won one in every five votes here. Labour were the only party to see their vote share decrease and had clearly leaked votes to the Lib Dems and Greens but even though their vote went down by 7.2%, it was still their second best result since 2005. In the 2013 by-election John O’Farrell polled just 4,088 votes despite a very expensive campaign run directly by Labour’s central office and Sam Jordan’s team have certainly out-performed that on a fraction of the budget.
Jordan – the only candidate who actually lives in Eastleigh – indicated he would like to stand again and now has five years in which to build up local support.
Conceeding defeat Jordan told the crowd:
“It’s a tough one this evening. The votes we got tonight are not representative of the effort we put in. These are troubling times for politics in this country and Brexit has prevailed above all other issues. I hope that Brexit is done and I can stand here again and talk about real issues of real people”
Coming last in the Poll – but certainly not least – was the Green Party’s Ron Meldrum who achieved their best result in Eastleigh by polling 1,639 votes – more than doubling his 2017 result. Once again the local result reflects the national trend as the Greens improved on their 2017 national results by polling 835,879 votes – a 2.7% vote share. The total number of votes cast for the Green Party was more than those for the Brexit Party and Ukip combined.
Candidate Ron Meldrum didn’t make a speech from the stage as he had left early for home having travelled to and from the venue by bicycle.
Elsewhere in Eastleigh borough, the Chandler’s Ford and Hiltingbury wards- which are part of the Winchester Constituency – have helped to elect Steve Brine for the Conservatives who returns with a reduced majority. Brine’s seat had voted for Remain in the Referendum while Brine himself had consistently voted in support of the Withdrawal Agreement. He briefly lost the Government Whip after he resigned his Health Ministers post in order to vote against a ‘No deal’ exit from the EU. The last YouGov MRP poll had predicted that Winchester was a “likely Liberal Democrat hold” but Brine managed to fend off a strong challenge from the Lib Dem Candidate Paula Ferguson by 985 votes.