Tories ‘on way up’ as Mims wins in Eastleigh

New MP Mims Davies and Newly elected Councillor Jerry Hall celebrate

New MP Mims Davies and newly elected Councillor Jerry Hall celebrate

Godfrey Olson, the Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council’s Conservative Group has declared that the party is ‘on the way up’ after Mims Davies became the constituency’s first female MP in the General Election and the Conservatives took two borough council seats.

The result in the General Election was as follows:

Eastleigh General Election 2015:
ConservativeMims Davies23,46442.3+3
Liberal DemocratMike Thornton14,31725.8-20.7
UKIPPatricia Culligan8,78315.8+12.2
LabourMark Latham7,18112.9+3.3
GreenRon Meldrum1,5132.7+2.7
Beer, Baccy and ScratchingsRay Hall1330.2+0.2
TUSCDeclan Clune1140.2+0.2

The General election results mirrored those for the rest of the country as the Conservatives swept back into power with an outright majority albeit a slim one.

The result was unexpected as pollsters had predicted a hung Parliament.

Although it was a good night for the Conservatives it was a bad one for their former coalition partners the Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg had declared he needed 60 seats like Eastleigh but, fortunately for the Lib Dem leader, his losses were limited to just 49 parliamentary seats.

Locally, all the parliamentary seats that had been Liberal Democrat are now Conservative.

The Conservative Party had targeted Eastleigh as one of 23 seats they needed to win in order to secure an outright majority.

Over the course of the campaign Conservative Central Office had carpet-bombed the constituency with a procession of cabinet ‘a listers’ including the the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister himself.

It was an efficient tactic as Eastleigh was close to two other crucial Tory targets – Southampton Itchen and Portsmouth South – which meant that ministers could put in an appearance at all three during one trip South.

It was also proved to be an effective tactic as all three seats fell to the Conservatives.

In Portsmouth South, Flick Drummond beat Lib Dem turned Independent candidate Mike Hancock and in Southampton Itchen Royston Smith claimed  retiring MP John Denham’s seat from Labour.

The Lib Dems had already lost control of both the Winchester and Chandler’s Ford and the Romsey and Southampton North constituencies in 2010, these were comfortably held for the Tories by Steve Brine and Caroline Nokes.

What was for the last 20 years an enclave of Liberal Democrat support has now turned Blue.

Mims Davies, the youngest candidate to win Eastleigh since David Price in 1955, did so by the biggest majority since 1994 – a win made all the more remarkable as pundits, pollsters and bookies had all been predicating that 2013 by-election victor Mike Thornton would hold the seat with an increased majority but Davies seems to have turned what was a tough three-way marginal into a Tory safe seat with a 9,000 + majority.

It’s conventional wisdom that high turnouts tend to favour the Conservatives and after polling stations closed on Thursday night the BBC Exit poll forecast a win for Davies but few at the Fleming Park count seemed to believe it.

However when party tellers took sample observations during the lengthy ballot verification process it quickly became obvious that the Conservatives had achieved a remarkable victory and so before the actual counting even began most of the parties had conceded – some of the supporters heading home early.

There was a strange sense of anticlimax, and a long wait until the 4 am declaration confirmed what everybody already knew – Eastleigh was back in Conservative hands after 21 years.

After returning officer Richard Ward had announced the results Davies stepped forward to tell the crowd:

“I will work extremely hard for Eastleigh I assure all the electors who have put their trust in me tonight and those that chose a different candidate that I will do my absolute best to be a strong voice in Westminster for this constituency.”

“Locally there are things I would like to achieve because people have old me what matters to them – it is the transport system, it is the lack of NHS provision, the pollution and the congestion I will do my utmost to make changes happen across the constituency.”

As Davies finished a heckler shouted “Give us a referendum?” to which she replied “That’s the plan.”

Earlier Mike Thornton had entered the hall to warm applause from his party colleagues already knowing he had lost the seat and was one of the first to congratulate Mims Davies when she arrived.

The defeated MP had seemed a little misty eyed as he stood on stage while the declaration was read out, but there was scarcely a waver in his voice as he stepped up to the microphone to tell the crowd,

“Its been a great honour and a privilege to be the MP for Eastleigh over the last two years I feel that service is part of my make up and I’m glad the people of Eastleigh allowed me to fulfill that there are many things that I regret but I particularly regret not being able to finish my work on the mental health issues that were so important to me in parliament.

“It was a very difficult decision five years ago to go into a coalition with our traditional opponents. I think it was the right thing to do for the country but obviously not the right thing to do for the party. But what we do is put our country first and the party second.”

Turning to face Mims Davies the Lib Dem said:

“While George Osborne was last in Eastleigh a few weeks ago he promised the Conservatives would set the ball rolling on stalled local road projects – Thornton asked Mims to make sure he keeps his word.

“Mims please hold George Osborne to that promise about the Chickenhall link road and the Botley by-pass if you can hold him to that I think everybody will be happy with your time as an MP.”

Davies responded to this challenge by enthusiastically nodding her head, saying “it will be a pleasure.”

Thornton had not defended his Bishopstoke council seat and although he remains a Bishopstoke Parish Councillor this role is unpaid.

L-R Ex Mp Mike Thornton, Ex Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg and Keith House.

L-R Ex Mp Mike Thornton, Ex Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg and Keith House.

The ex MP said that he is leaving Parliament with just the equivalent of a couple of months pay and is now looking for a job.

Speaking to Eastleigh News after the count Thornton said he thought the collapse in the Lib Dem vote was due to voters, including Lib Dem supporters, tactically voting Conservative due to fear of a minority Labour government gaining power with the help of left wing Scottish Nationalists.

He also said he might be tempted to stand again in 2010 even though he would be 68 years-old saying “If I am fit enough, why not?”

Patricia Culligan was also philosophical in defeat .

Ukip have been the fastest growing party in Eastleigh, their vote had increased dramatically in 2013 when their candidate Diane James came a close second. The party only needed a 3% swing to win the seat but crucially, this year, Ukip’s vote share dropped to 16%.

As a candidate Culligan had shown that she was an accomplished speaker and presenter but she simply didn’t have the resources and support that Diane James had access to during the by-election.

An injudicious and inaccurate tweet mid-campaign also resulted in her keeping a lower social media profile, although it is unlikely it made much difference to the overall result.

Culligan told the crowd:

“You haven’t seen the last of us we’re here to stay and we’ll be building on what we can and we’ll be back.”

Patricia culligan

Patricia Culiigan on polling day

Prior to the count an Eastleigh Ukip activist told me he expected the party to win here and in addition up to 20 seats nationwide – as well as winning 3 to 5 Eastleigh Borough Council seats  but in the end it was a disappointing night for them as they won none of the seats they contested here – not even at parish level – and lost one of their two parliamentary seats despite polling 3.8 million votes nationally.

After the results were in a local Ukip insider said that the party had cost the Conservatives more seats on the council by splitting the Tory vote in seven wards.

“If we can’t come to the party we will only end up spoiling it.”

Mark Latham at Polling Station

Mark Latham at Polling Station

In the General Election the Labour Party failed to displace the Tories after losing 48 seats – despite media predictions forming a coalition with the Scottish Nationalists would have been a luxury.

Although the party is now struggling to find a new leader and direction in Eastleigh Labour candidate Mark Latham helped the party improve on its 2010 result by going from a 10% share of the vote to 13%

Eastleigh Labour party activists told Eastleigh News they now feel have something to build on in after being left a mountain to climb following their lowest ever poll in 2010 and candidate Mark Latham said:

“We think we have left base camp , we can see where the summit is.

“We’ll be campaigning for things like a community hospital at Moorgreen.

“We’ll be campaigning to save Stoneham park from the bulldozers those are the things that matter to the people of Eastleigh.”

Mark Latham also told Eastleigh News that he intended to re-contest the seat the next General Election.

Nationally the Green Party managed to poll over a million votes but could not increase their presence in Westminster beyond their single MP Caroline Lucas.

In Eastleigh the Greens polled 2.7% of the vote with 1,513 votes.

Ron Meldrum canvassing shoppers on polling day

Ron Meldrum canvassing shoppers on polling day

Eastleigh Green Party candidate Ron Meldrum said:

“As you know the Greens haven’t stood in Eastleigh for a very long time we’ve hit three percent of the vote, which is a great improvement over nothing.

“I believe in the long run Eastleigh will go green its just a matter of time.”

In 1994 Eastleigh by-election the Ukip candidate, an unknown Nigel Farage, polled just 952 votes so Meldrum has grounds for optimism.

The Beer, Baccy and Scratchings Party founder and candidate Ray Hall said he was disappointed to have polled less than his 2013 tally of 235 votes.

This year there were more spoilt papers than votes for the Beer and Baccy man and Hall wondered if it was due to the enforced name change.

`”We put out 12,000 leaflets but the number of votes we got was not very significant”

“We worked really hard maybe we would have done better if we were the beer Baccy and Crumpet Party instead of the scratchings party and we will try for the next election, to get back to the crumpet.”

The party had not been invited by the Kings Community Church to their Hustings in Hedge End – a decision branded as ‘disgusting’ by BB&S assistant Ray Turner.

Mims Davies at Polling Station

Mims Davies at Polling Station

Another party which had been also excluded was the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

After a low key campaign Declan Clune polled 114 votes although this was an improvement on the 62 votes they polled in 2010.

The anti-austerity party did not win any seats nationally polling around 36,000 votes.

At the declaration a TUSC representative thanked all those who had voted and congratulated Mims Davies on her win.

In the local Borough elections 14 of the 44 ward seats were being contested.

The Liberal Democrats held 39 seats the Conservatives 4 and one seat – Hedge End Wildern was vacant following the surprise resignation of former Lib Dem Councillor Jenny Hughes last year.

The Conservatives gained two seats from the Liberal Democrats.

In Hamble Elizabeth Lear unseated long serving Councillor Malcolm Cross who was Mayor of Eastleigh in 2013.

Fellow Conservative Jerry Hall regained Hedge End St Johns ward – a seat he lost some years ago, unseating Lib Dem Mick Wheatley in the process.

A delighted Jerry Hall also took the St Johns seat on Hedge End Town Council.

The Lib Dems took the following seats:

Bishopstoke East – Angela Roling

Bishopstoke West -Vickieye Parkinson-McLachlan

Burseldon and Old Netley – Tonia Craig

Eastleigh Central – Keith Trenchard

Eastleigh North -Sarah Bain

Eastleigh South- Paul Bicknell

Fair Oak and Horton Heath – Roger Smith

Mims Davies’s campaign manager Frair Burgess came close to winning Bursledon. There were just 40 votes between Burgess and the Lib Dem Candidate, Eastleigh cabinet member Tonia Craig but Burgess won a seat on Bursledon Parish Council – which remains under Lib Dem control.

Burgess is the sole Conservative member on Bursledon Parish Council and sits with two Independents: Mark Garrett and Ron Nichols and also Diane Andrewes who is the only Labour party councillor to have been elected in Eastleigh this year.

At Hedge End Town Council the sole independent and one man opposition member Keith Day lost his Wildern seat but the Conservatives including Jerry Hall took four from the Lib Dems.

Day who blogs on Hedge End  matters as Hedgeendblogger also failed in an attempt to win back the Wildern borough seat which he had formerly held as first as a Lib Dem then as an Independent.

“That’s Democracy folks” he blogged,

The seat was won by Emma Norman – technically a gain for the Lib Dems.

Ballott boxes arrive, your vote might be in there

Ballott boxes arrive, your vote might be in there

Labour’s Candidate in Wildern, Andrew Helps told Eastleigh News that despite losing he was pleased to have tripled his vote over 2014.

Although Ukip had done very well in the 2013 county elections by winning three seats off the back of a close run by-election – they were unable to maintain this momentum and win any borough seats in the 2014 local elections even though they captured 25% of the vote and came second in 11 of the 14 wards they contested.

This year their share of the local vote fell back to 18% and they were runners up in just three seats the most bitterly contested being Eastleigh South where Jim Saunders exchanged blows on social media with Paul Bicknell, the Lib Dem candidate standing for re-election whom Saunders said had ‘betrayed’ local residents by voting in favour of the council’s local plan which would see hundreds of new homes built on green fields in Eastleigh South.

The Lib Dems retaliated describing Saunders – who lives in Horton Heath – as a “Durley resident”.

There were some acrimonious tweets between the two rivals but in the end Bicknell was re-elected and Saunders was runner up, losing by a larger margin than he did when he stood in Eastleigh South last year.

Green field development was also an issue in Fair Oak and Horton Heath where the incumbent Lib Dem councilor Roger Smith had come in for criticism because developers Bloor have an interest in land owned by him.

This a matter of public record and is declared in the councillor’s register of interests but is clearly still an issue for some residents opposed to large scale housing development in the area. Even so, Smith was again returned as Councillor.

Both the chair of Eastleigh Ukip Glynn Davies-Dear and the Ukip County Councillor for Eastleigh East Andy Moore tried to win back borough seats they formerly held as Lib Dems in Eastleigh North and Eastleigh Central.

However both seats were held by the Lib Dems – Sarah Bain taking the place of long serving Peter Wall who has retired and Keith Trenchard held on in Central for his second term.

This was the third attempt by Moore and Davies-Dear to regain their former wards having previously tried last year for Ukip and in 2011 as Independents.

Labour did not threaten in any of the Borough seats they contested but their candidates experienced an increase in their vote share which rose from 10% to 12% overall.

The composition of Eastleigh Borough Council is now 38 Liberal Democrats and 6 conservatives leaving the Council in Liberal Democrat control.

Newly re-elected Lib Dem Councillor Keith Trenchard described the loss of two Borough seats as a “small setback”.

Overall it seems that Eastleigh voters have ‘split voted’ across the General and local election – punishing the Lib Dems nationally with tactical voting.

Mims Davies also proved to be a strong candidate, well supported by her party.

Locally though, the Lib Dems still have strong support from many residents who are happy with the way their local council is run, even though there are concerns over development in some communities.

The result was that in the parliamentary election the conservatives polled 23,464 votes but took 7,563 fewer votes in the borough election where the Lib Dems gained an additional 5,064 votes.

Parliamentary Total    Borough Total     Difference

Con              23,464                15,901               -7,563

Lib Dem       14,317                 19,381              +5,064

It’s worth noting that while the Liberal Democrat vote share fell by 7 percentage points in the General Election their local vote share is static at around 37% while the Conservatives saw their GE and local vote share both rise by 10 percentage points giving them 42% in the GE and 30% in the Borough Election.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 23.23.21

Despite this the Conservatives have increased their representation from ‘toehold’ to ‘footprint’ in the council chamber and their new MP has told Eastleigh News by campaigning on issues like congestion, pollution and local NHS provision she hopes to win more seats for the Conservatives on the Council.

In Chandler’s Ford – the part of the Borough that is part of the Winchester parliamentary constituency – Conservative Steve Brine increased his majority with a 6.5% swing.

Liberal Democrat candidate Jackie Porter – a Hampshire County Councillor – came second but with a vastly reduced vote over the 2010 result despite being one of the Lib Dem candidates selected by Lord Oakeshott for financial backing.

The Ukip candidate was Fair Oak County Councillor Martin Lyon who finished fourth but with 5.4% increase over Ukip’s 2010 result.

Eastleigh's MPs Mims Davies and Steve Brine are both former BBC journalists

Eastleigh’s MPs Mims Davies and Steve Brine are both former BBC journalists. So much for “Left wing media bias” eh?

Elsewhere Eastleigh Lib Dem Councillor for West End North Bruce Tennant came fourth after standing in New Forest East and the former Lib Dem Councillor for West End South Dave Goodall saw a spectacular collapse in the Lib Dem vote on the Isle of Wight experiencing a negative swing.

Goodall finished fifth behind Conservative Andrew Turner (who retained his seat), Ukip, The Green Party and Labour.

In 2010 the Lib Dems were second with 22,000 votes, this has been reduced to 5,000 votes, a -24% swing.

Speaking to Eastleigh News the leader of Eastleigh Conservative Group Cllr Gdfrey Olson welcomed Mims Davies as a “Breath of fresh air”:

“We are happy we have now got a Conservative Member of Parliament.

“That’s a good base and we also have two councillors and some of the other local votes have been quite close, an indication that the party is on the way up and that perhaps people are realising that a change would be a good thing for Eastleigh.”

And finally….

How many times can you say ‘Eastleigh’ in 30 seconds?