The Liberal Democrats have comfortably held on to Wildern ward in the Hedge End Town Council by-election on Thursday.
Emma Norman polled 254 votes securing 45% of the vote.
Conservative Jerry Hall came second with 101 votes and Ukip’s Michale O’Donaghue a close third with 99 votes.
Just one vote separated the last two places; Andrew Helps came fourth for Labour with 55 votes and independent Ray Turner took 54 votes.
“Any independent would be pleased to running neck and neck with Labour at this stage”.
Eastleigh’s Lib Dem leader Keith House , who also sits as a HTEC Wildern councillor, said:
“This was a really good result for Emma Norman and the whole Liberal Democrat team in Hedge End. Local residents valued the team’s all-year-round newsletters and campaigning, keeping council tax down again and protecting local services from cuts”.
There was no continuation of last year’s Ukip surge and the Lib Dems look as strong as ever although at the opposite end of the country, at the Wythenshawe by-election, the results were almost reverse order. It was a win for Labour with Ukip pushing the Conservatives into third while the Lib Dems lost their deposit.
But whatever the state of the Lib Dems nationally there are areas where they remain dominant and Hedge End certainly seems to be one despite controversy over the Local Plan.
At this election as in a previous parish by- election at Chandler’s Ford, no polling cards were issued and this may have contributed to the low 21% turnout.
Both Ukip and Independent candidate Ray Turner complained that a low turnout would favour the ruling Lib Dem party but this was not the only complaint of the campaign.
During the election period it had emerged that two sitting Lib Dems on HTEC had changed their political affiliation from Lib Dem to Independent.
Ray Turner was concerned that this was an attempt to undermine his campaign.
Turner’s campaign leaflets argued that Lib Dems were over-represented on HETC, where there was only one councillor, Keith Day, to oppose a Lib Dem majority of 20.
Turner complained on his campaign website that the two councillors involved were still affiliated to the Lib Dems as Cllr Peter Hughes is married to Lib Dem Borough Councillor Jenny Hughes and the other Councillor involved, Caitlin Bloom, is the daughter of Lib Dem Councillor Louise Bloom.
Hughes now also sits as Independent Borough Councillor having been elected as a Lib Dem.
Councillor Hughes did not respond to Eastleigh News requests to discuss the reason for his move but Caitlin Bloom strenuously denied any suggestion that she was trying to interfere with campaigning in Wildern.
Eastleigh news was told by Lib Dem group leader Keith House that these unpublicised defections occurred some time ago, as far back as December 2012.
Eastleigh’s longest serving Independent Cllr Keith Day said:
“ It’s a bit of a shock to see members of two of Hedge End’s big Lib Dem family dynasties turning their back on the party, but it might be good for local democracy in the long run.”
Cllr Day also blogged that Independents were now “Hedge End’s fastest growing political party”.
There have in fact been a number of Lib Dem resignations in Eastleigh since 2010.
Joyce Sortwell and her Parish Councillor spouse Graham, both left to join the Conservatives, Keith Day went Independent and Glynn Davies Dear, Dave Broughton and Andy Moore all left to form the Independent group of Eastleigh Councillors which was later disbanded after Davies-Dear and Moore joined Ukip.
None of these former Lib Dems were able to defend their seats which were all subsequently reclaimed.
Keith Day was elected as an Independent to Hedge End Town Council and Andy Moore caused a major upset in last May’s county election by standing for Ukip and unseating Cllr Chris Thomas in Eastleigh East.
The local council elections are only weeks away but there was little in the Wildern result to encourage the losing parties. The Lib Dems on the other hand, will have boosted their confidence following a shock defeat at last May’s county poll when Ukip took three Eastleigh divisions from them.