Labour has celebrated after an encouraging set of results showed the party gaining ground in key battleground wards ahead of the next General Election.

There was relief on the faces of Eastleigh Liberal Democrat counting agents as their ‘most popular & longest serving councillor’ Wayne Irish scraped by with just 90 votes over Labour’s Josh Constable. The results for Eastleigh Central went down to the wire with a recount, ending with a large swing against the Liberal Democrats. There was evidence that some Conservatives had voted tactically for Labour, perhaps owing to the frustration at the close to £1bn of debt that Eastleigh Borough Council has accumulated over recent years.

Josh Constable, Labour’s candidate for Eastleigh Central said:

“We’ve had 30 years of the Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh Borough Council and 14 years of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in Westminster. Our message to the electorate is simple – do you feel better off, or do you want change?”

At the next General Election, Eastleigh Borough will now cover two Parliamentary constituencies, Eastleigh and Hamble Valley. The latter, takes out many of the traditionally conservative voting areas such as Botley, Netley, Hamble and Hedge End. The new Eastleigh Constituency takes in remain-voting areas such as Chandler’s Ford and Valley Park.

Much of the increase in the Labour vote came through the new Eastleigh constituency, where Labour managed to beat the Conservatives into third place on the Police and Crime Commissioner votes.

A senior Labour source indicated that the results were ‘far better than we expected’ and that they believed the Conservatives would come a poor third place on the new Eastleigh boundaries, with Reform taking a bite out of the Tory vote.

“On these numbers, we would expect to come a close second to the Liberal Democrats at the next election. It is quite possible that on a good day for us, Labour would win Eastleigh”

With a General Election expected later this year, all eyes will be on Labour candidate Daniel Shearer as he sets out his pitch to become Eastleigh’s first ever Labour MP.