Election battle as councils go to polls

BOX A resident casts a vote at a polling station
BOX A resident casts a vote at a polling station
Chancellor Philip Hammond holding his red ministerial box outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget

City Labour MP slams budget for ‘failing Portsmouth’

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The country may be divided as to whether coalition politics works. But that hasn’t stopped Portsmouth’s Tories from eyeing up a possible partnership with the Lib Dems after next month’s local elections.

The city council is currently made up of 23 Lib Dems, 17 Conservatives and two Labour members.

But the Tories say they are hoping to make in-roads into Lib Dem strongholds in the city.

At the last local election the Lib Dem administration bucked the national trend and held on to power despite a dramatic slump in the polls nationally.

Now both Labour and Tory candidates believe the tide is turning and they will gain seats at the expense of the majority party.

Conservative deputy leader Cllr Donna Jones is defending her seat in Hilsea and said her hope is that the election produces a hung council.

She said: ‘That result would mean the Lib Dems would be forced to work with us far more than they do now.

‘That would be especially beneficial on things like money management and finance, which they don’t do very well.

‘You only have to look at big projects like the Pyramids and the Somers Town Hub to see that.

‘All we have to do is pick up four Lib Dem seats and they are very low in the polls nationally.

‘I think people know that what Portsmouth really needs at a time like this is a safe pair of hands.’

The chairman of the Portsmouth Labour Party John Ferrett, who is standing in Paulsgrove, said he also thought the Lib Dems could be damaged by their lack of popularity in the country generally.

He said: ‘We would hope to pick up at least three seats, I think that would be a reasonable objective for us.

‘I don’t think it is any secret that we are looking at Paulsgrove, where I definitely think we have a chance of winning, along with Charles Dickens and Nelson.

‘We are out every night talking to people on their doorsteps and we are picking up a fair amount of dissatisfaction with the government, especially since the budget.

‘In Portsmouth there wasn’t a falling away of Lib Dem support last year like in many other places, but I think people are starting to become very disaffected.’

But the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, argues that local issues would decide the election.

He said: ‘This is about who runs the city and who provides services to people in Portsmouth.

‘If it was reflecting national policies there would be no chance the Lib Dems would be running the city.’

He added: ‘You never know exactly what an election will bring, but my expectation is we will gain seats.

‘When it’s over the council will look different because there will be fewer Conservatives.

‘They could be left with the smallest Conservative group we have had in 10 years.’