LIBERAL Democrat supporters are deliberately moving to Portsmouth because of the party’s success in the city.
So says council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who said the party’s grip on the city was down to an army of workers and tight organisation.
Yesterday deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said he was ‘really sad’ that so many Lib Dem councillors had lost their seats across the country.
But in Portsmouth, the Lib Dems are on an electoral roll.
Even John Ferrett, the chairman of Portsmouth Labour group and a winner at Paulsgrove, admitted: ‘The Lib Dems in Portsmouth are a phenomenon – there’s nothing like them anywhere in British politics.’
And Tory group leader Simon Bosher said: ‘We just don’t have the resources to compete with the Lib Dems across the city.
‘It was a tough night for the Conservatives because of the national picture. I’m disappointed, but it was in line with my expectations.’
The Lib Dems snatched three seats from the Tories giving them 26 seats on the 42-seat authority. The Conservatives have 12, Labour, four.
Nationally, the Lib Dems’ number of councillors dipped below 3,000 for the first time since the party was formed in 1988. Councillor Vernon-Jackson said Portsmouth bucked that national trend because of the party’s organisation in the city, his administration’s record and the ‘growing’ number of grassroots party workers. This hasn’t happened overnight,’ he said. ‘It’s taken at least 10 years and a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get us to this position.’ The party has controlled Portsmouth for the past nine years.
And Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘Liberal Democrat supporters are now moving specifically to Portsmouth because they want to be involved with us.’
Elsewhere, there was no change with Havant, Fareham and Gosport remaining under Tory control. But low turnouts in many wards were a talking point.
In Portsmouth, Paulsgrove managed just 21 per cent. At Grange, Gosport, it was a derisory 13 per cent.
Gosport council leader Mark Hook, who retained his Alverstoke seat for the Tories, said: ‘It’s general apathy. We’re failing to connect with voters.’
Some voters following the election night coverage at portsmouth.co.uk felt politicians of all parties could have done more to reach out to the electorate.
Liz Williams captured many readers’ views when she wrote: ‘Went to the polls today having had no contact from any of the three parties, no idea who was standing.
‘We live in Waterlooville and clearly the candidates didn’t think it was important enough to talk to the electorate. If the turnout is low, we now know why.’
n Two Havant results, which were illegible in The News yesterday were: Bedhampton: Terry Mitchell, Green 155 votes and at Emsworth, Sophie Cobbett, Green 583.