CONSERVATIVES have celebrated holding on to their Lee-on-the-Solent seat as the Lib Dems suffered a bad night at the polls.
Graham Burgess won the Hampshire County Council by-election with 3,080 votes – way ahead of Lib Dem rival Angela Whitbread who polled 1,227.
The Labour candidate, Dr Graham Giles, received 858 votes.
Cllr Burgess, who is also the deputy leader of Gosport Borough Council, said: ‘I feel absolutely brilliant.
‘We had a really good campaign and we had really good support.
‘I would like to thank all members of the Conservative party in Gosport.
‘But most importantly I would like to thank all the voters of Rowner, Grange and Lee-on-the-Solent who have shown they believe in the policies the Conservatives have in taking Gosport forward.
‘We won on the issues of Sure Start, and the number of homes on Daedalus.
‘We stuck to the facts and residents have believed us.’
There was a voter turnout of 39.8 per cent for the by-election which came about after Conservative councillor Margaret Snaith-Tempia stepped down from her role last month.
Cllr Burgess, who polled 460 more votes than his colleague in 2009, said: ‘Margaret Snaith-Tempia did a fantastic job as a councillor for all those years.
‘If I can do half as good a job as what she did I will be a happy man.
‘She has left a very big void to fill and I hope I am the man for the job.
‘I think I am.’
The scene in Gosport last night mirrored the national picture, which has seen the Liberal Democrats suffer heavy losses.
Lib Dem Angela Whitbread was hoping to make a return to politics last night.
She had previously served as a county councillor for the Hardway ward for 12 years until 1998.
She said: ‘I think it has been quite bad nationally, especially looking at the AV referendum. It hasn’t gone very well.’
But she added: ‘It has been so exciting to get involved again. I said I would never come back to politics but this will teach me that I should never say never. I’m not ruling out another possible return in the future. I’m obviously disappointed but I am happy to have tried.
‘It’s nice to have been back within the community again.’
The main debate in the run-up to the county council by-election was the issue of development on the former naval airfield HMS Daedalus.
Controversial plans will see more homes built on Daedalus.
But Cllr Burgess pledged there will not be any more than 200 houses built there.
‘There will be 200 homes and that is it,’ he said.
‘We want to bring jobs on to the site and we are working very hard to bring industry there. But there are also other things I will be paying attention to as well, like the waterfront development, Newgate Lane improvements and the Holbrook Leisure Centre.
‘I will also be bringing the issue of school placements to the attention of the county council.’
The outgoing county councillor for the Lee division, Margaret Snaith-Tempia, has said she was ‘reluctant’ to resign her seat. She decided to quit after a member of her family became ill.
She said: ‘I miss the county councillors I was working with and all the people of Lee-on-the-Solent. But I am absolutely thrilled with the outcome. I can’t think of a better person to represent the people of Gosport.
‘I have had an illness in the family and I have had to put my family first.
‘But politics has definitely been a hard thing to shake and I was very reluctant to let go. I have been a councillor for 27 years.’
Gosport Borough Council’s deputy returning officer, Linda Edwards, also revealed the turnout of voters in the AV referendum on voting reform was 37.7 per cent. The result won’t be known until later today.