by Sofia Zagzoule
The Tories tightened their vice-like grip on Havant last night by snatching a seat off the Lib Dems and storming to their biggest victory ever.
As news came through of the party winning nine seats from a possible 10 on the night, taking the Tory total to 31, a jubilant council leader David Gillett said the borough was now one of the most secure Tory strongholds.
‘We’re really chuffed, absolutely delighted for our candidates – most have won their seats with an increased majority.
‘Thirty-one seats is the biggest number we’ve had on the council and I now believe we have the largest Conservative majority on the south coast.’
The Lib Dems managed to hold on to the Bedhampton ward, with a majority of 319, but locally the night undoubtedly belonged to the Conservatives.
The Lib Dems have now seen their support slide alarmingly across Havant in recent years and face a renewed battle in the next elections in 12 months time.
The Tories are now looking to muscle in to Leigh Park, once a rock-solid Labour area, when those seats are contested at their local elections next year.
The party has just two seats in the area at the moment compared with two Lib Dems and four Labour.
Barncroft councillor Conservative Mike Fairhurst, said: ‘Leigh Park will be the real battleground next year.
‘We need to work hard to change the perception people have of the area.
‘It does have it’s fair share of problems but it’s really not that bad.’
The party is pinning its hopes on pledges to revamp the area with a massive investment programme to end years of inaction over tackling the estate’s problems.
The party’s determination to win seats in the area appeared to have gone a bit too far yesterday, however.
A staunch Tory supporter spent some of the day driving around Warren Park with a loudspeaker encouraging residents to get out and vote, even though there are no elections in that area for another year.
Cllr David Keast laughed off the mishap.
‘He went around with a loudspeaker on his van telling people to vote Tory, so many residents rang the council, asking where their polling cards were,’ he said.