General election 2010: Chris Huhne holds Eastleigh

By Catherine Stevenson and Sabine Klensch

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Chris Huhne has strengthened his majority in Eastleigh, confounding earlier expectations that he may lose his seat.

He withstood an enthusiastic Conservative campaign in a seat which was number 12 on their target list.

The Lib Dems earned a three per cent plus swing from the Conservatives to hold on to the seat in a rare positive note for the party, which has suffered a series of knocks on election night so far.

Mr Huhne was re-elected with 24,966 votes, well ahead of the Conservative challenger Maria Hutchings on 21,102. This gives the prominent Lib Dem a majority of 3,864, considerably stronger than his 2005 majority of just 568 votes.

Carina Trimingham, Mr Huhne’s elated press manager told “We’re absolutely delighted .”

“To have increased his majority by such a degree in the face of such a strong Tory surge is fantastic”.

She said that Mr Huhne had earned the support of his constituents.

“He is a very, very hardworking local MP and the people here have recognized that.” She added that the “Lib Dem message of fairness, as opposed to the Tories message of money for millionaires”, had hit home among voters.

When asked what the implications for the party’s national positions was, Ms Trimingham was unable to comment. The Liberal Democrats will be breathing sighs of relief.