Lib Dems Name Eastleigh Candidate

The Liberal Democrats have chosen a local councillor to stand for the party at the Eastleigh by-election.

Mike Thornton, a parish and borough councillor from Bishopstoke was selected after a vote in Eastleigh on Saturday February 9. He has lived in the area for 19 years.

He will stand on 28 February against Tory Maria Hutchings - other candidates are yet to be announced.

The by-election has been triggered by the resignation of Chris Huhne, the ex-Lib Dem MP who admitted perverting the course of justice last week.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps and Mrs Hutchings both spoke about "trust'' ahead of a weekend blitz in what promises to be a brutal battle with their Liberal coalition partners.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had earlier urged voters not to exact retribution for his former leadership rival's disgrace as the party moved the writ in the Commons for a February 28 poll.

But former Tory Treasurer Lord Ashcroft warned his party that though it started the contest in the lead, his polling suggested few voters were likely to "switch out of disgust''.

The survey conducted for the peer in the immediate wake of Huhne's resignation put the Tories on 34%, with Lib Dems on 31%, Labour on 19% and Ukip fourth with 13%.

Mrs Hutchings, first thrust into the limelight in 2005 when she challenged then prime minister Tony Blair during a TV debate over a special school closure, said: "We need a local MP we can trust - someone who will support people who work hard and do the right thing.

"Although I may not be a professional politician, I'm a straight-talking businesswoman and mother of four who lives in the local area.''

Mr Clegg said: "I think the choice for the people of Eastleigh in the by-election is what kind of an MP do they want to have now.

"I hope that it will be on that basis rather than in a mood or spirit of retribution that the debate will be conducted in Eastleigh.''