Politics: Winchester set for bitter election re-run

Winchester voters were yesterday condemned to another parliamentary election after the High Court annulled the Liberal Democrats' two-vote victory on 1 May. And as Michael Streeter discovers, the ruling could mean a re-run that is bitter and closely fought. The need for a new election in the Hampshire seat follows an extraordinary series of events in May, when the sitting Tory MP and health minister Gerry Malone saw his majority of 9,318 whittled down to a deficit of two.

This result, the smallest majority for 87 years, came after two recounts and immediately prompted Tory accusations that mistakes by election officials had denied Mr Malone victory. In particular, the former MP claimed that the failure by the returning officer's staff to stamp 55 ballot papers with an official mark, leading to their rejection, cost him a win - also by two votes.

Yesterday, Lord Justice and Mr Justice Gage accepted Mr Malone's arguments at a brief High Court hearing and agreed to void the election result.

The court's decision will be reported to the Speaker when the House of Commons re-assembles in three weeks, and she will announce the date of a by-election - probably before Christmas.

Mr Oaten will remain MP until the by-election. The returning officer, Lindsay Garrett Fox, will bear the pounds 50,000 costs of the hearing but is believed to be insured.

After the judgment, Mr Oaten, who did not oppose the petition, said: "I'm delighted that with a by-election the people of Winchester can settle this."

Mr Oaten said at the general election that he had put forward a programme to save the NHS and improve education and was confident of victory.

However, Mr Malone was in bullish mood, claiming that he had already "won" in May. The party had won the Uxbridge by-election and the public mood was swinging to them, he said.

The outcome of the new election will be hard to call. The Liberal Democrats felt cheated in the May poll by a "hoax" candidate, Richard Huggett, who stood as the "Liberal Democrat - Top Choice for Parliament" candidate and picked up 640 votes.

Against that the Referendum Party and UK Independence Party, both now disbanded, attracted more than 2,000 votes between them - votes most likely to go to Mr Malone.

Labour, whose candidate picked up 6,500 votes in May, are almost certain to stand again, although they left the door just ajar to a possible agreement with the Liberal Democrats when sources said it was "highly unlikely" they would not put up someone - without ruling it out.

The last time a parliamentary result was annulled was at Exeter in 1910, when the Liberals won the original poll by three votes. The Conservatives won the re-run - by one vote.

Winchester's acting returning officer, David Cowan, welcomed yesterday's ruling but added: "There is probably a one in ten thousand chance of these circumstances happening."

In a separate issue, police have investigated two alleged cases of personation in the Winchester election , and one person is due before Basingstoke magistrates next week charged under the 1983 Representation of the Peoples Act.

e In the May poll the Liberal Democrats received 26,100 votes; the Conservatives 26,098; and Labour 6,528.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker