Rob Hayward had trimmed his droopy black moustache for the launch of his campaign on law and order, to avoid further alienating the Tory voters who have retired to area. In Christchurch, the ex-colonel types are used to military-style moustaches.
By polling day on 29 July, Mr Hayward's moustache may be pencil thin, but it is unlikely to rescue this seat. The Tories yesterday were on the defensive at every turn.
Opening with their strongest card - the fear of crime among the elderly - Mr Hayward and a visiting Home Office minister, David Maclean, had to explain why crime was rising in places like Christchurch after 14 years of the Tories in power. One answer offered by Mr Maclean was that criminals were inventing new crimes, such as computer pornography. He went to see a demonstration of a new long baton at the local police station, but was on the receiving end of a police assault over the Sheehy report on job and pay cuts in the police force.
After impressing Mr Maclean with the baton, Sergeant Eddie Goldsmith told reporters the whole police force was worried about the Sheehy report. 'It is a change which is not going to do any good,' he said.
Mr Maclean said the report was being considered and may not be carried out. He then beat a retreat to go canvassing in the safety of one of the newer residential estates.
Mudeford is the sort of area that made this seat an unshakeable Tory stronghold with a 23,015 majority for Robert Adley, whose death caused the by-election. But Mr Hayward and Mr Maclean suffered more blows there.
A former civil servant, Raymond Parr, was cleaning his windows in shorts. Mr Parr, 74, and his wife, had voted Tory all their lives, but were considering switching to the Liberal Democrats. 'Vat on fuel is the thing. That is hitting people right in the bread basket,' Mr Parr said.
Across the road, Mr Hayward lost a first-time voter over student loans. Laura Cracknell, 19, a psychology student, and her father, Norman, 49, said they were not going to vote for the Tories because they were out of touch.
Meanwhile, Diana Maddock, the Liberal Democrat candidate, was garnering votes on the morning train to Brockenhurst. She disclosed plans to halve the local timetable to increase profits before the privatisation of the railways, which Mr Hayward supports and which Mr Adley opposed.
John Prescott, Labour's transport spokesman, will be in town today to support Labour's candidate, Nigel Lickley, and do more grievous bodily harm on the Tories, even if it means electing a Liberal Democrat.
1992 election: R Adley (Con) 36,627 (63.5 per cent); D Bussey (Lib Dem) 13,612 (23.6); A Lloyd 6,997 (12.1); J Barratt (Nat Law) 243 (0.4); A Wareham (Raving) 175 (0.3). Con Maj 23,015. Electorate 71,469. Turn-out 80.9 per cent.Reuse content