Tory chief to fight Eastleigh

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The Independent Online
CONSERVATIVES in Eastleigh last night chose Stephen Reid as their candidate to try to stop the loss of their third successive safe seat in southern England, writes Martin Whitfield.

Mr Reid, 42, leader of Basingstoke council, was selected by about 150 members of the Hampshire Association from a shortlist of three. A date has not been set for the by-election caused by the death last month of Stephen Milligan, found in bizarre circumstances in his London flat.

Nominations for the Labour candidate closed today while the Liberal Democrats revealed a shortlist of three hopefuls yesterday. Mr Reid, who is married with three sons and a daughter, will defend a majority of 17,702.

A date for the ballot has not yet been fixed, but early opinion polls already suggest that the Liberal Democrats could win their third victory after triumphs in Newbury and Christchurch.

The Liberal Democrat nominations include Keith House, who is the party's leader on Eastleigh council; David Chidgey, who came second to Mr Milligan in the 1992 general election and has been selected as the party's candidate in the European elections; and Dr Jenny Tonge, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in Richmond and Barnes in 1992.

Labour will select its shortlist on Wednesday before a ballot of the party's local membership is held, with the result due on 15 March.

The Liberal Democrats hope to announce their candidate at the end of next week following a meeting on Tuesday.