VOTERS go to the polls today (Thursday, May 6) in local and national elections that could turn the political landscape of central Hampshire upside down.
The Liberal Democrats are aiming to hold the marginal constituencies of Winchester, Eastleigh and Romsey.
Meanwhile, the Tories hope to recapture them and take the new Meon Valley seat in the face of stiff Lib Dem opposition.
District council elections are also being held and the Conservatives in Winchester are defending a majority of just one in the chamber.
Of 19 seats up for re-election this year, the Tories hold 13 while the opposition Lib Dems only have four.
To remain the largest party, the Conservatives will have to keep most of the seats they won in 2006 shortly after the Mark Oaten scandal.
Mr Oaten is not standing this time around, so the city will have a new MP.
Martin Tod is flying the Lib Dem flag and has been locked in battle with Tory opponent Steve Brine for more than
Some Tory activists complained last week that some of their election banners were being stolen or defaced.
This week, the Lib Dems said many of theirs had fallen foul of vandals too.
The Lib Dem campaign was boosted by a visit from party heavyweight Vince Cable last week.
He met Mr Tod in Chandler’s Ford, which is now part of the Winchester constituency after boundary changes.
Mr Brine also visited the ‘new territory’ last Thursday, making a trip to Hiltingbury with shadow communities secretary, Caroline Spelman.
During her visit she promoted the Tory policy to scrap Government housing targets.
After that, shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, joined Mr Brine in visiting senior citizens at the Old Parsonage in Otterbourne, which is run by
Mr Lansley said: “I have joined Steve Brine in Winchester several times in recent years and I know he will be a strong defender of local NHS services if elected.”
The other candidates in Winchester are Patrick Davies for Labour, Jocelyn Penn-Bull for UKIP and Mark Lancaster for the English Democrats.
Seven people are vying for the Meon Valley seat including George Hollingbery for the Conservatives and Liz Leffman for the Lib Dems.
Howard Linsley for Labour, Steve Harris for UKIP, Pat Harris for the English Democrats, Sarah Coats for the Animal Protection Party and independent Graeme Quar are the others.
The Eastleigh and Romsey constituencies are also expected to produce a close contest. Both seats are held by the Lib Dems but with wafer-thin majorities over the Tories.
For election coverage tonight see the Hampshire Chronicle website