MARTIN Tod has been chosen to keep the Liberal Democrat flag flying in Winchester when Mark Oaten stands down at the next General Election.

The party chose Mr Tod, who lives in Newbury, to fight for the parliamentary seat which Mr Oaten said he will not defend next time round.

Mr Oaten decided in July that he would quit politics, in the wake of his much-publicised association with a male prostititute, which hit the national headlines earlier this year.

In May, the Lib Dems lost several seats in the Winchester City Council elections, with the Tories taking charge after a decade in opposition.

Mr Tod, 42, has already run for Westminster twice. He stood in Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush in 2001, and North West Hampshire in 2005.

But Winchester could be a better prospect for Mr Tod, given that the Lib Dems have held the seat since 1997.

Boundary changes, which come into effect at the next election, might also help his cause.

Northern parts of Chandler's Ford are to become part of the Winchester constituency, while it will lose some pro-Conservative areas to the new more rural Meon Valley seat.

Mr Tod, a self-employed marketing consultant, said: "Speaking to people in the local party, our performance at the last local elections is seen as a wake-up call, and we will respond accordingly.

"The important thing is that no politician should ever take the voters for granted."

Mr Tod was selected after Winchester Lib Dems met at Peter Symonds' College last Saturday.

Of 20 applicants, five short-listed candidates - who all live outside the constituency - were invited to make their case.

Around 300 local members voted, making Mr Tod the winner. The runners-up were Sarah Carr, Gary Lawson, Jacqueline McGuinness and Sue Tarrant.

Harvey Cole, chairman of Winchester Lib Dems, said: "We look forward to working with Mr Tod. He has emerged from what has proved to be very strong competition."

Mr Tod lives with his wife, Michaela, and is now planning to move to Winchester.

He has some ancestral roots in the city, as his great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Garnier, was dean of the cathedral in the 1860s.

During that time, he lobbied for Winchester's first public sewerage system. As a result, a garden beside the cathedral and Garnier Road at Bar End were named after him.

Mr Tod's only declared opponent so far is Steve Brine, who was chosen as Conservative candidate for Winchester last month.

The next general election is due to take place no later than mid-2010.

l Harvey Cole has stood down as chairman of Winchester Lib Dems.

He said: "Being a new constituency with a new candidate, I think it was a good time to make a change."

A political veteran, Mr Cole spent three years as party chairman in Winchester. County council member for Itchen Valley, Cllr Jacqui Porter, will be his successor.