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Tories' dominance faces challenge as voters go to the polls

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Polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm today (Thursday)
Polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm today (Thursday)

VOTERS are going to the polls today (Thursday) with the ruling Conservatives facing a challenge to their huge majority on New Forest District Council.

The first result came in weeks ago without a ballot being cast as Cllr Diane Andrews, a Tory cabinet member, was returned unopposed in the Bramshaw, Copythorne North and Minstead ward.

The other 59 seats will be fought out largely between the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Labour. Smaller parties in the mix include the Green party, UKIP and several Independents.

The polls open at 7am and will close at 10pm tonight. The final results for NFDC are expected by about 3am tomorrow at the election count at Applemore leisure centre in Hythe.

Currently there are 56 Tory members, two Lib Dems, and one Independent. One seat is vacant following the death of Cllr Brian Lucas last year.

As reported in the A&T, only the Tories have managed to field a full slate of candidates, with 30 put up by Labour – who do not have any members on the council – and 28 by the Lib Dems.

However, Tory councillors are privately predicting a low turnout from their traditional supporters, and fear rival parties may make a string of wins.

Party activists have been reporting anger on the doorstep from voters alienated by the Brexit deadlock in Westminster.

One Tory councillor even forecast some seats being taken by Labour, which for a long time has polled badly in the New Forest.

The full list of NFDC candidates is available here.

Town and parish councils

Today there is also voting in some of the district’s 37 towns and parishes, although in most there have not been enough candidates to force a contest.

There are ballots in at least one ward for the town councils of Lymington and Pennington, New Milton, Ringwood, Totton, and Fordingbridge.

There are also votes in the parishes of Milford, Fawley, Hythe and Dibden, Minstead, Copythorne, Hale, and Whitsbury.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Christchurch voters today are for the first time choosing their representatives on the newly-formed Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

There are 10 seats within the former borough council area up for grabs on the new 76-seat unitary council.

There are also elections for the newly formed Highcliffe & Walkford Neighbourhood Council and Christchurch Town Council. There were not enough candidates to trigger ballots for Burton and Winkton or Hurn parish councils.

For a full list of candidates, click here.

European elections

Unless a withdrawal agreement is settled between the UK and EU, polling stations are set to be open again on 23rd May for the European Parliament elections, with the New Forest helping to choose the 10 members of the UK’s south-east region.

There are 85 runners in total from nine parties and three Independents. The electoral area comprises Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Christchurch residents will be casting their ballots to choose the six MEPs representing the south-west, with an overall list of 41 candidates, including eight parties and Independents.

The region includes Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol and Glouces-tershire.

The Brexit Party was the first out of the gate to campaign locally with a public meeting for its six south-west candidates, headed by former Tory Ann Widdecombe, planned at Highcliffe Castle's Great Hall on Thursday 16th May at 7pm.

In European Parliament elections voters choose their preferred party rather than candi-date, as ballots are counted under a version of proportional representation.

The list of south-east candidates for the European Parliament is available online here.

The south-west list is here.

The last registration date for anyone not already on the electoral roll is 7th May. The deadline for postal votes applications is 5pm on 8th May, proxy votes at 5pm on 15th May, and emergency proxy votes at 5pm on 23rd May.

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