This live event has finished
- Lib Dem Mike Thornton is new Eastleigh MP
- Wins with majority of 1,771
- UKIP shock second pushing Tories into third
Well, that's it, all over.
So it's congratulations and good luck to new Eastleigh MP Mike Thornton.
And as the Liberal Democrats party into the small hours all that remains for us to do is do a Maria Hutchings and just leave them to it!
But don't forget to see today's Daily Echo by-election special edition for all the reaction and background to the Eastleigh result.
The Liberal Democrat celebrations will continue this morning when party leader Nick Clegg is expected at the Ageas Bowl.
He added: "She is a pretty emotional sort. It has been pretty tough for her."
When asked why his candidate had left in such disappointing manner a Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery told the Daily Echo: "Have you ever met Maria."
Maria Hutchings had left the count without so much as an utterance to the press.
Asked how she was looking forward to life as a political wife, Mrs Thorton said she had "not thought that far ahead yet."
"I'm just overwhelmed," she said.
She told the Daily Echo: "I am very proud of him - it has been an absolutely crazy three weeks. He has coped very well and I have had to make him lots of tea and coffee."
She entered the election count arm in arm with the Lib Dem and watched with joy as he delivered his victory speech.
Mike Thornton's wife Peta said she felt "overwhelmed" by her husband's victory.
Bizarre scenes at the end as winner Mike Thornton was left on the stage alone, as the media swarmed beaten Tory candidate Maria Hutchings as she was ushered out of the side door
He adds that the Lib Dems are "winning here" - a reference to the slogan on their billboards.
Thanks Peta his wife for support.
"Eastleigh is a beautiful part of the country" he promises to be "hard working constituency MP."
Cries of We Like Mike fill the hall
Thornton pays tribute to rival candidates for "reasonable and well mannered campaign."
Praises Lib Dem supporters as being "tremendous boost".
Mike Thornton is the new Eastleigh MP with a majority of 1,771
Here is the full list of the results
· COLIN BEX - Wessex regionalists - 30
· DAVID BISHOP - Elvis Loves Pets Party - 72
· JIM DUGGAN - Peace Party - 128
· RAY HALL - Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party - 235
· HOWLING LAUD HOPE - Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party - 136
· MARIA HUTCHINGS - Conservative - 10, 559
· DIANE JAMES - UK Independence Party - 11,571
· DR IAIN MACLENNAN - National Health Action Party - 392
· KEVIN MILBURN - Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship" - 163
· JOHN O'FARRELL - Labour - 4, 088
· DARREN PROCTER - Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - 62
· DANNY STUPPLE - Independent - 768
· MIKE THORNTON - Liberal Democrats - 13,342
· MICHAEL WALTERS - The English Democrats - "Putting England First!" - 70.
- Lib Dems
Candidates called to stage...
There's an air of inevitability about the impending result now.
Tory campaigners are sat glum faced at the far side of the hall. They look like a beaten team
Diane James posing for pics with a beaming smile and two thumbs up.
She is clearly happy with her performance in this by-election - but is it enough to upset the odds?
Well that 2am time mentioned by Keith House has come and gone.
We are expecting a result to be announced imminently
Labour candidate John O'Farrell said: "I think it was a good campaign, really positive with lots of new members for the Labour Party and lots of new activists in the area, which sets us up for future elections."
Mrs Hutchings just about cracks a smile as she enters the building.
But she is ushered into the centre of the hall without saying a word to the assembled press.
Maria Hutchings arrives to a muted reception.
She hugs her campaigners and takes a seat at the far side of the hall - a far cry from the jubilant entrance of her victorious rival Mike Thornton.
Maria Hutchings due to arrive in one minute, we are told.
The decibels have really gone up a notch or four here.
Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings now about to enter the arena.
Southampton Test Alan Whitehead has arrived
No sign of Tory hopeful Maria Hutchings yet but Labour candidate John O'Farrell has just arrived to applause from his supporters.
Still no sign of Maria Hutchings or John O'Farrell...
Nigel Farage added: "I think it has been amazing. We have had real momentum and there has been tremendous excitement"
Mrs James says they have "done very well" adding: "Let's just see what happens."
Nigel Farage says he has no regrets about not running himself.
Mrs James enters the fray alongside party leader Nigel Farage.
They haven't given up on this by election just yet! Is there to be a late twist in this epic tale?
UKIP trying to push in with their placards but it's a see of orange as Thornton storms on the counting hall with his wife Peta by his side beaming.
UKIP candidate Diane James has now arrived. Suddenly it's all kicking off here!!
He reiterates his desire to "maintain green spaces".
That is despite backing the 1,400 home Boorley Green development in the constituency.
He adds that despite coalition the Lib Dems have maintained "core beliefs" and "identity"
The Lib Dem candidate adds: "Behind me is a whole bunch of people who want to help me do my job really well."
Says he is "really high" and needs his wife and daughter to bring him back down to earth
The clock may be approaching 1.30am but Mike Thornton says he is "as wide awake now as I have been in my whole life."
Thornton says he is "absolutely exhilarant" at impending victory announcement.
There could be a lot of eggs on a lot of faces if they lose this by-election now.
We've still had no official announcement remember!
It's descended into a media circus here as everyone clamours to speak to the Lib Dem candidate.
Still waiting official count but they feel they have won this
Mike Thornton added: "People of Eastleigh have put their trust in me.
"They know they can trust me."
Chanting Lib Dem supporters gathered outside with placards chanting "we like Mike!"
Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton has arrived.
"We think we've won," he announced.
Sat watching the Eastleigh by election result on the BBC. And I wonder why im single— @RichieVeitch 01 March 2013
If the Tories finished behind Ukip that represent a ''crisis'', declared influential Tory MP David Davis tonight.
Crowd of cameramen have amassed at the door of the counting hall - though the Lib Dem candidate could be 20 minutes yet.
The big guns continue to play the waiting game here.
If Eastleigh Borough Council leader Keith House was right, they have just over an hour to get here before the count
There's definitely a feeling in the air here that this is the calm before the storm
Excitement and anticipation building here as counters sort the ballot papers into piles.
Lib Dems said they were already certain of retaining the Hampshire seat in the first head-to-head contest with the Conservatives since they joined them in the coalition Government.
It was also clear however that Ukip had eaten dramatically into both parties' vote and could push the Conservatives into third place - a significant blow to Mr Cameron.
Liberal Democrats appear to have claimed victory in there, but a late surge by the UK Independence Party threatened to cause David Cameron, pictured below with his candidate Maria Hutchings, a big political headache.
Eastleigh council leader Keith House, centre in the beige jacket, has been keeping a close eye on proceedings.
Former MP Neil Hamilton, who was campaigning in Eastleigh at the weekend, has arrived to support UKIP and gone straight on the radio.
The count has attracted a celebrity.
They were right.
Verification stage of count has been completed and an announcement reveals the official turnout was 52.8 per cent.
That's down on the 69 per cent at the last general election.
Whispers circulating here suggest that candidates have been told there was a 52% turnout for this by-election.
The hall falls quiet as an announcement is made calling a representative from each of the 14 parties to the stage...
If that is the case things must be going like clockwork.
Things running on time?
That's a bit weird, Eastleigh is supposed to be a railway town!!
That's why there's nobody counting.
Eastleigh Borough Council leader Keith House reckons we could be on for an early finish here.
He tells the Daily Echo we could be on for a 2am finish.
Hold on a minute, if you look closely at this picture of the count there appears to be something missing.
Yes, you guessed it - there's nobody counting.....come on let's crack on with it!
Still plenty of movement in and out of the doors here, but as the clock edges past midnight there's still no sign of candidates from the main political parties.
Some more supporters arrive:
Peace Party candidate Jim Duggan appears in relaxed mood, inquiring whether Fleming Park has a bar - now there's an idea.
Either that or he's in need of a dash of Dutch courage.
As the clock nears midnight it's time to break out the sweeties...pass one over here then.
Of the 14,200 postal votes sent out to residents, 10,000 of those had been sent in by midday today. Final figures have not yet been revealed.
But it's worth pointing out that many of those votes would have been cast before news of the Rennard scandal broke.
Will that have an affect on tonight's result?
If nothing else, they've certainly added some colour to the occasion, sporting massive top hats and Union Jack tuxedos.
The Monster Raving Loonies have hit the nail on the head.
"If every smile was a vote we would win," declares Howling Laud Hope
The counting goes on... and on...look at all those boxes - full of ballot papers.
Cheers go up from Monster Raving Loony party campaigners as their candidate Howling Laud Hope arrives.
What an entrance...
They are clearly coming here with optimism, shouting about the "famous victory" they predict to achieve later tonight.
At last the entertainment has arrived!!
Did I say goldfish bowl? It's more like being in the theatre - look at that, one of the audience has even brought her own binoculars.
Meanwhile here in Fleming Park it's almost like a human goldfish bowl.
The counters are sat in the middle of the room surrounded by party supporters and the UK's media looking in on them.
It adds: "We have never fought a crucial by-election under such difficult circumstances – probably no party has.
"Regardless of the result this campaign has been a fantastic sign of our strength and a huge testament to the hundreds of volunteers who gave their time and effort for us throughout the campaign."
Their statement says: "It is clearly going to be very close. We have run an excellent campaign and are cautiously optimistic as we feel we have reached our voters.
"The big question is whether the Conservatives have been able to turn out their vote. Labour will clearly finish fourth behind UKIP.
"UKIP have had a big presence in Eastleigh and if they are able to turn out their vote they will do very well."
The Lib Dems believe it could be squeaky close.
Wessex Regionalist candidate Colin Bex has now arrived at Fleming Park.
Here is Colin:
The front runners are leaving it late to make their grand entrance here
The Liberal Democrats have just released a statement on how they believe the poll has gone...
But far from being put off politics, Danny said the experience has strengthened his passion for promoting "local civic responsibility"
Independent candidate Danny Stupple says he "felt the force of the machine" during the by election campaign, as he went head to head with the heavyweights of British politics.
National Health Action Party candidate Iain MacLennan, below, has arrived for the count.
For many it's a two-horse race between the Tories and the Lib Dems.
But UKIP supporters are confident they can cause an upset here.
Everyone you speak to here is anticipating a very close race here tonight. 'Recount' seems to be the buzzword of the night...
It could be a long night!
Independent candidate Danny Stupple, below, has arrived at Fleming Park.
Still no sign of messers Thornton, Hutchings, O'Farrell or James though
Police presence here tonight.
Here's what Eastleigh Sgt Chris Spellerberg said: "Today, a policing operation has been put in place to ensure any allegations of malpractice or election fraud are dealt with transparently and impartially.
"We have officers deployed specifically assigned to election duties who are visible at poling station venues and also later at the count venue.
"This is standard practice for any election."
Even the poilce get in on the election act.
The ballot boxes are being piled high now.
They contain hundreds of precious ballot papers that will decide the outcome of tonights by-election.
Plenty of Lib Dem Campaigners milling around with "I like Mike" stickers.
Fareham Borough Council leader Sean Woodward, below, has arrived at the count.
His Eastleigh counterpart Keith House is also here. He has been heavily involved in the Lib Dem campaign.
Count supervisors will record the number of votes cast for each candidate.
Any ‘doubtful’ ballot papers will be kept to one side.
The acting returning officer or one of his deputies will adjudicate the doubtful papers in the presence of the candidates and agents.
After matching the number of ballot papers to the ballot paper account, the verified ballot papers will be placed into receptacles.
The verified postal votes are added to the receptacles at this stage.
Once all the ballot papers have been verified and all the postal votes have been processed the count can begin.
The ballot papers will again be counted face up into bundles of 25 and 100, this time for each candidate.
Counting assistants unfold and count the ballotpapers face up into bundles of 25 and then 100 and the total number counted.
They are not yet being sorted by vote recorded for each candidate – this stage is just to ascertain the total number of votes cast.
Apparently there is an army of more than 50 counters...will we get that all important result by about 2am?
Let the counting begin...
Plenty of campaigners here from the main parties but no sign of their candidates as yet.
Southampton Itchen MP John Denham arrives to join the Labour camp
The clock barely struck 10 when the ballot box arrived at Fleming Park.
Over in Fleming Park where the count will take place the counters are primed and in position.
Daily Echo reporter Sian Davies says all the media are jostling for space and the main parties are arriving.
There's less than 15 minutes to go to before polling closes. We are told results are expected at about 2am tonight all going well. But this blog will let you know if it is earlier or later than that.
It's less than one hour now before the last ballot paper drops into the box and polling closes.
Any of you who hasn't voted yet get out there now....you haven't been put through hell with all that canvassing and campaigning for nothing!
Just when you thought you are safe to forget politics for a while, put your feet up and switch on the box.... BBC 1 will be beaming live from Eastleigh for Question time and then again with a By-Election special. That's more four hours of total coverage folks!!
There's no escape.
Ukip now become 2nd favourite to win Eastleigh on Betfair— @MSmithsonPB 28 February 2013
That leaflet fatigue I mentioned yesterday @Mike4Eastleigh http://t.co/jXwXnBrkmp— @adriansandersmp 28 February 2013
Meanwhile, Labour's John Prescott says the Tories are using UKIP colour scheme on their leaflets as a ploy to encourage votes from voters who would possible vote for Diane James.
Remarkable! Tory leaflet using UKIP colours to get votes! http://t.co/Mk6HY4JPBN (via @stevenmorris20) #desperate #Eastleigh— @johnprescott 28 February 2013
"Please no more UKIP, Tory, racist or homophobic propaganda. Thank You!" Note found on #Eastleigh door #EastLY http://t.co/UTvB9ASoGg— @liberalyouth 24 February 2013
#Eastleigh We propose that Eastleigh Airport be renamed the Benny Hill Airport in honour of Eastleigh's most famous son.— @LoonyPartyNews 27 February 2013
It's voting day in Eastleigh, wishing Michael Walters standing for the English Democrats all the best. :)— @EnglishVoice 28 February 2013
In case you missed it earlier, have a vote on our poll below:
Interesting experience going in to Fair Oak Village Hall and seeing my own name (@danny4eastleigh) on a ballot paper! http://t.co/ZdxSfLOZK3— @danny4eastleigh 28 February 2013
If the Eastleigh by-election needs a bit more colour then Elvis Loves Pets Party candidate certainly provides it. The 68-year-old candidate has drawn a bedroom art show at his home in Nottingham.
Several political figures are decipted in his pictures these include George Osborne, Ed Miliband and Iain Duncan Smith.
Conservative supporter Elliot Nichols who was outside with representatives from UKIP and the Liberal Democrats said they were helping each other out.
He said: “We’re co-operating - we’re all cold and standing in the same place.”
At nearby polling station at Crestwood College, party activists had seen around 160 people go through the doors in the last two-and-half hours and probably 200 in total.
Activists for the Tories, Liberal Democrats and UKIP stationed at St Peter’s Church, Boyatt Wood said there had not been a rush of people but thought they had seen around 100 people voting.
Polling stations are reporting a steady stream of people through the doors.
The National Health Action party’s Dr Iain Maclennan, from Bursledon, was at the polling station at the Pylands Wood Centre, in Chamberlayne Road, Bursledon at lunchtime.
His wife Linda and step-daughter Rebecca Davies will vote in the next few hours.
He said he would be spending the day in the borough “trying to be as visible as possible” and trying to persuade voters to his cause.
Another Eastleigh by-election candidate has cast his vote.
Polls open in #Eastleigh & some people are voting for me which feels weird if I'm honest. Feel v proud of how hard the team have worked here— @mrjohnofarrell 28 February 2013
We are 3 months old, have no resources, no infrastructure on ground, just passion & enthusiasm of volunteers. But NHS is worth fighting for.— @NHAparty 28 February 2013
Labour candidate John O'Farrell cannot vote today as he doesn't live in the constituency, but he has been out and about trying to drum up some last minute support.
He has been joined by Southampton Itchen Labour MP John Denham.
UKIP has told how they lost power at their Eastleigh by-election offices this morning.
The headquarters, at the top of Market Street, was among the premises affected by a power cut yesterday following a fire at a nearby substation, but power had been restored yesterday afternoon.
Good news for hungry voters: Sainsbury's is open this morning having been closed yesterday when a dramatic fireball next door rudely interrupted the by-election.
Yet another reader has contacted the Daily Echo about the amount of literature she's received over the last few weeks.
Juliet Preston said: I'm fed up with the phone calls,leaflets,hand or post delivered and the callers. After putting an A4 notice on my door asking them to stop the Conservative Party didn't read it until they had posted it very slowly and quietly and they only took the leaflet back if "I insist".
Christian Party candidate Kevin Milburn told the Daily Echo he has already voted in the by-election.
The candidate, from Allbrook, sent his ballot paper in by post last week.
Tory candidate Maria Hutchings has just cast her vote for the election.
She was at a polling station in the West End Parish Centre, on Chapel Road with her mother Victoria Payne and her husband Stuart, who also cast their votes.
Here she is wqith David Cameron earlier in the campaign.
Big guns from the big parties have been descending on Eastleigh almost everyday for the last three weeks – but we have yet to hear whether the likes of David Cameron, Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg will be making appearances today.
EASTLEIGH Borough Council have reported dealing with unprecedented media interest in today’s by-election with 140 journalists from newspaper, radio and television requesting clearance for coverage of tonight’s count.
At a normal general election it would expect around 30.
“There’s a massive media frenzy for it,” said a spokesman.
If today's the 1st or the 101st time you've voted, please use your vote to say 'Principles matter more than Parties'.— @danny4eastleigh 28 February 2013
And here is a picture of the entire march - including every single protestor - not too cold for them.
Organsiers wanted 200 protestors but they fell short by...198!!!
Yes, thast's right just two turned up.
Organisers blamed the weather and the fact it was short notice.
Cold, yes but hardly Arctic?
Here's the weather for Eastleigh today.
The anti-fluoride march through Eastleigh town centre is over - and in the end hopes of 200 people seemed a little optimistic!
9:33am Thu 28 Feb 13
Vote Monster Raving Looney. Let's get the airport renamed 'Benny Hill International' and really put the place on the map!!
The fluoride protest march is underway and organsiers are anticipating as many as 200 people taking to the streets of Eastleigh...
Just when you thought the protest marches were over, members of Hampshire Against Fluoridation are currently gathering in Eastleigh to make their voices heard.
They are planning a slow procession through the town to the Masonic Hall in Cranbury Road where voting will be taking place.
Their morning of action comes just weeks after health bosses admitted for the first time they don't expect fluoridation to be in place until 2014 - five years after it was given the green light.
The scheme, aimed at improving dental health, would cover parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.
Campaigners say the Strategic Health Authority (SHA) should now “give up” on the delayed project, saying it is “morally and ethically” wrong to fluoridate water while questions remain over its impact.
For all thee fluoride debate see our special section - click here
Have we heard about the fluoride issue yet during this campaign?
These bookies in Eastleigh town centre have the Lib Dems as favourites but it's giong to be a close call. Fancy a quid on Ray Hall of Beer Baccy and Crump Party!
I voted in #Eastleigh this morning. Have you? http://t.co/nkfltqqV0V— @Mike4Eastleigh 28 February 2013
IT technician and dad-of-two Leo Thompson, 28, from Oaktree Place in Hedge End is totally “fed up” with it.
He called the Daily Echo this morning to say he had been woken at 6am today to the sound of “clattering letter boxes” while days earlier campaigners had left their car running at around the same time while they delivered leaflets along the street.
“They come with an army of deliverers who have no respect for people who have to go to work and who have kids in bed. I’ve had enough leaflets to sink a battle ship.”
They've been up with the larks - rattling people's letter boxes putting through their leaflets as early as 6am.
The canvassers have certainly been keen to get their message out - just ask residents in Hedge End.
Liberal Democrat Mike Thornton is hoping to retain the seat for his party.
Mike, pictured below with party bigwig Paddy Ashdown earlier this week, cast his vote in the by-election.
He and his wife stopped at the polling station at Bishopstoke Methodist Church, in Sedgwick Road, Bishopstoke, earlier this morning as she walked to work.
A quick vote for all the Eastleigh residents out there about what they will be doing today:
The parties are out in force at the polling stations.
But there doesn't seem any animiosity between them.
These three, sporting their colours, seem to be getting along just fine!
Alan, 64, from Arnold Road, said: "I've recycled enough rubbish in my house from all the leaflets to rebuild a forest.
"And its the phone calls as well. We are ex directory and we have still had loads of people on the phone.
"It's got on my nerves. It's got on everyones nerves. I'll be glad when its over, really glad."
Among the residents in Eastleigh who are glad it's all over is Alan Cardy, below.
Ollie Schofield, 27, is among those to have cast his vote this morning.
He said: "I'll be glad when it's over. I've had so much stuff through the door it's been relentless.
"I just hope we get the right person who cares about Eastleigh. Some of them only seem to be in it for the media attention."
It's a similar story just around the corner at Emmanuel Baptist Church, on Cherbourg Road.
Campaigners from the Tories, Lib Dems and UKIP are already here. They tell me that only around 20 people have been through the doors since 7.15am.
Despite all the hype the voters of Eastleigh are hardly queuing round the block to fulfil their democratic right.
This polling station at the Cranbury Centre, on Cranbury Rd, Eastleigh appeared deserted appart from election officials.
From then on it's anybody's guess when the result will be announced.
Optimistically the borough's returning officer anticipates to reveal new MP for Easteligh around aboput 2am tomorrow morning.
After that the ballot boxes will be taken to Fleming Park Leisure Centre where an army of up to 80 counters will start totting up the votes.
More than 50 polling stations are open across the borough until 10pm tonight.
At our election page you'll not only find all the latest election news but profiles of all the main candidates as well as a video from each of the 14 in the race explaining why they deserve your vote.
If, despite the constant bombardment of election propoganda, you still haven't made your mind up go to our special Eastleigh by-election 2013 section - just click here
There are 14 candidates fighting it out for your vote.
They are, if you don't already know:
- COLIN BEX - Wessex regionalists
- DAVID BISHOP - Elvis Loves Pets Party
- JIM DUGGAN - Peace Party
- RAY HALL - Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party
- HOWLING LAUD HOPE - Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party
- MARIA HUTCHINGS - Conservative
- DIANE JAMES - UK Independence Party
- DR IAIN MACLENNAN - National Health Action Party
- KEVIN MILBURN - Christian Party "Proclaiming Christ's Lordship"
- JOHN O'FARRELL - Labour
- DARREN PROCTER - Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
- DANNY STUPPLE - Independent
- MIKE THORNTON - Liberal Democrats
- MICHAEL WALTERS - The English Democrats - "Putting England First!"
For many it has just been too much - including this householder from Hamble.
Since then the good people of Eastleigh have been inundated with canvassers, leaflets, junk mail and a constant flow of high profile poliitican.
It seems a long time since former MP Chris Huhne, below, resigned after admitting that he got his wife to take his points for speeding.
After 24 days of competitive and bitter electioneering it is D-Day.
They're finally open - it's polling day in the Eastleigh by-election.