THE date has been set for the UK to go to the polls after the Prime Minister called a general election.
While campaigning has been under way for months Prime Minister Gordon Brown this morning went to Buckingham Palace to formally seek a dissolution of Parliament.
The long awaited move has set the stage for an election on May 6, alongside local council polls.
Parliament will be dissolved next Monday.
The Daily Echo will be featuring comprehensive coverage of the campaign across south Hampshire in the coming weeks.
Today we introduce video profiles of the main candidates explaining why they feel they deserve your vote.
The electoral map has changed somewhat since the last general election in 2005 with some minor boundaries changes and the creation of a new constituency in Meon Valley, largely from parts of Winchester and East Hampshire, and some 600 voters from Havant.
They need a huge swing in the share of the national vote of about seven per cent, or a ten point poll lead to avoid a hung parliament.
Romsey MP Sandra Gidley held her seat in 2005 with the slimmest of majorities – just 125 votes. Tory challenger Caroline Nokes hopes she can go one better this time and take the seat.
Eastleigh MP and former leadership contender Chris Huhne is the highest profile Lib Dem with a vulnerable majority, of 1.1 per cent.
Meanwhile, Labour will be fighting to hold its two seats in Southampton where Cabinet minister John Denham and Alan Whitehead face a battle with leading Tory city councillors Royston Smith and Jeremy Moulton.
COUNTDOWN TO GENERAL ELECTION
This is the likely timetable in the run-up to polling day:
:: Tuesday April 6
The Prime Minister asks the Queen to dissolve Parliament and announces the date to the public.
:: Tuesday April 6 to Thursday April 8/Friday April 9
Parliamentary ''wash-up'' period, as loose ends of legislation are tied up.
:: Monday April 12
Parliament is officially dissolved. Writs are issued for each of the 650 constituencies.
:: Tuesday April 20
Nomination papers for candidates must be submitted by 4pm. Candidate lists published after 5pm. Last day for voter registration and to apply for a postal vote.
:: Tuesday April 27
Last day to apply for a proxy vote.
:: Thursday May 6
Polling day, with polls open from 7am to 10pm.