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Key battle grounds of Southampton Itchen constituency
ITCHEN will be one of most heavyweight general election duels across Hampshire.
The Southampton seat will pitch two of the city’s most high profile politicians against each other.
It may be a long way down the Tory target list but they hope their energetic challenger Royston Smith will give Labour Cabinet minister John Denham a decent scrap.
Mr Denham holds a healthy majority of nearly 9,000. Tories need the biggest national swing from Labour in 60 years to unseat him.
Securing the country’s recovery and defending the Labour Government’s record in Southampton are a central theme to Mr Denham’s campaign, and he is proud to be pictured alongside premier Gordon Brown on campaign leaflets – unlike many Labour MPs.
The profile of Tory candidate Royston Smith, a leading local councillor, has risen after his party seized control of the city council two years ago and he is calling for change.
Both have put jobs at the heart of the pitches to local voters.
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Cllr Smith claims workers would be protected from further job losses which have hit the city in recent years, notably at the Ford factory in Swaythling, by reversing Labour’s National Insurance rise.
Mr Denham says Labour has been delivering new jobs and training for young people and helping businesses through tax deferrals. He warned voters not to let Tory spending cuts “put us back into recession.”
He has launched a campaign “to save”
the city’s 31 SureStart centres from Tory cuts, who he says would also scrap other benefits for families.
Mr Smith has implicated Mr Denham’s hand, as a Government minister, over the loss of funding for both estate regeneration in Thornhill, and the collapsed Itchen College move and rebuild. He said Labour had been “over promising and under delivering” whereas as he would be “honest” as an MP.
The candidates both talk of the need for more family homes. The city has a 17,000- long waiting list for council housing.
David Goodall is standing again for the Lib Dems on a fairness platform while the Green Party’s John Spottiswoode has switched from standing in Southampton Test to fight Mr Denham.
Mr Goodall makes his case, promising lasting improvements to roads and more kerbside recycling collections. He wants community justice panels to meet out punishment for petty crime and antisocial behaviour.
Crime is a top priority for the UK Independence Party’s Alan Kebbell, a former policeman, who pledges to end 24- hour drinking, and give magistrates powers to “deter repeat offending”.
On council housing Mr Kebbell, a tenants’ champion, is backing an end to the Government’s system of taking millions of pounds each year from tenants’ rent money in the city.
Mr Spottiswoode wants to clean up the Southampton’s environment and claims the main parties have failed to show vision and leadership in the city.
He has led the campaign against health chiefs’ plans to add fluoride to the city’s water supplies, including the city centre, Bitterne, Woolston, and Netley in the Itchen constituency.
Mr Denham supports the idea in principle but has called for the scheme to be put on hold in the face of public opposition.
Cllr Smith has backed this newspaper’s call for a referendum, while Mr Spottiswoode argues the public have already given a resounding “No”.
■ The other declared candidates are independent Kim Rose and Tim Cutter for the Southampton Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition.
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