THE man who will challenge Royston Smith for the right to represent the people of Southampton, Itchen in the next general election for the Labour party has been chosen.

Leader of Southampton City Council, Simon Letts, will once again head the party’s charge to win the seat whenever the next election takes place.

Last year, the two went head to head in one of the closest counts in recent memory.

Mr Letts described being chosen to represent the party in the election as “humbling” and that he would do his best to win the hotly contested seat.

More than 150 Labour supporters voted and dozens turned out at the hustings event at St Denys Church on Saturday morning.

Mr Letts received 95 votes, with Labour ward councillor Darren Paffey coming in second.

Following his win, Mr Letts said: "It’s always an honour to be nominated by your colleagues and supporters within the Labour party. I have been here for a long time and the fact they have put that trust in me is humbling and I will do my very best to deliver the win.”

He added: “It’s the most marginal seat in England, so it’s the smallest Conservative majority in the county.

“It will be Labour’s top target in the south at the next election and we’re expecting to get a lot of support not just from Southampton members but supporters from across the south of England.

“We’re hoping to deliver the seat, which has been Labour before.”

Mr Letts first jointed the city council in 1991, when he was elected as a ward councillor for Millbrook.

He was appointed leader in 2013.

In 2017, Royston Smith narrowly beat Mr Letts by a majority of just 31.

A number of recounts took place before Mr Smith was declared the winner.

The next general election is scheduled for 2022.