WITH less than two weeks to go the general election battle is now on.

Thousands of people will head to the poll on December 12 to elect a new Parliament in what will be the third national vote in five years.

And while the whole nation has been looking at the Southampton Itchen constituency as one of the places where the election could be won or lost, parliamentary candidates for neighbouring Southampton Test have thrown down the gauntlet.

Southampton Test’s importance as a political barometer seem to have lessened over the past years.

Next week Labour will hope to retain the seat.

Alan Whitehead will indeed stand again as the party’s candidate and if elected he would be the Labour MP for Southampton Test for the 22nd year in a row.

This time he stands against Conservative city councillor Steven Galton, Liberal Democrat Joe Richards, Green Party candidate Katherine Barbour, Independent Kev Barry and Brexit Party candidate Philip Crook.

Many have been wondering to what extend this will be a Brexit election, especially in a city like Southampton where 53% of its residents voted to leave the European Union.

But while Brexit may be at the forefront of voters’ mind, there are also other issues that seem to be concerning residents in Southampton Test who voted to Remain in the EU.

Pressure on the NHS and adult social care, the need for more affordable homes, more police officers patrolling the streets, more school places seem to be among the issues that constituents are worrying about.

Back in 2017 residents said they wanted more support for schools, adult social care and NHS services, highlighting them as the things that mattered the most to residents.

Two years on and some of these issues are still concerning voters with the NHS and schools often topping the list of their priorities.

It comes as Southampton Test is home to one of the largest university hospitals in the country.

It also hosts the University of Southampton and is set to see the city’s first all-through school for 900 pupils in Shirley.

Traffic has also been one of the main concerns for residents who over the past years have seen plans to improve some of the major roads in the constituency with works on Redbridge Roundabout still under way.

And as in all the other areas of Southampton, climate change and pollution are also some of the most talked-about issues.

In a recent public meeting civic chiefs from different parties and representing different areas of the city also pointed out how residents are worried about an increase in crime, including domestic violence and knife crime.

It comes as early this year data revealed that crime in Southampton rose for the fourth consecutive year while an inquiry highlighted how childhood obesity represents an issue across the city but especially in areas such as Redbridge, Freemantle and Millbrook.

All the parliamentary candidates for Southampton Test have now been canvassing for weeks as the countdown to the general election ticks down.

And while they may disagree on policies and how to tackle the issues that residents said to be concerned about they all agree on the need to tackle climate change as soon as possible.

Alan Whitehead, who was shadow minister for business, energy, industrial strategy and climate change said if re-elected he will continue to “work hard” for the city.

He had previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he will continue to work on solutions to the climate crisis, fight for “decent housing” and against cuts to schools.

Mr Whitehead was first nominated by Labour in 1980s, winning a seat in 1997 and again in 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2017 when he beat Conservative Paul Holmes by more than 10,000 votes.

Tackling climate change and improving air quality are also among the pledges made by Green Party candidate Katherine Barbour.

She has recently been campaigning against the expansion of Southampton Airport and said to be a “firm believer in real democracy, a cleaner, brighter future through investment in renewable energies and public transport”.

Ms Barbour also described herself as an active campaigner for the NHS.

Liberal Democrat Joe Richards has also vowed to tackle climate emergency, inequality, fund the NHS and schools as well as reforming the economy.

“All things that will suffer if we have years more of Brexit negotiation,” he said.

He added: “The Liberal Democrats believe that most people now want to stop Brexit, and get on with building a brighter future. We are here to give those people a voice.”

His view clashes with the ones of Conservative candidate Steven Galton and Brexit Party candidate Philip Crook as both said they want to get Brexit done.

Mr Galton, who is currently a city councillor for Millbrook ward, described that as the first step in restoring trust and faith in democracy.

“Most importantly we need to end the Brexit uncertainty so businesses and families have the economic certainty they need to plan for the future with confidence,” he said.

Mr Galton added: “ We can then move on to the other important issues like our NHS, policing and for me personally, investing as much energy as possible in to protecting and enhancing our environment.”

He vowed to be an “active MP” if elected and stressed also the need for a government that “celebrates and encourages entrepreneurship”.

Meanwhile, describing himself as a “true Brexiteer” Philip Crook is the Brexit Party candidate for Southampton Test and the only Brexit Party candidate in Southampton.

It comes as last month the party announced its decision not to stand in Tory seats.

Mr Crook said the NHS needs “major reform in its leadership, management and accountability”.

It claims to be one of the only two Brexit Party candidates in the South and asked people to “get some turquoise” on the general election map.

“It’s time to change our politics for good in Southampton Test,” he added.

Meanwhile Kev Barry is standing as Independent. The Local Democracy Reporting Service has been unable to contact him.

With only a few days left before the general election registrations to vote are now closed.

On December 12 there will be 95 polling stations in Southampton open from 7am to 10pm.

Residents who have registered to vote are expected to receive their polling card soon.

How many will vote?

THOUSANDS of people are expected to go to the polls on December 12 in what will be the first winter election in decades.

The number of people who have registered to vote in Southampton has not been revealed yet but thousands of residents are expected to cast their vote.

The Daily Echo looked at the turn out in the Southampton Test constituency over the past years.

In 2017 it was 67%, up from the 62% in 2015.

This year there will be 95 polling stations across the city open from 7am to 10pm.

Experts say turnout is difficult to predict as there are several factors that impact people’s desire to vote.

In 2016, 72.2% of the British public turned out to vote in the Brexit referendum.

Some may think the turnout will be high again next week given that this has been described as the Brexit election.

But others suggested that the numbers could drop this year as people will have to cast their ballot when the nights come earlier and the weather is colder.