THE Liberal Democrats came close today to snatching Winchester and Chandler's Ford in what would have been a stunning victory.

Steve Brine held the seat but his majority of 9,999 from 2017 was slashed to less than a thousand by the Liberal Democrats' Paula Ferguson.

As the bundles of votes piled up on tables in the centre of the sports hall at River Park Leisure Centre in Winchester the two candidates appeared to be neck and neck before the Conservatives edged away to win by 985 votes.

Had either UKIP or Brexit fielded a candidate then Mr Brine, a former health minister, may well have lost the seat he has held since 2010.

Strong factors in his favour that stemmed the drift to the Lib Dems were his ten-year incumbency and the fact he voted remain in the 2016 referendum and lost his party whip after voting against the Boris Johnson Brexit deal.

Mr Brine polled 28,430 votes compared to Ms Ferguson's 27,445. Labour's George Baker got just 2,723 and Teresa Skelton, of the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party garnered 292. The result was announced at 5.30am.

Mr Brine's 48 per cent vote share was four per cent down on the 52 per cent last time. Ms Ferguson's share of the vote was 47 per cent, up from the 34.5 per cent of Jackie Porter in 2017. The Labour share of the vote was squeezed by both main parties and collapsed from 10.5 per cent to just five per cent.

The Lib Dems nearly completed a swing of seven per cent.

Winchester has been a solidly Tory seat since 1950 except for Mark Oaten tenure between 1997-2010. It is now a marginal.

The Lib Dems fought a strong campaign in what was one of their main target seats and focussed on their opposition to the UK leaving the European Union. They managed to lure Remain-voting Tories into their camp that outweighed any move by Brexit-voting Labour supporters to the Conservatives.

The Greens had stood down so as not to undermine the Lib Dem campaign.

A tired-looking Mr Brine, who has campaigned whilst his father has been desperately ill, dedicated the win to his dad. "It is not a battle he is going to win. But now this campaign is over I might get to spend more time with him."

He said he would go into the next Parliament as a one-nation Tory. "I'm sorry Jo Swinson (the Lib Dem leader) lost. I know Jo and she is one of the moderates. I want the next Parliament to be a moderates' Parliament, taking back control. It needs to last and be a strong and stable government."

Ms Ferguson, only elected to the city council in May, said: "It has been exciting, thrilling, like being on a roller coaster particularly the last few weeks when it was so close. We did not know if we were going to win or lose narrowly. The fact of taking 9,000 of a majority is a great achievement."

Teresa Skelton, of the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party, doubled her vote from 2017.

The turnout was 78.2 per cent slightly down on the 78.8 per cent in 2017.