Liberal Democrats have picked a 26-year-old college communications manager to contest the Romsey and Southampton North seat at next year’s General Election.
Ben Nicholls was selected from a shortlist of three at Romsey’s Crosfield Hall last Friday.
Mr Nicholls, the son of an academic, was born in Stoke, but has lived in Southampton since the age of 12.
Ten years ago, he co-founded the youth theatre charity, RicNic, which has its largest branch in Hampshire, which funds performances by groups of 16- to 21-year-olds at Winchester’s Theatre Royal.
He currently spends the week in London, where he is a senior manager at a large college and the weekends at home in Bassett.
Prior to his current job, he worked for two years at Westminster as an adviser to the Education Select Committee.
Mr Nicholls believes his relative youth and background will appeal to young voters – the Southampton section of the constituency has a big student population.
“Young people are most likely to be re-engaged in politics by somebody of their own age,” Mr Nicholls told the Advertiser. “i want to listen to young people and find out why they are angry with us.”
He admits Lib Dems in 2015 will be in the unusual position of having to defend their five years in power while attacking their coalition partners, the Conservatives.
Mr Nicholls said one of the Lib Dems’ biggest achievements had been to “...lessen the effect that the Tories would have had if they’d been on their own.”
However, he said the Lib Dems could be proud of some of their contributions, including lowering tax thresholds, ending child detention and introducing gay marriage.
He said the Romsey and Southampton North was a truly diverse constituency taking in communities as different as Swaythling and Stockbridge, but its residents were not “getting the service they deserved” from Tory MP, Caroline Nokes.
Mr Nicholls said he was confident he could overturn his rival’s 4,156 majority.
Ms Nokes’s predecessor Romsey’s former Lib Dem MP, Sandra Gidley, gave the new man a vote of confidence: “Ben Nicholls will be a force to be reckoned with. He is passionate about the fact that constituents need someone who understands them and will act tirelessly on their behalf.
“He has already won the support of Romsey Liberal Democrats and I am convinced local people will support him in droves at the next election.”