Conservatives seek replacement candidates for South Norfolk elections

PUBLISHED: 10:39 06 February 2013 | UPDATED: 10:40 06 February 2013

Derrick Murphy at the standards committee hearing at County Hall.

Derrick Murphy at the standards committee hearing at County Hall. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Archant Norfolk

South Norfolk Conservatives say they have made “substantial progress” in finding replacement candidates after former county council leader Derrick Murphy and his wife decided not to stand in May’s County Council elections.

Mr Murphy and his wife, Janet, have pulled out as candidates for the seats of Forehoe and Clavering, respectively.

A standards hearing at Norfolk County Council on Friday found Mr Murphy had breached the county council’s code of conduct when he asked his political assistant to claim it had not been the former leader’s idea to send an email to the BBC.

Mr Murphy was cleared of six other alleged breaches, but, having already stepped down as council leader and chairman and leader of the Conservative group, he decided not to stand at all in May’s elections.

Mr Murphy said he had reached that decision some time ago, but the association said it was advised of the pair’s withdrawal over the weekend.

South Norfolk Conservatives are meeting later this week and had been expected to discuss Mr Murphy’s position, but his departure means that meeting will now focus on finding new candidates.

Forehoe division includes Mulbarton, Swardeston, Newton Flotman, Ketteringham and part of Wymondham, while Clavering takes in places such as Wortwell, Toft Monks and Ditchingham.

Peter Stebbings, chairman of the South Norfolk Conservative Association, said: “As an association our priority will be to put first-class replacement candidates in place well before the official campaign period begins next month. I am pleased to confirm that we have already made substantial progress towards this end. The selection of these new candidates is an internal Conservative Party process and until that process is complete there will be no further public comment.”

Mr Murphy currently represents Freebridge Lynn and Mrs Murphy Nar Ouse and Gayton. But with Mr Murphy having strongly supported the building of an incinerator in King’s Lynn, his chances of victory, had he stood there, were questionable.

His switch to south Norfolk was seen by many as an opportunity to escape that controversy. He was selected to fight for the seat ahead of current incumbent Jon Herbert, who quit the South Norfolk Conservatives as a result and had been planning to run against Mr Murphy as an independent.

When asked if there was a way back for him to stand as a Conservative, Mr Herbert said: “Potentially, but I am happy either way. The support I have had from local residents means I believe there is a strong personal vote for me.

“There is a push for people these days who are more independently minded, but I still believe in the Conservative principles and I am a supporter of [acting council leader] Bill Borrett who I have known personally for some time.”

The South Norfolk Conservatives have until April 4 to get their candidates in place, with the county council elections due to take place on Thursday, May 2.

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