March 7 2014 Latest news:
Alex Hurrell, Reporter
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Elated UKIP members toasted their two North Norfolk seats with champagne, served in pink plastic glasses, at the count in Cromer Academy’s sports hall yesterday.
For businessman Michael Baker, who wrested the Holt seat for UKIP from the Conservatives, it was another step towards his goal of getting to Westminster by beating North Norfolk’s Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb in the 2015 general election.
Mr Baker, who is also a member of North Norfolk District Council, knocked his Conservative rival, the party’s one-time North Norfolk parliamentary agent Helen Eales. into second place.
Holt had been a key target for UKIP whose leader, Nigel Farage, visited the town to back Mr Baker during the campaign.
But the party’s success in Melton Constable had not been predicted. David Ramsbotham, a prominent anti-wind turbine campaigner, ousted Conservative Russell Wright from the seat and said afterwards that it was a historic day for UKIP which could change the face of British politics.
Mr Baker said while some UKIP votes were a protest against the coalition government, the majority had been in support of the party’s policies.
And he pledged that he and fellow UKIP county councillors would listen to the wishes of Norfolk people.
Stuart Agnew, UKIP MEP for the East, who was at the North Norfolk count, was delighted at the “bonus” of Melton Constable on top of the party’s anticipated Holt triumph. He added: “This will be a springboard to Westminster.”
Conservative party spokesman Rhodri Oliver said he was not downhearted at the loss of two seats to UKIP. The North Norfolk party emerged with four county councillors.
And, despite being unsuccessful in his own bid to win Sheringham from Lib Dem Brian Hannah, Mr Oliver, who would also like to be an MP one day, said he was pleased at finishing second.
He said: “Nationally we are at that mid-term point where people are prepared to vote for other parties but I think they will come back and vote Conservative in 2015.”
Conservative Wyndham Northam, a one-time county council chairman, managed to take Mundesley from the Lib Dems whose 2009 winner, Graham Jones, had resigned from the party and was standing as an independent.
County council cabinet member Nigel Dixon beat off a UKIP challenge from Michael Baker’s son Duncan to retain his Hoveton and Stalham seat. And Conservative Tom Fitzpatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council, will now add county council duties to his workload after winning Fakenham. In 2009 the seat was won by David Callaby for the Lib Dems. He later became a Conservative but did not seek re-election. Hilary Cox retained Cromer for the Conservatives.
Former EDP reporter Ed Foss held on to North Walsham East for the Lib Dems, one of five North Norfolk seats won by the party.
Mr Foss paid tribute to the high reputation of his predecessor Paul Morse, who has stepped down after eight years, for helping him to victory.
Fellow Lib Dem Marie Strong, who has kept her Wells seat, is expected to become the party’s group leader on the county council and said she would be putting looked-after children and mature residents at the top of her agenda.
The Lib Dems were also relieved that David Thomas held on to South Smallburgh for them. Paul Rice had won it for the party in 2009 but he later switched allegiance and was standing as a Conservative.
Despite a hard-fought campaign, Labour failed to win any North Norfolk seats. Their best hope was in North Walsham West and Erpingham where the party’s David Spencer lost to Lib Dem John Timewell by 39 votes after a recount.
A disappointed Mr Spencer, who is self-employed, said afterwards that it had been a “David and Goliath” struggle as he had lost money when out campaigning while the Lib Dems had been backed by MP Norman Lamb and his resources.
But he added: “I think we can win next time. We’ve exploded the myth put out by Norman Lamb that a vote for Labour here is wasted.”
The Green Party, which fielded candidates for all the seats, fared best in Holt where Martin Langsdon gained 204 votes but still finished at the bottom of the poll.
Three independents stood in two seats but failed to rock any boats.