UKIP storms into Norfolk after making waves in Great Yarmouth
09:31 24 May 2014
(C) Archant Norfolk 2014
The national tidal surge of support for the UK Independence Party made giant waves in Great Yarmouth with its major gains leaving no party in overall control at the Town Hall.
Nigel Farage’s party started the day with no seats on the council, but ended the day having taken ten of the 13 wards available.
The success tipped the balance of power at the 39-seat borough council. Formerly Labour controlled, it is now made up of 15 Labour, 14 Conservatives and 10 UKIP.
The result was one of the highlights of the day for the party, which saw it resurgent at the polls across East Anglia and the country.
As the results came in, Mr Farage insisted he was already focused on translating his local election surge to the House of Commons poll – giving his strongest hint yet that he will stand in a Kent constituency.
The combative words came as David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg counted the cost of a bruising night at the polls, with potentially more difficult European parliament results to come on Sunday night.
Former Yarmouth MP Tony Wright failed in his bid to win a seat on the council, and long-serving Conservative Ron Hanton lost his to UKIP.
The anti-European Union party fielded candidates in all 13 available seats and the local wins dented both Labour and Conservatives, throwing up surprises along the way including the departures of Labour stalwart Colleen Walker, a former chairman of Norfolk County Council, and Conservative mayor John Burroughs.
The three parties will be locked in discussions over the weekend, debating among themselves as well as each other what happens next.
The local Labour and Conservative leaders remained tight-lipped on whether an alliance with UKIP was on the cards, but either coalition would seem unlikely. One Labour councillor said he would “turn in his grave” before striking that deal.
Graham Plant, leader of the Conservative group – who retained his Bradwell North seat by 60 votes, said: “People in Yarmouth have brought us a sea change and it will be interesting to see how that sea change develops. I can’t make a decision without consulting the other members so there will be lots of telephone calls and meetings over the coming days.”
Labour’s Trevor Wainwright, former council leader who kept his Magdalen seat, said it felt “surreal” at times but he had to believe UKIP’s surge was a tremor not a tidal wave, adding also that their arrival in Yarmouth was democracy in action.
Colleen Walker, who was local councillor for 28 years, believed Labour’s national leaders were partly to blame for the locally inflicted damage.
The overall turnout for the borough was 37pc, compared to 27.9pc in 2012.
The highest turnout was in East Flegg at 44pc – one of only two seats that the Conservatives managed to retain.
One of the closest fought was the Gorleston ward where UKIP’s Kay Grey, a shop keeper who said it was the party policies that convinced her to enter into politics, beat Yarmouth mayor John Burroughs and former MP Tony Wright.
Norwich local elections – page 14
National reaction – page 15
Opinion – page 42