A beef with Lamb? Then you should have stood yourself, UKIP

MP Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrat) speaks during the Paston Sixth Form College Question Time. Picture

MP Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrat) speaks during the Paston Sixth Form College Question Time. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Opinion: UKIP's tactical voting plea to defeat Norman Lamb in North Norfolk is a disgrace, says Steven Downes.

From my first General Election aged 18 in 1992 I have always voted in North Norfolk.

On June 8 I'll have the strange experience of casting my ballot in Norwich North.

My new home is here - but my heart remains in my long-time home constituency.

For that reason, I am watching the race for the North Norfolk seat with enormous interest - and a great deal of anger at what is occurring.

The decision by UKIP to not field a candidate and to urge their supporters to 'lend' their votes to the Conservatives is disgraceful and disrespectful.

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Some will prefer to call it cold, rational politics: a calculated move by local businessman and bow tie-wearer Michael Baker to maximise the chances of Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb being unseated.

They know that UKIP no longer has a purpose, having achieved its sole aim of dragging us out of Europe and into a future of uncertainty - fuelled by narrow-mindedness and xenophobia.

Instead of pulling out with a bitter attempt to influence the poll - driven by anger that Mr Lamb dares to hold onto his pro-Europe principles - why don't they just dissolve the local party and let the remaining candidates fight a fair fight?

Mr Lamb deserves more respect.

As a young reporter in the 1990s I remember how he worked tirelessly to eat away at a huge Tory majority held first by Sir Ralph Howell then by David Prior.

There were times when I was heartily sick of the flood of press releases. But it was hard not to admire how he absorbed defeat and moved forward - and how he fought to represent people.

Other candidates were parachuted in and then quietly crept away, while plenty of local politicians tried their luck but soon gave up.

The current Conservative candidate James Wild has no real North Norfolk roots and no record of fighting for the people of the area. And yet Mr Baker and his colleagues believe he deserves to borrow votes from UKIP supporters.

I'll stick my neck out now and say that I believe Mr Lamb has been the best MP in the region over the last decade and more.

I say that in part from observing and reporting for more than 20 years. But I also say it from very personal experience.

When I endured the horror of being sent out of Norfolk to a mental health unit in South-West London, Mr Lamb took up my case with sensitivity and deep determination.

My treatment until I returned to the refuge of Hellesdon Hospital was shocking.

Mr Lamb did not let it go, and managed to force the London hospital to change some of its procedures. He also put pressure on the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust to end the scandal of sending vulnerable patients out of county.

I have seen and met too many MPs who are all about the soundbite and the ascent of the greasy pole. Mr Lamb's actions give a huge hint about the content of his character.

This is neither a Lib-Dem party political broadcast nor a call for people to vote for Norman Lamb on June 8.

Unlike UKIP, I don't believe that those not taking part should be trying to exercise undue influence.

Instead, I would urge all electors in North Norfolk to support the candidate whose policies, personality and character make the best impression.

If Mr Lamb loses, it should be down to those decisions, not the result of a witch hunt against anyone daring to retain their belief in the UK being better in Europe than out.

*Stephen Burke is also standing in North Norfolk for the Labour Party.