The county has its first Labour police and crime commissioner, after the party topped a Norfolk-wide poll for the first in decades.

Sarah Taylor replaces Conservative Giles Orpen-Smellie in the role after beating him by 1,878 votes.

She got 52,445 votes to his 50,567. Green Martin Schmierer was third, with 23,628 and Liberal Democrat John Croft was fourth, with 22,525.

Turnout overall was 21.31pc, but was higher (34.7pc) in traditionally left-leaning Norwich, where council elections were held in every ward on the same day.

Apart from a handful of by-elections, there was no other voting in other areas of the county, where the Tories might have hoped for more support.

Mr Orpen-Smellie refused to pin the blame on the skewed turnout, but said: “You have to play the cards you have been dealt. There’s no point saying ‘if only that was different’.

”This is a democratic process and the public of Norfolk have selected Sarah Taylor.

”I congratulate her on that. She’s got a lot of work to do and she will need to hit the ground running.”

Mr Orpen-Smellie added: “I tried to fight a local campaign, but I would be a fool not to think the national picture has had an impact.”

Ms Taylor, Labour’s first Norfolk police and crime commissioner, said: “I feel a strange combination of being very happy at being elected, but also an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

”People who have been in contact with me have been consistent in saying they are so disappointed with the police and the political system as a whole.

”I think the turnout today is a statement of how little understood this role is.

”People consistently want more visible policing, but I think they also want more visible leadership. That needs to change.

”I intend to be much more visible and communicative, talking to people and listening to what they are telling me.”

Police and crime commissioners set force budgets, decide crime priorities and can fire and hire chief constables.

But the role - and the low turnouts in elections - has prompted criticism.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey recently called on the government to scrap “pencil pushing commissioners”.

And even one of the Norfolk candidates, the Green partty's Martin Schmierer, said the role should be axed.

"I don’t think the role should exist - it was a naive decision to introduce it," he said.

”Scrutiny of the police shouldn’t fall to one person.

”The police shouldn’t be political in that way, it sets a dangerous precedent.”