'Cameron effect' credited with Tory surge
SHAUN LOWTHORPE The Cameron effect has been credited with a surge in the Tory vote as the party all but wiped out opponents in south, west and mid-Norfolk. The Tories seized control of South Norfolk council from the Lib Dems in a crushing 39-7 victory while it bulldozed opposition parties in West Norfolk in a poll which saw them each reduced to a handful of seats.
The Cameron effect has been credited with a surge in the Tory vote as the party all but wiped out opponents in south, west and mid-Norfolk.
The Tories seized control of South Norfolk council from the Lib Dems in a crushing 39-7 victory while it bulldozed opposition parties in West Norfolk in a poll which saw them each reduced to a handful of seats.
But victory in Breckland was overshadowed by a polling fiasco after a pilot scheme to electronically count votes hit the buffers, which meant results took hours longer to come in than normal.
In Broadland, the Conservatives increased its control of the council taking seats while voters in Waveney also opted to keep the Tories in.
Even in Norwich the Conservatives gained an extra seat at City Hall, but the party had less impact in the Lib Dem stronghold of North Norfolk where gains were mostly made at the expense of the Independents.
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While the blue surge was dented in Yarmouth where Labour gained at the Tories expense - no still not enough to disturb the Tory majority.
John Fuller, new leader of South Norfolk council said Mr Cameron, who visited Diss during the election campaign, had created the framework for victory.
“David's style of leadership has allowed people to be more open to the Conservative message,” he said. “Both David and I want to appeal to the man on the street, and that's why we now have three councillors in their 20s and nine under 40. We've moved away from the nasty party image, we're now a party that people don't have to be embarrassed about supporting.”
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said the result proved that the Tories were turning the electoral tide and much of the credit must be given to Mr Cameron.
Labour were left with just four seats on West Norfolk council. Four years ago, they controlled the authority. Now they trail the Tories by 48 seats, having been unable to even field a candidate in more than half the council's 62 wards.
“Labour have been wiped out, it's a staggering result,” he said. “The fact that we have taken all these seats off Labour and the Lib Dems shows that the Cameron project is reaching out to people in the middle ground.
“The Cameron message is now having an impact and we need to combine that modern message with some of our traditional policies on things like law and order and immigration and show that we are a party with firm but fair policies.”
Mr Cameron himself insisted yesterday that his party made “a real breakthrough” in the local elections.
“We are building our way back into the councils of cities across the country and right across the north of England,” he said. “We are now the party of the whole country winning seats from Labour and winning seats from the Liberal Democrats.”
Meanwhile there was anger at the Breckland election count after many ballot papers were rejected because perforations had been left on the papers at the polling stations meaning they then had to be manually checked.
Some candidates started slow handclapping as they were so frustrated at the hold ups.
Breckland chief executive Keith Davis apologised for the delay but said things could not be speeded up.
“We are doing more manual checks than we thought. It will take as long as it takes. We are looking for accuracy not speed.”