Broadland candidates take to the hustings

Richard BatsonThe battle to become the first MP for the new Broadland constituency took to the hustings at Aylsham.Richard Batson

The battle to become the first MP for the new Broadland constituency took to the hustings at Aylsham.

It was a limited agenda centred on rural issues picked by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, but still provided a chance for voters to compare the substance and style of five of the six contenders in same way as they have weighed up the national leaders on television.

Tory Keith Simpson made great play of his 13 years' experience as MP in Mid Norfolk, with out anecdotes of working his patch, dealing with government officials and making foreign trips, and answering the questions with the authority of a polished parliamentarian which makes him favourite to take the seat.

His biggest challenger, Lib Dem Dan Roper delivered his views with confidence, wit and some humility when the probation officer admitted he was still learning about farming issues.

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Out 'on the stump' national Cleggmania has seen passing people tooting their horns and stopping to chat, but Mr Roper acknowledges that the boost needs to be 'knitted together' with tackling local issues.

And Mr Simpson says the next few days would be vital as the resurgent Lib Dems' policies were put under closer national scrutiny.

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The meeting gave a chance for the Greens' Susan Curran to fluently tackle issues close to her heart, and UKIP's Stuart Agnew to passionately blame Europe for the policies causing the problems. Labour's Allyson Barron however served up some thin answers, making them all outsiders to the main two-horse race.

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