How ‘rainbow alliance’ at Norfolk County Council faded away - and the Conservatives took control

Flashback to 2013, when Labour's George Nobbs, Liberal Democrat James Joyce (left) and UKIP's Tony C

Flashback to 2013, when Labour's George Nobbs, Liberal Democrat James Joyce (left) and UKIP's Tony Coke (right) announce intentions for the leadership of Norfolk County Council. Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council returned to the control of the Tories on Monday after the alliance of Labour, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats lost support of the Greens. Dan Grimmer reports.

Norfolk County Council's new leader Cliff Jordan.

Norfolk County Council's new leader Cliff Jordan. - Credit: Submitted

In the end, it was a strangely muted return to power for the Conservatives at Norfolk County Council, after three years on the sidelines.

When Green leader Richard Bearman sent an email to fellow councillors on Friday, announcing that the Greens would not be supporting Labour's George Nobbs as leader, the die was cast for the so-called rainbow alliance.

Yet the Conservatives, you suspect, might rather have waited until the county council elections next year before taking back control.

The decision by the Greens, just a few days after Labour took back four Norwich seats from them on the city council, to abstain, rather left the Conservatives with no choice but to climb back into the driver's seat.


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Before the meeting, there were rumours some Tories, who had only picked Cliff Jordan as their group leader by a reportedly single vote over Graham Plant, might stay away.

As it turned out, there was just one Conservative absentee - Claire Bowes - and Mr Jordan even got a vote in his favour from UKIP's Jonathan Childs.

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However, former Conservative council leader Bill Borrett provided one of the most entertaining moments of the meeting, when he mistakenly answered Nobbs when asked who he wanted to vote for, before rapidly correcting himself.

Fellow Conservative Michael Carttiss provided another when he shouted 'Time for a change', just as Mr Jordan took up his seat on the top table - to which a quick-witted political opponent yelled: 'What, already?'

For Mr Nobbs, the vote signalled the end to a three-year leadership stint. The surprise scale of UKIP's success in the county council elections of 2013 led to an unusual alliance between them, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with Green 'support'. That alliance was forged because of a common desire to stop an incinerator being built in Norfolk and to return the council to a committee system.

To the surprise of many, and partly thanks to rifts within the Conservative ranks, the alliance endured, with Mr Nobbs elected as the leader of the council three times.

During his time, the incinerator contract was ripped up, work on the Northern Distributor Road started, the A11 was dualled and millions of pounds of cuts agreed.

A keen student of history, one of Mr Nobbs's political heroes is American Democrat Huey Long.

Mr Long divided opinion and was variously labelled a socialist, radical, demagogue and dictator.

He was assassinated during a presidential bid with his final words 'God, don't let me die. I have so much to do.'

Mr Nobbs will feel his leadership was brought to a similarly premature, although less bloody, end.

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