Local Elections 2019: Analysis as Norfolk election counts are under way

Norfolk election counts are under way. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Norfolk election counts are under way. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

As football pundits would say, it's still early doors when it comes to the election results in Norfolk, with only North Norfolk District Council having held their count overnight.

But, what a memorable night for the Liberal Democrats in North Walsham.

They took taking control of the council after winning 30 seats. The Conservatives, who controlled the council as recently as November, now have just six seats.

Nationally, Conservatives and Labour have both faced a backlash at the ballot box, which commentators have put down to Brexit, while smaller parties and independents have surged ahead.

North Norfolk's Conservative group leader John Lee, who lost his seat on the council was in little doubt that the North Norfolk result was a reflection of dissatisfaction with Westminster.

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'A lot of hard working, long-serving, Conservative district councillors have lost their seat through no fault of their own'. saying they had received 'the bloody nose for the mess that is Westminster'.

It's perhaps too simplistic to put North Norfolk's result - where 58.9pc voted to leave in the EU referendum - down to voters not liking how the Conservatives have handled Brexit nationally.

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Victorious Lib Dem leader Sarah Butikofer said people on the doorstep had said they wanted a council which could work together and not just on party political lines.

This is a council where the Conservatives have been self-combusting over the past couple of years.

There have been resignations, defections to the Liberal Democrats and, in November, the Tories lost control of the council through a no-confidence vote.

There have been personality clashes and disagreements over the Egmere Enterprise Zone - so perhaps North Norfolk is not the place to serve as a bellwether.

Great Yarmouth could be an interesting case study, however. The most 'Leave' part of Norfolk - 71.5pc voted to leave the EU in the referendum.

Currently Conservative, the council was controlled by Labour as recently as 2014, with a period of no overall control following that.

If Brexit voters really are punishing the Conservatives and Labour for their handling of leaving the EU, you'd think that might be a place where it is most clearly seen.

However, the lack of alternatives - no Lib Dems or Greens were standing and there were just a handful of UKIP candidates (with most of their big hitters having gone back to the Conservatives) and independents - means the only real choice for those protesting against both Labour and the Tories was to stay away or spoil their ballots.

The Conservatives have not had a seat on Norwich City Council - an area which voted remain - since 2012.

Labour have whittled down the Greens in the last few elections, so it will be intriguing to see if the Greens, the Lib Dems or one of the independents standing can benefit from any dissatisfaction from Labour's Brexit stance nationally.

The Greens will also be hoping the recent Extinction Rebellion actions will have led people to their cause.

Independents in West Norfolk will, no doubt, be buoyed by the national losses for the Conservatives and Labour. A remarkable 26 candidates stood as independents there on a council which already had 10 independent members.

The turnout and spoilt ballots across the county could yet speak volumes...

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