Red faces as Conservative Party misses deadline to field candidate for by-election at Tory-controlled Norfolk council

Christopher Kemp, vice chair of South Norfolk Conservative Association.

Christopher Kemp, vice chair of South Norfolk Conservative Association. - Credit: Archant

Conservatives have spoken of their embarrassment after the party missed a deadline to field a candidate in a forthcoming by-election.

Despite controlling South Norfolk Council, the Conservative Party will not be contesting the vacant New Costessey seat in the council elections on May 2 because they did not nominate a candidate in time.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Jan Hardinge who quit after getting a new job in Birmingham.

The Eastern Daily Press reported on her resignation and the by-election on March 29, but the party said they did not have time to nominate their candidate by the April 5 deadline.

Deputy chairman of South Norfolk Conservative Association Christopher Kemp said a 'combination of internal and external factors' had led to the party missing the deadline but refused to elaborate on what those factors were.

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He said people in Costessey would still be able to vote Conservative as the party would be fielding a candidate for Norfolk County Council elections on May 2.

The South Norfolk Conservative Association's plans for the Norfolk County Council elections were knocked off course in February following the resignation of former Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy and his wife Janet.

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Mr Murphy, who currently represents Freebridge Lynn, had been due to stand for the Conservatives in Forehoe, while Mrs Murphy, who represents Gayton and Nar Valley, was to be the Tory candidate for Clavering.

But the pair decided not to stand after Mr Murphy was found by a standards committee to have breached the council's code of conduct.

Their decision left the association searching for replacements to stand in the county council elections on May 2.

But Mr Kemp denied that the search to replace the Murphys had acted as a distraction.

Leader of South Norfolk Council John Fuller said the party only became aware of the by-election shortly before Good Friday, March 29, despite notices being displayed in the council's Long Stratton offices from March 26.

The by-election was also advertised on the council's website on the same day.

Mr Fuller said that the Easter bank holiday weekend also meant it was difficult to select a candidate by the deadline.

He said: 'There was an unfortunate combination of circumstances - a late realisation that there was a by-election taking place.

'Yes, it is embarrassing. The notices (for the by-election) went up but they just didn't catch our eye.

'We were all focused on the county council elections and this one just drifted off. Circumstances conspired against us.'

Liberal Democrat candidate Katy Smith will stand against Cid Gibbs for Labour and Ian Boreham from the Green Party for the New Costessey seat.

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