Tories look strong for North West Norfolk

Chris BishopNorth West Norfolk provided Britain's first-ever Prime Minister in the shape of Robert Walpole.An outburst from one of the constituency's modern-day candidates might just help to unseat the current one.Chris Bishop

North West Norfolk provided Britain's first-ever Prime Minister in the shape of Robert Walpole.

An outburst from one of the constituency's modern-day candidates might just help to unseat the current one.

Manish Sood's musings on Gordon Brown drew a line under Labour's non-starter of a campaign, in a seat he had already pronounced as lost. Today he told the EDP he would not be attending the count for 'security reasons'.

As the ballot boxes begin arriving at King's Lynn Corn Exchange tonight, the question will not be whether Conservative Henry Bellingham will be returned to Westminster, but how many disaffected Labour votes the Liberal Democrats will mop up.


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Lib Dem candidate William Summers says many Labour voters signalled their intention to jump ship long before Mr Sood's gaffe or even Bigotgate.

Liberal activists might feel their party is riding the crest of a wave. But with a notional majority of more than 8,000 even after boundary changes, it will take more than a flood of tactical votes to sink Mr Bellingham.

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A cursory look at the sums says it all. In 2005, the long-serving Tory polled 25,471 votes - more than both Labour (16,291) and the Lib Dems (7,026) put together.

Even when he lost the seat in 1997, amid Tony Blair's New Labour landslide, Mr Bellingham still weighed in 23,911 votes to George Turner's 25,250.

The Tories regained North West Norfolk in 2001 and nearly doubled their majority at the last election. Labour lost ground to the Lib Dems and UKIP in 2005, against a slightly-increased turn-out at the polls.

Polling stations have been busy today, as across the country officials predicted a higher turnout than the last election, in 2005.

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