UKIP’s “wake up call to the political elite” after west Norfolk electoral success

Norfolk County council election 2013. The north Norfolk count at Cromer Academy. PHOTO: ANTONY KELL

Norfolk County council election 2013. The north Norfolk count at Cromer Academy. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

UKIP's newly elected councillors in west Norfolk have hailed their victories in Thursday's county council elections as a 'wake up call to the political elite'.

The party, which gained three seats in the district and 24 per cent of the vote, said their success would herald a 'real change in politics' for the area.

Opponents argued that UKIP simply benefited from a poor turnout, which was as low as 18pc in one ward and 29pc overall - but admitted the party had to be congratulated for its result.

Although it is often said that many people vote for the candidate rather than the party in local elections, Jim Perkins, who took Gaywood North and Central from the Conservatives, said: 'I feel that I haven't been voted in because people know me.

'I understand that people are not voting for me but for are voting for the party.'

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Although Mr Perkins said he was 'not completely surprised to win', UKIP's results certainly took the mainstream parties by surprise.

In Downham Market for instance, UKIP stood a candidate who lived 25 miles away in Thetford - yet she still came second, losing out by just 104 votes.

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Richard Coke, the UKIP victor in the strongly contested Gayton and Nar Valley seat, said: 'I was always felt this would happen. Now it is happening, we can get freedom back.'

Harry Humphrey, who retained Marshland South for the Conservatives, said: 'We did expected to lose seats but the surprise has been the impact of UKIP.'

However he insisted: 'The publicity they've got has been out of proportion to their effectiveness.'

Mr Humphrey's expectation is that: 'If UKIP have to start supporting policies, that will show where they stand on things.

'At the moment all they stand for is immigration and Europe. They are both things which are very populist but not necessarily things which they can do anything about.'

Brian Long, the deputy leader of West Norfolk Borough Council (WNBC) who won despite a strong UKIP showing in Fincham division, said: 'All the mainstream parties have to to start listening to their grassroots supporters.'

He believes that nationally parties have stopped listening to people and cited the proposed incinerator at Saddlebow a prime example of why voters had made a protest vote.

David Collis, who won for Labour in King's Lynn North and Central, which was one of the party's two gains in west Norfolk, conceded UKIP had done 'remarkably well'.

However he said: 'It saddens me to think that they've been successful on what I consider to be a very limited agenda.'

Richard Bird, who won as independent in the North Coast division, said: 'Clearly, there's lots of turbulent things happening within local politics.'

His main concern is about the cabinet system of local Government, which he believes means: 'You have got lots of councillors sitting back and not taking a full part in major decision making.'

However he also said UKIP would be so surprised by their election that they are going to be like 'startled deer' for their first year in office.

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