Norwich and Great Yarmouth elections crucial for Jeremy Corbyn

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn Gareth Fuller/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Voters will go to the ballot box next month for the first time since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party.

The electorate will give its verdict in a third of council seats in Norwich and Great Yarmouth in what is being seen as a crucial election for Labour after its surprising defeat in last year's general election.

Polling analysis by election experts Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher yesterday predicted that Labour was on course to lose 150 councillors – but, launching his campaign in Essex, Mr Corbyn expressed his desire to see the local elections mark a 'turning point' for his party's fortunes.

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth, said the upcoming elections were important because they would be defending seats won in a good year for them.

Wins for the UK Independence Party and Conservatives in subsequent local elections have eroded Labour's position on the council and winning back UK Independence Party and Conservative voters is seen as crucial for Mr Corbyn's general election chances.

Mr Wainwright said: 'On the Jeremy Corbyn factor – we have only recently started knocking on doors – what we are being told is some people like him, some people don't.

'I am optimistic but not complacent. I think it is going to be hard and a tough set of elections. With all the national stuff going on at the moment, it should be good for Labour.'.

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Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters said retaining the seats they currently had would be a good outcome, but his party was working to increase its majority with currently held Green Party seats in their sights.

'2012 [when the seats were last contested] was a good year for us. It was the 'omnishambles' budget and the economy was not doing well, but it is hard for me to judge if the shambolic budget this time will have the same kind of resonance.

'But some of the difficulties the Conservatives have with Europe, the budget and tax revelations is not going to help them.'

He backed Mr Corbyn saying he presented a 'sharp alternative' to the current Conservative Party position.

'I think he does appeal to people. I am critical of the circumstances the country finds itself in and he articulates that effectively. One could see some benefit, particularly in the nature of Norwich politics, as playing out to Labour's advantage.'

Labour's only East of England Euro MP, Richard Howitt, said that while the focus should be on providing the best council services, the result of the election would have wider implications in terms of perception of the Labour Party.

He said he could not predict if they would make gains, but if they could consolidate their position it would be good.

'There is a genuine changing of the rules which means the elections themselves are difficult to predict. We must not stick to old assumptions. I am seeing the wave of support Jeremy Corbyn has had in attracting new supporters that we have not attracted in the past.'

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