Election 2017: North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb admits feeling ‘desolate’ during campaign but says he now ‘wants to get back to work’

PUBLISHED: 18:09 11 June 2017 | UPDATED: 19:27 11 June 2017

General Election 2017. North Norfolk count. Norman Lamb MP with his wife Mary. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

General Election 2017. North Norfolk count. Norman Lamb MP with his wife Mary. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

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When, in the early hours of Friday morning, the result of what had been a brutal and bruising campaign in North Norfolk was revealed the relief written right across Norman Lamb’s face was clear.

General Election 2017. North Norfolk count. Norman Lamb MP speaking after the declaration. Picture : ANTONY KELLYGeneral Election 2017. North Norfolk count. Norman Lamb MP speaking after the declaration. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

And now, as the dust settles, the returning Liberal Democrat MP admits to having periods where he felt “desolate” and even confiding in wife Mary “I don’t think I can do this”.

But Mr Lamb added that the “loyalty” and support of the people he has served now for more than 16 years kept him going through the tough days of the campaign.

“I have been though a complete emotional roller coaster,” he said. “I would come home to Mary and say ‘I don’t think I can do this’. It is hard to be rational during a campaign because the good news makes you elated and the bad news sends you under.

“You might have a canvassing session where you have people saying to you ‘we really feel we should vote for Theresa May this time’. I had a session like that only last week. And afterwards I felt pretty desolate. And then I had a day where Tories kept saying to me ‘this time we are going to vote for you’ and I found it hard to believe because I had started that day full of anxiety.

“I frequently wondered ‘why do I put myself through this?’. No-one is going to show much sympathy for politicians but the pressure on family is intense. The stress and the strain means that I frequently question everything. But when people are so kind and loyal that keeps me going.

“I have a huge affection for the people of North Norfolk and we have built up a great rapport. We go through things together. That keeps me going in difficult times.”

After beating Conservative candidate James Wild, Mr Lamb admits he is a true political survivor: “My vote went up about 9pc but the Tory vote also went up by about 10pc so it was a slight narrowing of the majority. But we added votes. I was below 20,000 in 2015 and now we have more than 25,000. I think people probably came back to me.

“The belief that UKIP voters would simply shift to the Tories did not happen. There were plenty of UKIP voters who voted for me, Labour voters who voted tactically for me – there was lots of movement in lots of directions. It wasn’t just how did the UKIP split between us and the Tories.

“The Conservatives, with a degree of arrogance, picked someone who had no track record in North Norfolk. He is a London resident and unknown to most people in North Norfolk and that came across as a sense of entitlement. It felt to me there was not much empathy.”

Mr Lamb believes the prime minister must resign saying “her authority is shot ... she cannot survive. It is a matter of when not if she will go” but adds that as far as he is concerned for the Lib Dems it is “as you were” regarding Tim Farron’s leadership.

And he believes the deal the government looks set to strike with the Democratic Unionist Party is “dangerous”. He said: “This is rich justice isn’t it? When Theresa May talked about a coalition of chaos – she meant a Labour/Lib Dem/SNP arrangement. What we have got is a very different coalition of chaos and one that is fraught with danger. It is dangerous because the UK government has always acted as the arbiter between unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland and that has been critically important. Now the Tories are going cap in hand to one side they can no longer perform that role.”

On the subject of another early election Mr Lamb is very clear: “I am no enthusiast for an early election, I just want to get on with the job.”

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