Local election 2019: The decline of the Conservatives in north Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 09:24 03 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:24 03 May 2019
A miserable four years for the Conservative Party in North Norfolk has been capped off with a resounding defeat in the local elections.
In 2015, the Tory group held a huge majority on the council, winning 33 of the available 48 seats.
However, since then they have seen several resignations, defections to the Liberal Democrats and, in November, lost control of the council through a no-confidence vote. Now it appears this lack of confidence in the group has been passed on to the electorate, with the Lib Dems taking a commanding victory in the local elections.
The Conservatives claimed just six seats on the council of the 40 available - with a boundary review leaving the council with eight fewer councillors.
Of these 40, the Lib Dems claimed 30 - doubling the number of seats they won in 2015, with the remaining four going to Independent councillors.
Several senior members of the Tory group now find themselves no longer on the council, including group leader John Lee.
Mr Lee, who had represented Suffield Park for more than a decade, said: “A lot of hard-working, long-serving, Conservative district councillors have lost their seats through no fault of their own. “I am shocked and bitterly disappointed by the results.”
Mr Lee said he felt much of the swing against the Conservatives had been as a result of the national political climate, rather than local issues.
He added: “I think we're the ones who are receiving the bloody nose for the mess that is Westminster.
“Labour and the Conservatives are obviously in a mess because of the Brexit debacle which should have been delivered a long time ago. I guess parties like the Lib Dems, Ukip and whoever else are going to gain from that.”
However, the decline of the Tories in the north of the county is something that has been going on for some time.
While the party won 33 seats in 2015, it was going into the election with just 19, the same number as their Liberal Democrat counterparts.
This was down to several members resigning from the party and others defecting to the Lib Dems over issues such as a proposed enterprise zone in Egmere.
Meanwhile, Lib Dem group leader Sarah Butikofer said the result was beyond the party's wildest dreams.
She said: “We thought we would do well but never in our wildest dreams thought it would be this good.
“It's wonderful that the people of north Norfolk have put their trust in us and we need to start working straight away to deliver for them.
“We've had all the fighting going on up here, but that has been going on nationally too. It is time for a change and time to start working together for everyone in north Norfolk.”
Meanwhile, the elections overall turnout and number of spoiled ballot papers also indicated an overall frustration from the voters. Just 38pc turned out to vote while 563 people elected to spoil their paper.