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Revealed: How Lib Dems lost North Norfolk seat despite winning donations race

PUBLISHED: 11:12 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:46 04 February 2020

Karen Ward, candidate for the Lib Dems, at the count for North Norfolk in the general election. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Karen Ward, candidate for the Lib Dems, at the count for North Norfolk in the general election. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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North Norfolk’s Liberal Democrats lost the December general election despite receiving the highest amount in campaign donations, figures have revealed.

Karen Ward, the Lib Dem candidate for north Norfolk had the highest amount of donations with a total of £17,203.37 being put forward.

Donations were received from Liberal Democrat HQ, the North Norfolk Liberal Democrats and a £2,000 donation from Chestnut Nursery in London.

Even though Mrs Ward had almost £3,000 more funding than the Conservative candidate, Duncan Baker, they could not stop north Norfolk from turning blue.

The Liberal Democrat candidate said: "The Conservative Party made extensive use of social media national messaging and national direct mail which reinforced the 'getting Brexit done' message.

"This was on top of the extra spending at a local level. They also had a longer period of time to introduce their candidate as he was selected much earlier in the year - so their spend was also higher outside the short period.

Duncan Baker, who took the North Norfolk constituency as Conservative candidate. Picture: Victoria PertusaDuncan Baker, who took the North Norfolk constituency as Conservative candidate. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

"We had a deeply committed group of volunteers who worked extraordinarily hard to try to retain the seat. We will continue to work on behalf of North Norfolk residents and hold our new MP to account on all the promises he made during the General Election campaign."

Mr Baker's victory - following Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamb's 18-year run as North Norfolk MP - came in a nationwide swing to the Tories in the 2019 general election.

Even though Mrs Ward had more funding, she spent less money on her election campaign than Mr Baker.

The Lib Dem candidate spent £12,398.74 on her campaign while Mr Baker spent a total of £14,495.18, the exact amount he was donated. The spending limit for each candidate was £15,065.61.

Candidates for North Norfolk in the 2019 General Election at a hustings at Stalham Baptist Church, from left, Emma Cortlett (Lab), Harry Gwynne (Brex), Duncan Baker (Con) and Karen Ward (Lib Dem). Picture: Stuart AndersonCandidates for North Norfolk in the 2019 General Election at a hustings at Stalham Baptist Church, from left, Emma Cortlett (Lab), Harry Gwynne (Brex), Duncan Baker (Con) and Karen Ward (Lib Dem). Picture: Stuart Anderson

A total of £4,804.63 donated to Mrs Ward was not spent during her General Election campaign.

She said: "I was not selected as the Liberal Democrat PPC until September 2019 with the likelihood of an imminent GE.

"We therefore began fundraising immediately to fund a residents' survey and to send out an endorsement letter from Norman Lamb.

"These were distributed before the General Election campaign began and therefore are not included in the GE short period election expenses. The additional donations were used to fund these items."

Mr Baker said: "I think I won for a number of reasons, my team were exceptional, we worked incredibly hard and I thoroughly enjoyed being in my home talking to so many people.

"I knocked on thousands of doors and ran a really positive campaign, which reflected my personality and the reaction on the doorstep was incredible as evidenced by the result which gave me a very humbling majority.

"People wanted a truly local person, they wanted their opinion on the referendum respected and a Corbyn Government was a disastrous prospect."

The 40-year-old businessman from Aylmerton, near Sheringham, won 29,792 votes, ahead of the Lib Dems on 15,397, Labour's Emma Corlett on 3,895 and the Brexit Party's Harry Gwynne on 1,739.

Emma Corlett, the Labour candidate arrives at the count  for North Norfolk in the general election. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYEmma Corlett, the Labour candidate arrives at the count for North Norfolk in the general election. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The conservative candidate received two donations from the North Norfolk Conservative Association, £6,683.77 of cash payments and £7,811.41 for 'services'.

Mr Gwynne had a total of £8,406.01 donations including £2,450.00 from The Brexit party for leaflets and advertising materials, £4,324.01 from Susancon Cab LTD, a taxi driver, for the distribution of leaflets and £1,320 from Vanyia Trading LTD for the printing of leaflets.

There was also a £312 donation from Lachford Limited for the graphic design of Mr Gwynne's posters and stickers on the side of his 4x4 truck. Mr Gwynne spent a total of £9,249 on his election campaign.

Labour candidate, Mrs Corlett, received one £2,836.56 donation from the North Norfolk Labour Party, which she spent on advertising, leaflets, public meetings and accommodation and administration.

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