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Will the Conservatives win every Norfolk seat in the 2017 general election?

PUBLISHED: 08:18 17 May 2017 | UPDATED: 09:55 17 May 2017

Theresa May's Conservatives are pledging to means-test older people for winter fuel allowance. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Theresa May's Conservatives are pledging to means-test older people for winter fuel allowance. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Predicting elections is notoriously difficult. Famously pollsters got the 2015 General Election, Brexit and Donald Trump's White House victory spectacularly wrong.

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Predicting elections is notoriously difficult.

Famously, pollsters got the 2015 General Election, Brexit and Donald Trump’s White House victory spectacularly wrong.

Now, with more than three weeks of campaigning still to go, forecasters are confidently predicting the final outcome of the 2017 General Election. But this time it seems it would take a seismic shift to leave them looking foolish – early predictions have Norfolk turning blue.

Both the UEA’s General Election forecast and YouGov have predicted a Tory surge across the East. The hugely-respected UEA model goes as far as to predict a Tory rout with gains in Labour’s Norwich South and the Liberal Democrats’ North Norfolk.

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A Tory lurch into policy areas more traditionally associated with Labour and the inability of Jeremy Corbyn to impress voters beyond a hardcore group appear to have the region ready to join a nationwide blue-wash towards Number 10.

Although the Conservatives have always been the dominant force in Norfolk, the party has only once before held such a strangle hold on power in the East – in 1983 when Margaret Thatcher delivered a landslide that shaped British politics for years to come.

But Labour’s Clive Lewis, who is doggedly fighting to protect his seat from the Tory onslaught, is not downbeat.

“Previously Norwich South was predicted to be a gain for the Green Party – and of course that wasn’t the case,” he said. “We don’t disregard polls but what I am learning on the doorstep this time around is that there is everything to play for.

“The Tories are relying on what we call an ‘air war’ – basically big, national policy announcements.

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“Labour is sticking to what we are good at, the ground war – pounding the streets, knocking on doors and getting people motivated to vote for us.

“In order to keep the Tories out here people need to come out and vote Labour. We are the only party who can stop them.”

The truth is that with a UKIP vote drifting back to the Conservatives and many students expected to have already left campus and returned home, Mr Lewis is in a brutal battle.

The UEA forecast – the brainchild of Dr Chris Hanretty – uses local data to build to a nationwide picture unlike most polls which instead predict results the other way around, beginning nationally. For each constituency a probability of victory is then applied. For Mr Lewis the model suggests his chance of victory stand at just 26%.

The Liberal Democrat candidate in North Norfolk, Norman Lamb, has been in place since winning the seat from the Tories in 2001.

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“Polls and forecasters are not worth as much as what the people are telling me on the doorstep,” he said.

“There are all kinds of local factors which are not taken in to account. The response I am getting is very good – but the Tories are pouring resource in to this patch. And money can win elections.

“People must not be complacent. If they want me to remain as their MP they absolutely have to go and vote for me. If they don’t it could be a Tory seat come June 9.”

The YovGov poll does offer both Mr Lewis and Mr Lamb some hope. Although it shows a 10-point rise in the Tory vote compared with 2015’s results, the swing would not be enough to hand the Conservatives either of their target Norfolk seats.

Anthony Wells, YouGov’s research director, said: “The model Dr Hanretty has used is very sophisticated and we do hope to produce something similar closer to the election.

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“The most recent results we have do show both Norman and Clive winning but they are clearly both in a very vulnerable position. Brexit will be a factor I think, across the country, and this is one issue facing Norman because he is a Liberal Democrat, the party that opposes Brexit but his constituency voted to Leave.”

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