Tories tighten hold on West Norfolk
Both Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders lost their seats as the Conservatives tightened their stranglehold on West Norfolk.The Tories now occupy 52 of the 62 seats on the King's Lynn-based authority, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats left with four each and Independents holding two.
Both Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders lost their seats as the Conservatives tightened their stranglehold on West Norfolk.
The Tories now occupy 52 of the 62 seats on the King's Lynn-based authority, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats left with four each and Independents holding two.
The result means the Conservatives gain another 15 seats on the authority they snatched back from Labour in 2003, taking scalps from all other parties along the way.
As the size of the defeat became clear, it was difficult to believe the party which walked out of King's Lynn Corn Exchange with just four seats ruled the council just four years ago.
Among Labour's nine lost seats were leader Jack Bantoft, who lost his Mershe Lande ward to anti-wind farm campaigner David Markinson, and party stalwarts Charles Joyce, Slim Wilkinson and Gwyneth Thorneywork.
While the scale of the rout surprised even Tory activists, it was a forgone conclusion that the administration led until last night by John Dobson would be returned to power.
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With Labour fielding candidates in less than half the seats on the council and many of their number standing unopposed, the Conservatives barely had to get out of bed this morning to win.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said: “It's a staggering result, it's the best we've ever had here. It's not just a reaction against an unpopular government.
“By not contesting every seat Labour made a huge mistake, it just sent out an awful signal. I find it incredible that the Labour Party have thrown the towel in.”
Mr Bellingham paid tribute to leading Labour lights Mr Bantoft and Mr Wilkinson.
“Politics is a rough trade, it's no reflection on them personally, they've both put in sterling work for their constituents” he said.
“They're staunch politicians, they're old school.
“Likewise the outgoing Liberal Democrats, like Paul Brandon, Hazel Fredericks and Judith Brown.”
Former Liberal Democrat leader on the council Mrs Brown said: “It's a disappointment to lose your seat, but John Dobson has been very good for the people of West Norfolk, as a resident of West Norfolk I'm pleased with what he's done.
“I say well done to them, good luck to the Tories. They've got control and this is a Tory Borough. I just hope the Tories will do what they say they're going to do.”
Jack Bantoft, who lost his seat to Independent David Markinson said: “It wasn't a total shock to me, they've been very busy with the wind farm campaign going on in the village.”
The loss of former strongholds such as South Lynn and Gaywood Chase will be among the hardest losses to bear for Labour.
Mr Bellingham said: “This is a huge embarrassment to the government. Labour have only got four seats - four years ago they controlled the council.
“It's also a reward for a strong council, John Dobson was an inspirational leader, who delivered better services and better value for money.”
Mr Dobson, who is retiring from politics because of ill-health, swept to power on pledges to cut costs, keep down council tax and accelerate long-awaited regeneration projects.
His former deputy Nick Daubney will lead the council. Mr Daubney said: “One thing that became apparent when we started selecting candidates was that we had people queuing up to become candidates. We've got as high a calibre group as we have for some years.”