UKIP set for major assault on true blue part of Norfolk
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
It's the most true blue area of Norfolk.But the Conservatives are facing a tougher battle than four years ago to retain their dominance in the Norfolk County Council seats in Breckland.
In 2009, there were only 23 other candidates in the 12 seats taking on the Tories, who won all but one of them.
The narrow Liberal Democrat victory in Thetford West was the only success for the opposition in the district.
This time around a total of 53 candidates – including 12 Tories – have thrown their hats into the ring.
UKIP are contesting all areas and seem certain to push the Conservatives all the way.
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The party – which didn't field any contenders four years ago – has been described as going 'mob handed' to areas around the district this week.
UKIP has opened an election HQ in Dereham town centre, bought a battle bus and got former Breckland Tory leader Ted Shelton in the team to help with campaigning.
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He said he had done a snap survey of 150 homes in Dereham and 31 had indicated they would back the party.
A scientific study it certainly is not. However, if it is anything like reflective of opinion, then UKIP could play a key part in causing some surprises, especially as the Tory vote is its most likely target.
In Dereham, the Conservatives have two new candidates.
Breckland councillor Gordon Bambridge – who started campaigning in January – is in a six-way contest in Dereham South, which includes Christian Peoples Alliance candidate Chris Olley. He is one of three CPA members standing in the district,
In the town's north seat, Wiliam Richmond – also a Breckland member – has three opponents. Among them is Labour's Harry Clarke, who has fought a high profile campaign.
Danny Jeffrey will be aiming to retain Thetford West for the Lib Dems in a seat with six candidates.
Marion Chapman-Allen faces a five-way contest to keep her seat in Thetford East, as does John Rogers in Watton.
County council leader Bill Borrett actually has one fewer opponent than four years ago in Elmham and Mattishall, while in Guiltcross division Stephen Askew will be looking to pick up the Tory baton from Breckland leader William Nunn. Mark Kiddle-Morris stormed to victory in 2009 for the Conservatives in Necton and Launditch with a majority of almost 1,400 votes. He is likely to face a tougher job to retain his seat as he has four opponents rather than two. Ann Steward (Swaffham) is another councillor defending a big majority, as is Ian Monson who had a majority of nearly 2,000. He is involved in a five-way contest this year rather than a head-to-head with Labour in 2009.
Veteran councillor Cliff Jordan is again fighting Yare and All Saints.
National issues such as the economy, immigration and the health service are on many voters' lips on the doorsteps. Local topics which are being raised include dualling the A47, cuts to local council services and the state of the roads.