Seismic shift in East Anglia’s political map
East Anglia’s political map has been completely re-drawn after a seismic shift in power which saw the Conservatives increase their numbers and the Liberal Democrats lay claim to being the second strongest party in the region.
As David Cameron reaches out to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to try and form a coalition government, his Tory MPs in Norfolk showed him how winning an outright majority should be done racking up victories in 13 of the 15 seats in Norfolk, North Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
There was delight in Great Yarmouth and Waveney as Conservatives Brandon Lewis and Peter Aldous snatched both seats from Labour.
The Tories also won the new Broadland constituency where Keith Simpson topped the poll with a 7,292 majority, and posted thumping five figure majorities in many of the others.
It was a good night too for the Liberal Democrats where Simon Wright pulled off the result of the night to win Norwich South by 310 votes over former Labour home secretary Charles Clarke, and his political mentor Norman Lamb also increased his majority in North Norfolk to more than 11,000.
Labour were wiped out in the region with Bob Blizzard, and Tony Wright tumbling to defeat in Waveney and Great Yarmouth alongside Mr Clarke, whose hopes of a victory by splitting the anti-Labour vote were dramatically ended at around 4.50am on Friday.
The party’s last hope of winning a seat in Norfolk was crushed when Conservative Chloe Smith also secured victory in Norwich North – despite boundary changes which many thought would help Labour retake the seat it lost in a by-election last year.
That means that Labour has no MP in the city for the first time since 1997 – and the result offers the intriguing prospect of putting to the test at a local level the idea of a Conservatives and Lib Dems working together.
Labour’s slump continued as the party was beaten in to third place by the Liberal Democrats in both North-West Norfolk, South-West Norfolk, and Mid Norfolk – seats where Labour had finished second in 2005.
Mr Simpson said the political landscape in the county had completely changed since 1997 with Labour wiped off the map.
“It’s a complete turnaround after 13 years,” he said. “I am the last man standing from 1997. If you look at all those elected or re-elected since 1997 Gillian Shephard and John McGregor and George Turner have gone, David Prior went then Ian Gibson and now Charles Clarke and Tony Wright.
“After 13 years Norfolk has fallen out of love with Labour and the Conservatives have been revitalised both at a local and a national level.”
The Conservative’s and Lib Dem’s success means that in the majority of seats East Anglia has a new youthful generation of fresh-faced politicians entering parliament for the first time.
But their arrival is timed with the dramatic prospect of dealing with Britain’s first hung parliament since 1974.
And it could see many of the issues crucial to the future of Norfolk and the wider region such as A11 dualling, could now hang in the balance.
There is also the intriguing prospect of whether controversial plans to create a unitary council in Norwich will now prove unstoppable despite the Labour setback because no single party has outright control in parliament to stop them.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said the new intake were keen to work together to secure the best interests of Norfolk.
“In terms of the people who have been elected for the first time, there is a recognition that we really have to work together to deliver some of these things whether its road improvements, or high speed broadband,” she said.
Mr Simpson also echoed the theme that Conservatives in Norfolk were keen to work together on issues affecting the county, but he said that the hung parliament issue meant there was a lot of uncertainty about what could be achieved.
“My gut feeling is that at a local level both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems would be reluctant to see any formal coalition,” he said. “I think there area number of things which Cameron and Clegg could agree on, but Gordon Brown doesn’t have any moral authority to govern.
“But what is this going to mean for Norfolk? We have got a whole range of issues such as the A11, the ecotown and unitary and that’s where we have got to put markers down. I would like to get the Norfolk Conservatives together and see what can be done on all these issues.”
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said it had been a great night for the Liberal Democrats.
“It’s a complete transformation of the party’s position in Norfolk,” Mr Lamb said. “Go back a decade and we were nowhere, and now we have got two MPs and we are very clearly the second party in Norfolk. That’s an amazing change, and I’m very proud of what we have achieved. It’s always been my ambition to see North Norfolk break out of the sea of blue. It continues as a work in progress, but there has been a dramatic shift.”
And he said MPs of all colours must now look to work together in the interests of Norfolk.
“Inevitably these issues are up in the air as everything is, but I do strongly take the view that Norfolk MPs must be prepared to work together as we have done in the past,” Mr Lamb added. “It’s a very different scenario now with two Liberal Democrats and the rest Tories. We must bury our differences and work together for the benefit of the county.”