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‘Could we be in for a shock in North West Norfolk come General Election night?’





With Cllr Rob Colwell away, his Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr John Crofts takes his turn to write the weekly Friday Politics column...

On August 3, the residents of Freebridge Lynn had the opportunity to vote in a by-election for a new county councillor, following the sad death of former West Norfolk Mayor Nick Daubney. It was clear from the conversations we had on the doorsteps in this previously safe Conservative division that many residents were unwilling to support the Conservatives again and saw in me and the Liberal Democrats a viable alternative. I am honoured by the trust they have placed in me.

I am the third Liberal Democrat County Councillor elected at by-elections in North West Norfolk in just over two years, following the election of Rob Colwell in Gaywood South in July 2021 and David Sayers in Gaywood North & Central in December 2022. All these victories have been in previously Conservative-held divisions and were achieved with spectacular swings from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats, swings equal to more than half of the previous Conservative vote share.

Cllr John Crofts and Cllr Rob Colwell taking part in a litter pick
Cllr John Crofts and Cllr Rob Colwell taking part in a litter pick

Our successful campaigning has been focussed on improving the infrastructure of our public services, whether by keeping up the pressure to rebuild our collapsing hospital, tackling pollution in our rivers and on our beaches, and undertaking badly overdue improvements to road provision including traffic calming measures and better provision of public transport. It is our view that this infrastructure and all our public services have been badly neglected for far too long by the Conservatives and it would seem that many residents agree.

The Freebridge Lynn by-election seems a pivotal result with a staggering swing of 33% from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats. Together with smaller swings from Labour I was elected with over 38% support with the Tories languishing on 31%. The Greens came third with Labour coming last with under 7%, quite likely reflecting some tactical voting by Labour supporters. This dramatic shift from Tory to LibDem serves to underscore both the resonance of the Liberal Democrats’ core message that politicians must be more sensitive to the needs of the community where they serve and a recognition that in our constituency only the LibDems can realistically defeat the Conservatives.

A seismic transformation therefore seems to be under way in the political landscape of North West Norfolk, with the potential to produce a shock outcome at the next general election.

Cllr John Crofts
Cllr John Crofts

This is not unprecedented. In Parliamentary by-elections in Chesham and Amersham, in North Shropshire, in Tiverton and Honiton and in Somerton and Frome the Liberal Democrats have shown they can win previously safe Conservative Parliamentary seats. Through a combination of growing local support for the Liberal Democrats and tactical voting by Labour and Green supporters could we be in for a major upset on election night right here in North West Norfolk?



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