Sir Henry Bellingham MP for North West Norfolk finds Labour's failure to contest wards in local elections 'staggering'
First of all, I would like to offer my congratulations to all of the successful borough council candidates. I would also like to pay tribute to everyone who stood in those elections. Indeed, anyone who puts their name forward for election, which obviously involves turning up unannounced on people's doorsteps requires a lot of courage and determination. The vast majority of people I met during this recent election were pleased to meet the candidates, but there were many households who left myself and other politicians in no doubt about their anger over Parliament's handling of Brexit.
This made it an even more challenging election, so those who won seats can be even more proud of their achievement.
I also look forward to working with all of the borough councillors covering wards in my constituency. Given that 95 per cent of local issues are completely non-party political, it is extremely important we all work together in the wider interest of the community. Indeed voters would expect nothing less.
I mentioned in the first paragraph the recent letter from Labour councillors and there was a separate letter from Christine Hudson - the new Labour councillor for the Gaywood Chase ward. Cllr Hudson mentions that she despaired when the Conservatives gained their 28th seat and thus secured overall control of the borough council. In their separate letter the ten Labour councillors talked about local people voting for who they wanted as their elected representatives. However what these Labour councillors did not tell your readers is that their party contested only 27 seats out of 55. So even if they had won every single one of the seats they contested they still could not have secured control of the council.
What I find staggering is that Labour did not even bother to contest so many wards in my constituency. Indeed what some of your readers may not recall is back in 1995 Labour actually won control of the borough council and furthermore they retained control in 1999 beofre my party took over in 2003. Labour's 1995 victory was only possible because they won wards such as Docking, the Rudhams, Heacham, Snettisham, Terrington and West Winch. Although some of these wards have had boundary changes, Labour did not bother to contest any of these seats. This obviously meant large numbers of Labour voters throughout the borough were disenfranchised.
On the other hand, my party contested every seat, including ones which are historically seen as safe Labour wards. for example, the indefatigable Mike Taylor of Bridge for Heroes stood in the Fairstead ward and polled a respectable 205 votes, with the Labour councillor Margaret Wilkinson polling 422 votes. This meant that constituents in ward such as that one and other Labour strongholds such as North Lynn were at least given a chance to vote for a candidate of their choice. It really is about taking the electorate seriously and being totally accountable to them. It is surely high time that Labour learnt the lesson that there is no point complaining about the Conservative administration in Lynn unless you are prepared to offer a viable alternative that is capable of securing control.
Having made those party political points, I would like to conclude by saying that I am once again looking forward to working with all the councillors elected. I personally believe the Conservative administration has done an exceptionally impressive job over the past few years and we really do have a town and a borough we can be proud of. Do they get everything right the whole time? No, of course they do not, and on the rare occasion when this happens I for one will be holding them to account - by doing what I have done for nearly the past 40 years, which is standing up for my constituents.
Sir Henry Bellingham MP
for North West Norfolk