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No regrets, but poll took its toll says election candidate

By Richard Parr

A first-hand assessment on one candidate’s experience of standing for the council, by Richard Parr.

As a journalist, I spent many years covering the meetings of the West Norfolk Council and taking a keen interest in the workings of local government.

Whilst employed by a newspaper, I was obviously unable to stand for election as a councillor.

So at the age of 64, and after much thought, I decided that I would “have a go” and put my name forward to be considered as a candidate for the new Gaywood Clock Ward.

I was successful at the interview with Conservative association senior officers and so began my first foray into the world of local elections.

The ballot boxes on the floor at the Corn Exchange
The ballot boxes on the floor at the Corn Exchange

My ward was large with thousands of houses, including the extensive Gaywood Park Estate, so I soon realised that there would be a lot of door knocking and walking to distribute my glossy election leaflets through letter boxes.

One of the things that struck me straight away was the complete lack of election excitement. In fact, I only ever saw three posters being displayed in gardens and these were in an adjoining ward.

There is no denying that the Brexit influence was very much in evidence, with some residents seemingly getting Westminster politics confused with West Norfolk politics.

As I see it, serving as a local councillor is all about helping people at grass-roots level ... basic but important things like making sure residents have their rubbish bins emptied at the right time and responding to complaints about anti-social behaviour and fly tipping.

There was a sharp contrast of response to my door knocking, with some people giving me a sharp rebuke.

“It’s that Brexit rubbish,” they said before shutting the door to me. Others were happy to chat and listen to me stating my case.

Being a local lad, I was pleasantly surprised that a couple of people I called on remembered my late parents, Ken and Jenny, and spoke to me of their fond memories of my mum and dad. Thank you to those who did that (you know who you are), it was much appreciated.

As a ‘newby’ candidate under the blue flag, it was always going to be a tough call standing against established Labour candidate, John Collop (who has 16 years experience as a borough councillor), with UKIP candidate Michael Stone also standing in the one-member ward. Congratulations to John on winning with 196 votes. Mr Stone polled 148 votes and I attracted 133 votes.

Thank you to those who voted for me. And special thanks to North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham and his enthusiastic son Jamie, who came out and helped me on the doorstep. That was much appreciated as was the support from borough councillors Graham Middleton and Elizabeth Nockolds.

It was all new to me and while I wasn’t successful in winning, I have found it to be a most valuable experience. I do not regret standing in the election.

It will be four years until the next local elections and I’ll be that much older. Would I stand again? I’m not sure but, as they say, never say never.


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