UPDATE - West Norfolk councillor speaks of attack at Tory conference

Breaking news from the Lynn News, lynnnews.co.uk, @lynnnewscitizen on Twitter
Breaking news from the Lynn News, lynnnews.co.uk, @lynnnewscitizen on Twitter
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A West Norfolk councillor has spoken of how he was assaulted while attending the Conservative party conference at the weekend.

Thomas Smith, who represents the Gaywood North Bank ward for the party, was injured in an incident close to the conference venue in Manchester yesterday afternoon.

Mr Smith told the Lynn News that, as he was leaving the venue, police directed him up a side street away from what he described as a “large mob” nearby.

He said a group of four people then followed him, adding: “One jumped on me and one punched me in the face.”

Mr Smith sustained a cut and swelling to his eye as well as some bruising.

But he insisted he would remain at the conference as planned and thanked both the police and local people who came to his aid after the incident.

He said: “It reminded me how nice most people are.”

The attack happened during a march against government austerity measures, health service and union law reforms which was attended by at least 60,000 people, including around 30 from West Norfolk.

Jo Rust, secretary of the North West Norfolk constituency Labour party, who attended the march, said all of the group attending had expressed their “sincere sadness” at what happened to Mr Smith.

She said: “While we might not agree with his politics, we absolutely stand up for his right to hold his views and express them in an democratic manner.”

But she also expressed concerns about the police’s handling of the protest, which kept them away from a steel cordon set up around the conference venue.

Greater Manchester Police said four arrests were made during the day and praised the vast majority of those attending for behaving with “dignity and good grace.”

But Mr Smith said organisers of the protest should be “ashamed” of some of the marchers’ behaviour, which included reports of journalists and delegates being spat at and threatened with violence.

He said of the protest: “It’s not representative of the British people. It’s the dinosaur left having one last kick of their tail.

“They don’t like democracy and they don’t like the fact the Tories won the election.”

But Mrs Rust said it was “reprehensible” of Mr Smith to seek to link the protest to the attack on him.

She said many of those taking part in the march from West Norfolk had never attended an event of that kind before.

“They are ordinary people who are upset by what is happening in our area”, Mrs Rust said.

“We had our own young people in attendance and they should not be linked to this type of behaviour.”

Mr Smith is one of a number of delegates from West Norfolk who are attending the conference, which will close following prime minister David Cameron’s speech tomorrow.

Environment secretary and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss is due to address delegates this afternoon.