West Norfolk couple set for election battle as campaigning gets underway
As campaigning gets underway for next month’s local elections, the battle for votes will see a well-known West Norfolk couple on opposite sides of the political divide.
Simon Bower served as consort to his wife, Carol, when she was the borough’s mayor in 2017-18.
But, while she is bidding to retain her council seat as a Conservative candidate in Hunstanton, he is standing as an Independent for the Burnham Market and Docking ward.
Mr Bower said he had only decided to stand after being approached to do so and maintained their political viewpoints were largely similar.
He said: “I will be voting for my wife and I trust that, were she able to vote for me, she would do.”
Mr Bower is one of 29 independent candidates who are standing in West Norfolk this time around.
That compares to only nine four years ago and 15 in 2011, when many stood on an anti-incinerator platform at the height of the fight against the controversial plan to build a burner on the edge of Lynn.
Mr Bower, who works as the clerk to Snettisham parish council and is set to be re-elected to Hunstanton town council unopposed, said he felt that was down to a mixture of anger with the two main parties over national political issues, particularly Brexit, and disillusionment with the limits placed on local authorities.
He said: “There’s been a very strong feeling for a long time at district level that party politics can be useful but the orders that come from above make it more confrontational than it needs to be.
“Everyone who is standing for the borough council should be standing for the community.
“If the Conservatives or Labour have a good idea, it’s a good idea. It doesn’t matter where they come from.”
The list of Independent candidates also includes six who were previously elected as Conservatives, plus one who served as a Labour councillor.
Conservative election agent Ian Sherwood said his party would be concentrating on defending their record in office rather than attacking opponents.
The Tories are fielding the most candidates, with 54, and already guaranteed to win three seats in wards where other parties have not fielded sufficient nominees.
He said: “We will run a fair campaign on what we have done for the council and what we think we can continue to do for the borough.”
Labour's campaign co-ordinator Jo Rust said her party were "interested" to see the rise in independent candidates and suggested recent advertising had been effective.
She acknowledged that many of them have not been previously involved in electoral politics and may have been inspired by things the borough council had, or had not, done.
But she added: "I do wonder how long they will continue their participation. I hope they will not be facing a shock that means they don't do it any more."
A total of 55 seats are being contested on the new-look council. All of the 35 wards created by recent boundary changes sees more than one political grouping fielding candidates.
As well as the Tories and Independents, there are 30 Labour candidates standing, as well as six for UKIP and five each for the Green Party and Liberal Democrats.
Several well-known figures, including the current borough mayor Nick Daubney, as well as former mayors Kathy Mellish, Geoffrey Wareham and Liz Watson, plus long-serving Hunstanton councillor Richard Bird, are not seeking re-election.