Voters in the Hopton & Bradwell South by-election almost gave the Liberal Democrats their first representative on Yarmouth Borough Council since 1998 on Thursday, in what was formerly a safe Conservative seat. Aleck Buchanan, the Liberal Democrat candidate, was only 6.1% of the votes away from winning, with Labour in third place.
The result was:
Conservative 475 (37.3%; drop of 15.9% compared with 2007 result)
Lib Dem 397 (31.2%; increase of 31.2% compared with 2007)
Labour 254 (20%; -7.9%)
UKIP 116 (9.1%; -9.8%)
Green 29 (2.3%; +2.3%)
Seat last fought: May 2007
The Lib Dems made a wise choice in having a long time local resident who understood the issues, but this was also the first test for Great Yarmouth Lib Dems since they have been getting support from Norwich and North Norfolk Lib Dems. The experience they have now got, and the boost to their small but very keen campaigning team will pay dividends in the future.
The campaign was masterminded by Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat agent for Norman Lamb in 2005, and also parliamentary candidate for Norwich South Lib Dems.
Simon Wright said “Many Conservative voters switched to supporting us in this election, because they were so angry over the dreadful state of the Conservative-controlled Council’s financial reporting.”
Mr Wright added: “Labour should also be concerned by this result, which has seen them slip into poor third place. Great Yarmouth parliamentary constituency has in the recent past been close between Labour and Conservatives, but what this by-election result proves is that there are many voters rejecting the stale politics of the old two party system. These are exciting times for the Liberal Democrats who are offering a positive and distinctive alternative.”
Having myself spent a few rather fruitless sessions in Great Yarmouth over the years, this really is a massive turnaround in Lib Dem fortunes in the Borough. I have been involved in a couple of by-elections there in the past and despite a lot of support and outside effort on those previous occasions, we never ever came close, so this result bodes well for the future.