Who will fight North Norfolk? – apply on the website

Anyone with an appetite for detailed political analysis should take a look at the excellent Electoral Calculus website maintained by Martin Baxter: http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/homepage.html

In this site he takes an overall prediction based on current national polls (Conservatives at 43.5%, Labour at 25.7%, LibDems at 10.5%) and translates it into votes at constituency and even ward level. Fascinating stuff for the election nerd.

On this basis he is predicting that the incumbent LibDem MP, Norman Lamb, will hold North Norfolk in June with a 5.4% lead over the Conservatives. My guess is that it will be much tighter, but what is of more interest is his prediction that the Labour vote will drop to 6.4% from the 10.2% we achieved at the 2015 election.

For overseas readers, a deposit of £500 is required for a candidate to stand at a general election and this is paid by the local party. I was the Parliamentary Agent in 2015 and was obliged to withdraw cash (cheques not acceptable) from a Cromer bank and take it a mile up the road to the Council offices. A deposit is refunded only if a threshold of 5% of the votes is achieved. In other words, if things get any worse as this election progresses there is a risk of the humiliation of a lost deposit here.

In the 2015 election we were most fortunate with our candidate. We had plenty of time to choose and our Party Chair, Denise Burke, put her name forward. At the formal selection evening, when the candidates were due to present their views at hustings, she faced just one challenge: a young man whose name I cannot recall and who was based in London. We all assembled in the Cromer Community Hall and a series of mobile telephone exchanges with Denise’s challenger took place. He first revealed that he was on his way, then that he had lost his way, and eventually simply did not appear. Although we all wondered where he had ended up, there was relief all round when we were able to select Denise. She proved to be an excellent candidate who, in happier times, would have made a very good MP. Undoubtedly our poll benefited from her energy and enthusiasm.

This time round the unexpected election call means that the timetable for selection will be compressed. Our Labour Party Regional Office is charged with contacting Denise and seeing if she will stand again. We shall see but my guess is that, regrettably, this is unlikely.   The next stage in the process is, to quote, from the guidance we have all received: “adverts will be placed on the Labour Party website from Friday 21 April and applications close on Sunday 23rd April at noon inviting applications from party members seeking selection…. Candidates will also be asked to indicate their preference of seat in which they are seeking selection”. The Regional Office will then approve and allocate candidates.

I cannot believe that anyone outside North Norfolk will express a preference for our seat. It is a very long way to come, although it may appeal to someone whose hobby is bird watching. We have a Dad’s Army Branch of Momentum operating in our seaside town of Sheringham and, heaven help us, they may make use of their network and seek to find someone of like persuasion. I will await further communications from the party with interest.

 

leftyoldman will be blogging regularly through the election campaign. To receive email notification of the next blog when it appears, press the ‘followleftyoldman’ button on the left hand side above.

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Silence of the Lamb

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Something very unusual is happening in politics. All political parties are undergoing a transformation as a result of the European debate – and this has even penetrated to North Norfolk. Our Parliamentary Constituency, tucked away on the coast, is one of eight in the country represented by a Liberal Democrat. Norman Lamb first captured the seat in 2001 and has held it subsequently, with majority in 2015 of over 4043 over the Conservatives, greatly reduced from the 11626 he achieved in 2010. It is a now marginal seat.

Lamb won and held the seat by squeezing the Labour vote, however there is no good reason for someone who is left-of-centre to vote for him. In fairness he has been an affable individual – he tried an unsuccesful charm offensive on me when I first moved into the area. However much of his success can be attributed to a formidable professionally organised machine that can deliver the vote in both national and local elections.

This Liberal-Democrat machine has been conspicuously absent to date during the referendum. I have now placed a LabourIn poster in my window. I delayed putting it up as we are next door to our Church; we had a Village wedding last weekend and I did not want to cause offence to any wedding guests.   So far mine is the only poster from any party that I have seen. Our local Labour Party has been organizing regular stalls on Saturdays – the Lib Dems seemed to have undertaken no activities. Norman Lamb’s website gives no prominence to the European debate. It is not listed as a specific campaign he supports and there is just one statement tucked down the pages where he formally disputed some Leave campaign figures.

Now North Norfolk has one of the oldest electorates in the country and will, as a result, probably produce one of the highest percentage votes for exit. The LibDems, whatever their inconsistencies, have always been very pro-Europe. Indeed this was one of their defining characteristics and the reason they attracted the breakaway Social Democrats from the Labour Party. My guess is that our MP has decided to keep a very low profile and hopes that a favourable referendum result will be produced and we can all return to business as normal. If so he has gone down further in my estimation.

polling day at last

IMG_1380baby at polling station Josh&Martyn

 

Two weeks ago I was delivering leaflets in the market town of Holt along with our District Council candidate, my friend Jono Read. It is a sedate place with most electors polite in their response and the occasional bored person keen to chat. It therefore came as a shock when a somewhat disheveled young woman opened her door and crumpled up a leaflet that we had put through her letterbox. She shouted so all in the street could hear: I’m fed up with the election and I won’t be voting.

I will be voting today. I intend to be the first at the polling station in our Village Hall when the poll opens at 0700 (I have scheduled today’s blog in advance using the excellent facility available on WordPress). However after 38 days of relentless activity I have some sympathy with the first half of the angry woman’s sentiment: I too am fed up. It has been a very long and exhausting campaign.

It will also be a very long day today. One of my sons has kindly agreed to act as my driver and, after I have voted, we will travel the 23 miles to North Walsham and assist in one of our best prospects for a Labour District Council seat. We will then tour the other polling stations in this large constituency to ensure that there are no impediments to voting. I know of one area where it is the Local Conservative candidate’s practice to stand at the entrance accompanied by his singularly unpleasant dog.   I hope to take a break before departing for the election count, again in North Walsham, to discharge my responsibilities as Labour Party Agent and designated spokesperson should any dispute arise on the validity of a ballot paper or the accuracy of the figures. The count starts at 2000 on Thursday and could well go on to 0400 Friday morning: the count for the District Council will follow on Friday afternoon.

I have scheduled a prior prediction of the result here in North Norfolk so it appears as tomorrow’s blog. I will take a short break to recover over a weekend that fortunately includes a televised rugby game involving my beloved Cardiff Blues – this time it is their annual humiliation away at Llanelli. I fear that at least this a result that is predictable

one day to go – unexpected but welcome volunteers

Denise with Len, Noel and Joyce

One certainty in an election is that you never know who is going to work hard, and who is going to find an excuse for doing very little. Political campaigning is a voluntary activity and there is little you can do beyond shrugging your shoulders. In fairness most of the people who have been prominent in the party over the previous few years do pull their weight. It’s only the odd one or two who completely disappear only to return after the election to complain they weren’t asked to do anything.

Set against that are the people who emerge during the campaign and volunteer to do what they can. My particular favourite this time is someone I met through the local Rugby Club. He is Len Bentley a retired Civil Servant, now aged 85 and is pictured to the right of Denise Burke in the photograph below. He told me that he had first stuffed envelopes for Labour in the 1945 General Election (my earliest was 1964) but his job had then prevented him from political involvement. His anger with current Government economic policies has brought him back to the fray and he was happily delivering leaflets with the local candidate and myself in Holt.

We have also picked up a number of committed students at Paston College in North Walsham. Two of them have been appointed counting agents for the overnight election count which may not report until 0400 on Friday. At least they are used to a late night and should stay awake.