In a Norfolk county council by-election yesterday, the Liberal Democrats jumped from third place to first place to take a seat from the Conservatives.
The election was held as a result of the previous Conservative County Councillor and deputy leader of the borough council Graham Middleton deciding to resign from his county seat just over a year after being elected. This is the first time the LibDems have won the division since it was created in 1985.
With the Tories coming a distant third, it turned out to be a tight race between Labour and the LibDems for the top spot.
After the results were announced, newly elected County Councillor David Sayers said: “I am humbled and honoured that the electors of Gaywood North & Central have placed their confidence and trust in me by electing me as their councillor. I will now work hard to earn that trust.”
Sayers says he is optimistic about the future prospects for the LibDems in West Norfolk noting that two out of the four county divisions in King’s Lynn are now held by his party. “The long period of Conservative dominance in West Norfolk is starting to come to an end.”
Coincidentally, the LibDems pulled off a similar win in a by-election in the neighbouring division of Gaywood South last year. Like Sayers, Rob Colwell leapfrogged Labour going from third to first place to win a county council seat from the Conservatives. “The Tories tried to suggest that my victory last year was somehow a one off, a fluke. How wrong and arrogant they were. Our victory today has shown that the Lib Dems can win anywhere in West Norfolk.”
Colwell says the Tories have taken the area for granted, and points to the crumbling Queen Elizabeth Hospital as evidence. The roof is in such a shocking state that all that’s holding it up is over 3000 props. Despite a long campaign, including appealing to Liz Truss during her brief stint as PM, their pleas for a new hospital have fallen on deaf ears. Even though Truss’s Norfolk South West constituents use the QEH, she had shown little interest until last week, just before the election.
This loss may finally help their campaign, Councillor Colwell believes. “I’m sure the Government will now announce a QEH rebuild in a matter of days. The only way to make Conservatives fund public services properly is to hit them where it hurts, in the ballot box.”