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Battle lines drawn as political parties vye for Great Yarmouth seat

PUBLISHED: 06:47 08 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:04 08 August 2014

Labour PPC Lara Norris outside her new drop in office in Great Yarmouth

Labour PPC Lara Norris outside her new drop in office in Great Yarmouth

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Battle lines are being drawn in Great Yarmouth as political parties vying for power step up their game.

UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew's new Yarmouth office on Regent Street.

Picture: James Bass UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew's new Yarmouth office on Regent Street. Picture: James Bass

With the general election nine months away and 13 Great Yarmouth Borough Council seats up for grabs next spring, both UKIP and Labour increased their presence in the town this week.

UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew opened a constituency office in Regent Street on Monday, and described Yarmouth as his national party’s “number two target” behind Boston and Skegness.

Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Lara Norris has opened a ‘drop-in shop’ and campaign headquarters in Greyfriars Way while, two weeks ago, Conservative MP Brandon Lewis took on new premises which will act as his election office in Battery Road.

Mr Agnew, who was re-elected as a Euro MP in June, said his UKIP-branded office in the town centre “could make all the difference” for the party after it showed strength in May’s borough council election, taking 10 seats.

There remains speculation over whether party leader Nigel Farage will stand in Yarmouth, despite local members voicing preference for a local candidate. Former would-be MP Matthew Smith stepped down two weeks ago, after denying charges of electoral fraud at Norwich Crown Court in ongoing proceedings.

Mr Agnew said UKIP’s rise in Yarmouth was the reason he had moved his office from Chelmsford to the coast.

“I decided to come here as a result of the election results in May,” he said.

“Yarmouth has the kind of social problems that is causing people to abandon the two main parties and come to us. This is our number two target.

“We’re looking for a prospective parliamentary candidate and that decision will be made by the local branch. Parachuting someone in is always a risk, but sometimes it’s a risk that pays off.”

He hoped the preferred candidate would be revealed within the next six weeks, but added “it should not be rushed”.

Cllr Adrian Myers, spokesman for the Yarmouth UKIP group, told the Mercury the party’s recent success was precisely because of local connections and members want to see someone with existing community links fight for the Parliament seat.

Labour’s Lara Norris agreed that whoever stands it will be hard fought on the ground.

She said: “One of the things we’re very aware off is that we don’t have the financial prospects that the other groups are going to have. But we signed the lease on the shop back in January because we wanted to show people the kind of difference we can make, and what I would do as an MP.”

As well as being Labour’s campaign HQ, Miss Norris said the drop-in shop was a politically neutral resource for residents - open to anyone seeking advice or support on problems ranging from homelessness to unemployment.

“I know from being out in the community how much people are struggling,” she added.

Mr Lewis said: “Having the three-way fight makes it more interesting, plus the local elections, but it doesn’t change things for me. You fight hard at every election. But, for me, it’s about what you do in those four or five years between. Our campaign is going to focus on what we’ve achieved and what we can carry on achieving.”

The Liberal Democrats will also have a candidate standing in the “keenly contested” borough said Denys Robinson, campaign chair for North Norfolk and Great Yarmouth Liberal Democrats.

No one from the Green party was available to comment.

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