Lib-Dems celebrate victory in key seat
Shaun LowthorpeThe battle to win the new Broadland parliamentary seat has stepped up a gear after the Lib Dems secured another council by-election victory in the constituency.Shaun Lowthorpe
The battle to win the new Broadland parliamentary seat has stepped up a gear after the Lib Dems secured another council by-election victory in the constituency.
Party chiefs were hailing victory in the Taverham North by-election, which was called after Tory councillor Heath Dicks resigned, citing the pressure of work, amid criticisms of his attendance record.
Thursday's by-election saw Nich Starling top the poll with 630 votes, with the Conservatives second, and the Greens trailing in third.
The result means that the party now has 12 seats on the district council, still far short of the 34 held by the Conservatives.
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But Lib Dem activists believe the win is significant in the light of the forthcoming general election as it marks the fifth by-election in a row the party has won in the new Broadland constituency.
Mr Starling, a teacher who is also well known for his Norfolk Blogger blog postings, said: "Today's victory is a call for real change at Broadland District Council. Local people are left forgotten by the Conservative administration, who are increasingly out of touch with the day-to-day concerns of ordinary people."
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Dan Roper, the party's parliamentary candidate for the Broadland seat, said the result was proof that the Conservatives could not take voters in the constituency for granted.
"This is more evidence that people are far from convinced by David Cameron but are hungry for the real change offered by the Liberal Democrats," Mr Roper said.
But Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson, who will be contesting the seat for the Conservatives, said that while the result was a "wake-up call" it was wrong to read too much into the result.
"I'm sad that we lost it because we had a genuinely outstanding candidate, but when you have an absentee councillor going back months, the party who holds the seat loses it, it's as simple as that," Mr Simpson said. "I don't blame the Liberal Democrats for puffing it up, but there's a considerable difference between this and a general election, and many of these people are the same people who voted for Chloe Smith nine months ago.
"I always fight a general election as if it's my first one," he added.