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Norwich may have been a remain majority - but Brexit voters cannot be ignored

PUBLISHED: 14:25 12 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:03 12 August 2016

Votes are sorted into Remain, Leave and Doubtful trays as ballots are counted during the EU Referendum count. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Votes are sorted into Remain, Leave and Doubtful trays as ballots are counted during the EU Referendum count. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

When the European Union referendum votes were counted, Norwich stood out. A remain stronghold amid a sea of Brexit districts across East Anglia.

Calls from Remain supporters (mainly tongue in cheek) were made for the city to become an independent city state with its own flag.

But scratch beneath the surface and the city was far from united in its support for our continued membership of the European Union.

As the ballot papers were being piled up, local Labour Party figures were watching closely which areas of the city contributed to the 44pc who voted for Brexit.

Norwich City council leader Alan Waters describes the vote to leave as more of a “patchwork than a hard dividing line” across the city. But he admitted there was a difference north and south of the city.

“Clearly Norwich South has got a university and is more of a middle class and affluent part of the city. In Norwich North is was a tighter vote, but by a smallish margin it decided to vote for remain as well.”

Veteran UKIP Norwich activist Steve Emmens even claims that, had wards in Broadland and South Norfolk which are usually part of the Norwich constituencies at parliamentary elections, been added to the Norwich tally, the story might have been different.

The result came across district and borough boundaries.

He said that most of the people he canvassed in areas such as Mile Cross and Catton Grove had been voting to leave the EU.

“The way I look at it is that there are certain areas of this city which have been very responsive to my UKIP message.

“The Labour establishment were telling them to remain. They didn’t take any notice of the parliamentary Labour Party.

“They were totally devoid of voters concerns on immigration etc.

“They took their frustration out on the parliamentary Labour Party.

“They were saying we have the capacity problems here, getting into local schools and the hospital and services and council houses.”

Mr Waters acknowledges that the “significant number of people who voted to leave the EU and that cannot be ignored”.

“Clearly issues like immigration were significant, but I interpret that in a way as a failure of a government to take account of particular increased European Union movements. There was a more fundamental question about the dividend that clearly comes from immigration and the free movement of labour, and what people that move beyond the EU generate in terms of additional wealth and productivity. The way that was used was not to invest back into communities with higher immigration levels. It went in tax cuts to the better off.

“George Osborne took that dividend and spent it in a way that was not how it should have been spent.

“It should have been spent on additional capacity and school places.

“There was a choice that was made that came back in six years of austerity that was a causal factor of the way people voted.”

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