Blue tide sweeps North Norfolk as Conservatives take seat
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
North Norfolk has turned blue for the first time in almost two decades after Duncan Baker won the seat for the Conservatives.
Mr Baker's victory - following Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamb's 18-year tenure as North Norfolk MP - came amid a nationwide swing to the Tories in the general election.
The 40-year-old businessman from Aylmerton, near Sheringham, won 29,792 votes, ahead of the Lib Dems Karen Ward on 15,397, Labour's Emma Corlett on 3,895 and the Brexit Party's Harry Gwynne on 1,739.
In his acceptance speech after the declaration at North Walsham High School's sports centre, Mr Baker said: "After 18 years, the Conservatives are back in North Norfolk. I'm truly humbled by this result."
Mr Baker paid tribute to Sir Norman, the North Norfolk Conservatives' campaigning team and his wife, Nina, for her support.
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He said his first priority as an MP was to "get on a train to Westminster" and vote for the prime minister's Brexit deal. After that, he said, he wanted to improve local business and drive growth in the region's economy.
He said: "I was born, grew up and raised here and it's that passion to help others, to make things better, to give back, which is why I stood to be your MP.
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"We're the oldest constituency in the country and we need more and better medical facilities for the NHS. One of my key priorities is sorting out ambulance response times because they're just not good enough."
Mrs Ward said of the results: "Of course it's disappointing and I would have liked to have been standing here in a much stronger position.
"What it shows is that the 'get Brexit done' message has resonated out in the country."
She later released a statement, in which she said she would keep fighting for the area as a district councillor. And she said: "Our former Lib Dem MP Sir Norman Lamb has set a very high benchmark in his tireless work for our constituency.
"He has been a passionate champion of the NHS, mental health, schools, environment and social care.
"I will continue to work in the same tradition, and will be challenging new MP Duncan Baker to keep firmly to some of his campaign promises. These include actively taking on local casework, putting North Norfolk first, refusing to be a party 'yes-man' and fighting for mental health care provision
"It is disappointing not to win this time, and not to be able to fight for these and many other issues in Westminster. But we fight on for a fair, caring, open society."
Ms Corlett said of the nationwide swing to the Conservatives: "It's incredibly sad and I feel very fearful for the future of the most vulnerable people in my community. We have had our children's centres closed, we've had cuts to benefits that have seriously affected their quality of life."
Mr Gwynne added: "I think this result shows that this country is sick of this quagmire that we have been stuck in and they want to move forward."
From an electorate of 70,729 there were 50,995 votes cast, making for a turnout of 72.09pc, down from the 2017 election when turnout was 75.3pc. There were 172 rejected ballots.