Wednesday, 1 July 2009

By-election speculation

Insight on constituency they’re all fighting for

The launch of the Norwich North by-election brings a fresh poll challenge for Gordon Brown after disastrous council and European Parliament election results.

In its mix of urban, suburban and rural the constituency bears a - for Labour - frightening resemblance to Crewe and Nantwich, scene of Tories' triumph last year with the swing needed for change even lower at 5.9pc.

Surprisingly, less than half the electorate lives within the city boundaries with the remainder in Norfolk's Broadland district.

In the June 4 county elections, the constituency's four Norwich wards saw the return of Labour in only one - by just 99 votes - with one for Tories and two for the Green Party which has recently seen a surge in support in the city.

Also in the council contests, it topped the polls in next-door Norwich South.

Tories won comfortably in the Broadland divisions. These cover Hellesdon, Old Catton, Sprowston, Thorpe St Andrew and Woodside, at one time separate towns and villages but long since overtaken by the city's suburban growth.

However, further out, Drayton and Taverham are still surrounded by rural Norfolk.

Calculating party support ahead of the by-election is difficult due to division boundaries overlapping constituency ones.

An approximation would give a line-up based on the June 4 results of:
Conservatives 10,656 (40.1pc);
Labour 4,953 (18.6pc);
Lib Dem 4,371 (16.5pc);
Green 4,251 (16.0pc);
Ukip - standing in only four seats - 2,106 (7.9pc);
BNP 228 (0.9pc).

Just over 1,000 constituency electors are in another city ward and a larger number in a further Broadland division.

Labour, Lib Dems and Greens will be seeking to establish themselves early in the campaign as the main challenger to the Tories.

But at this stage its looks an uphill struggle despite's Norwich's long record of radicalism back to Kett's rebellion in the 16th century and the civil war.

May 2005 General Election results:
Norwich North -
Gibson (Lab) 21,097 (44.9pc);
Tumbridge (C) 15,638 (33.2pc);
Whitmore (Lib Dem) 7,616 (16.2pc);
Holmes (Green) 1,252 (2.7pc);
Youles (Ukip) 1,122 (2.4pc);
Holden (Ind) 308 (0.7pc).
Majority 5,459.


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