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Unveiled: The third man in the battle for North Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 16:47 19 May 2017 | UPDATED: 17:20 19 May 2017

Labour candidate Stephen Burke, pictured speaking during a Question Time themed political debate at Paston Sixth Form College in North Walsham earlier this year, insists the contest for the North Norfolk seat at the General Election is not a two-horse race. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Labour candidate Stephen Burke, pictured speaking during a Question Time themed political debate at Paston Sixth Form College in North Walsham earlier this year, insists the contest for the North Norfolk seat at the General Election is not a two-horse race. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The battle for power in North Norfolk is a fascinating one.

Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb has held the seat since 2001 but the Conservatives are growing in confidence. Earlier this week Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said this seat had been highlighted as key – if it falls to James Wild it means the Tories have won a “proper majority” he said.

But there is a third man and he believes the coming weeks will turn this tussle into a three-way scrap.

In a seat where only the main three parties are standing, Stephen Burke thinks Labour could pick up the bulk of the Green vote and even gain support from Ukippers.

“Our membership has trebled in size, we have picked up former Green Party members and I think people will be surprised by the number of constituents who voted UKIP last time and will now come back to Labour,” the 57-year-old charity executive said.

“There were plenty of Labour leavers who only voted Ukip because they were opposed to the EU. Now we know that leaving Europe is going to happen I think that vote will return.”

But Mr Burke – a former campaign officer for Labour in Hammersmith who now both lives and works in North Norfolk – thinks local issues will be crucial: “We have 47 miles of coastline, so defences are important. Roads and public transport are a huge problem as well as broadband and mobile connectivity.

“We need to get things like broadband right across the whole area. At present the connection is too patchy. If we want our talented young people to stay here and set up businesses they need to the have the very best internet available.”

In 2015 the Labour vote in North Norfolk almost doubled even though the party finished fourth. It is this result – and what Mr Burke calls the “Corbyn effect” of increased party membership – that has the Labour candidate dreaming of closing the gap even further.

“We have a yellow Tory in Norman Lamb,” he said. “And we have a blue Tory in James Wild. I am the only non-Tory standing basically.”

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