Lib Dems take 71pc of by-election vote

Liberal Democrat and Conservative party bosses and activists were yesterday beginning to digest an astonishing swing of votes in a Norfolk by-election which could change the perception of the county's newest parliamentary seat.

Liberal Democrat and Conservative party bosses have been analysing an astonishing swing of votes in a Norfolk council by-election which could change the perception of the county's newest Westminster seat.

The Lib Dems moved from third place and less than 21pc of the vote in the Broadland District Council Buxton ward in 2007 to a win and more than 71pc of the vote following a by election on Thursday.

Away from the immediate local impact, both Tories and Lib Dems said they would look at the figures closely with regard to the next general election and the newly formed Broadland parliamentary seat, as well as impending county council and European elections.

The bookies favourite to win Broadland at general election, the current Mid Norfolk Conservative MP Keith Simpson, said he and his colleagues would be 'drawing lessons' from the Buxton result.

'There were some extenuating circumstances, some important local issues which will have had an effect,' said Mr Simpson.

'But it's important not to be complacent and we have to take all election results seriously.'

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Simon Drage, the Lib Dem agent for Norwich South and part of the Buxton campaign, said such swings were not unknown, but were 'rare'.

'It's pretty extraordinary; I was surprised at quite the level of change.

'It is a very significant result both in itself and reflects the effort the winning candidate Barbara Rix made to really get out there and speak to people.

'But it is also an encouragement to our Broadland parliamentary candidate April Pond.'

Mrs Pond said: 'We are working hard and that's starting to show.'

The Lib Dem's North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he felt the result helped demonstrate the 'knock on' effect his party could have with success in one constituency or ward leading to neighbouring success.

Mrs Rix polled 555 votes against the Conservatives' Ian Evans' total of 201 and the Green's candidate Nick Ball who won 22 votes.

The election was prompted by the resignation in January of Tory councillor Chris Davis-Claydon because of current and future work commitments.

The result takes the political make up of Broadland District Council to 34 Conservative, 10 Lib Dem and three Independent.