New face at the Tory helm in North Norfolk

The face at the helm of the Conservative office in North Norfolk is changing this week.Agent Helen Bartram, a former Wren and fashion retailer, is stepping down after nine years in charge of the constituency.

The face at the helm of the Conservative office in North Norfolk is changing this week.

Agent Helen Bartram, a former Wren and fashion retailer, is stepping down after nine years in charge of the constituency.

Following her footsteps is local farmer's daughter Sarah Baker, who has a background in marketing, recruitment, voluntary work and whose brother is a local Tory councillor.

Mrs Bartram ran the party machine during two general election campaigns, which saw David Prior lose his seat in 2001, and Iain Dale beaten by a landslide four years later.


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But she says the local party has continued to work and campaign hard, despite the setbacks.

'It was sad and painful but we are very resilient and determined,' she said, citing getting eight out of 10 county councillors elected in 2001 as one of her highlights.

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Her time in the job had been 'addictive and exciting', and followed a varied career for the former North Walsham girl, whose father Gordon Wiggins was well-known as a local probation officer.

His earlier work as a health officer had taken the family to Iran, Zambia and Kenya, before she spent seven years in the Royal Navy.

After three years managing the Laura Ashley shop in Norwich at the height of its popularity, she ran her own boutique Finesse in Lower Goat Lane for four years before taking a career break to raise her son Nick, now 27 and awaiting his third tour as an RAF Chinook helicopter loadmaster in Afghanistan.

Before taking the Tory job, Mrs Bartram, now 61, was secretary at the Norwich School for 11 years. After stepping town at tomorrow's annual meeting she is looking forward to enjoying leisure time, with partner Jeremy Eales, including reviving previous hobbies of sailing and choral singing.

Mrs Baker, 50, who takes over on March 2, was born in Australia but lives at family's Erpingham farm.

Brother Peter Willcox is a Tory member of North Norfolk District Council.

She has worked as a public relations personal assistant at Anglia Television, in recruitment and training at Marks and Spencer, and ran Jarrold's wedding gift service before a five year spell as marketing manager of the Assembly House at Norwich.

Her voluntary work has included helping the Citizens Advice Bureau, and member of the Royal Naval Association, Royal Air Forces Association and Rotary.

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